Clifton House: Family reunited with portrait in attic
A Northern Ireland man has discovered a 60-year-old portrait of his great uncle that lay hidden in an attic for years.
The owners of Clifton House in Belfast want to return 27 paintings of its former residents with their extended families.
The portraits were stored among black bags, suitcases and historical documents dating back up to 300 years.
One such painting is thought to be that of William McMurty, a former resident, who died in 1963.
His great nephew, Allen Sinton, spotted the portrait on the BBC News NI website and described the "weird sensation" when he saw the familiar face of the man he knew as "uncle Willy".
Mr Sinton remembered being told his great uncle lived in a residential home on the Antrim Road, but only realised the connection with Clifton House after seeing the appeal.
"I was only about 10 or 11 whenever he passed away. But I remember him visiting the house for Sunday dinners, Christmas Day, that sort of thing.
"I looked at the pictures and one of them jumped out at me - uncle Willy as we knew him, my father's uncle."
Mr McMurty, a former linen trader from Islandmagee who had family in east Belfast, resided at Clifton House from April 1953.
The only picture Mr Sinton had of his great uncle was a photograph from 1930.
The paintings were created by Belfast artist Tobias Everard Spence, the former president of the Belfast Charitable Society that owned Clifton House, in the 1940s and 1950s.
The majority of the portraits are still without a permanent home.
Most of the portraits only have small scribbled names on the back alluding to the subjects' identities. Others are completely nameless, with the society hoping keen-eyed relatives spot a family resemblance.
Clifton House opened as a poor house in the 18th Century, but after World War Two, it became a home for the elderly.
The secret gallery of oil paintings was found by heritage and archive manager Louise Canavan. They had been stored away when the property was renovated in 2003.
The property once housed up to 100 elderly residents at a time, before the residential home relocated to more modern facilities in the 1990s.
Ms Canavan said: "We will continue the process, it will not just finish today.
"We plan to create a small gallery and exhibit them."
Those who had relatives at Clifton House between 1940 and 1980 have been urged to look at the gallery of remaining portraits and get in touch if they think they could know the subjects.