In Jan 1924 Dr Hunter sold Laurel Villa to James Kilroe, a prominent local merchant. At one time the Kilroe family business exported a staggering 6 million eggs per year to Britain. They were also one of the largest shippers of blackberries in the country. Blackberries gathered by poet Seamus Heaney and so many other young people around the South Derry countryside would have been stockpiled in Kilroes warehouse in Garden Street (close to Laurel Villa) before export to jam making factories in England. The poem Blackberry-Picking is one of Seamus Heaney’s best-loved poems:
‘Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot …’
Another occupant of Laurel Villa during the 1920’s was Monsignor John Ward, Parish Priest of Magherafelt from 1925 to 1950. He used Laurel Villa as a Parochial House whilst waiting for the present Parochial House on King Street to be built. Monsignor Ward was the inaugural Captain of Magherafelt Golf Club and he also founded St.Mary’s School Magherafelt in 1927.
During the 1930’s the Miss Walshes gave music lessons here while the part that is now the dining room acted as a School Dentist’s surgery under Dr Edith Eileen Thompson. From 1940 to 1959 Laurel Villa was the veterinary surgery – and home – of Derek Forbes and later Raymond Clark.
Countless items are dotted around the house which preserve the memory of these former residents, including a collection of old medicine bottles that belong to Dr Hunter’s era.