Coal Importer and Philanthropist
1897 – 1937
Samuel Kelly, son of John Kelly (founder of the John Kelly Coal company) was born in 94 Castlereagh Street, Belfast in 1867. When his father died suddenly in 1904 Samuel took control and continued to expand the Kelly fleet. In 1911 the firm became `John Kelly Ltd.’ with a capital of £50,000.
In 1921 Samuel bought the Annagher Colliery near Coalisland and began production in 1924. He brought two hundred miners from Cumberland and Scotland and built a housing estate, Newtownkelly, to accommodate them. He also bought two spinning and weaving companies to provide work for the miners’ wives. However, the venture was a failure and he was forced to close the mine in 1926 at a cost to him in the region of £300,000. During the General Strike he was able to ensure the supply of coal to the province; by charting foreign vessels where necessary, from the USA and Europe.
In 1922 he was knighted. He was described as `A leading merchant, a public benefactor, a consistent and generous supporter of charitable objects’ His many donations included the building of two churches in Holywood.
Sir Samuel was Deputy Lieutenant of County Tyrone, Vice-President of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce and an active member of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners. His extensive business interests included chairmanship of the Ulster Fireclay Company, the Tyrone Brickworks and the Coalisland Weaving Company. He also owned the Cumberland Mine Company and the St Helen’s Colliery.
Sir Samuel died on 9 February 1937 from a long-standing heart condition.After his death his wife made bequests to many causes. In 1950 this included the cost of the Donaghadee lifeboat, which was named the Sir Samuel Kelly. The boat played a major part in the rescue of survivors from the Princess Victoria in January 1953. The family home at Holywood is now the Salvation Army’s `Sir Samuel Kelly Memorial Eventide Home’.
Location of plaque: 94 Castlereagh Street, Belfast
Date of unveiling: 29 April 2009
Report of Plaque unveiling available HERE