Mr. James McKay - veteran bandsman dies in 92nd year

ONE of Clough’s best known characters whose affiliation with the Loyal Orders stretched back more than six decades has passed away.

James McKay, formerly of Mosside, was known the length and breadth of the country by countless friends and acquaintances and, in particular, members of the band marching fraternity.

Mr. McKay died peacefully at Antrim Area Hospital on Monday, March 4 after having been admitted towards the end of January suffering from a slight stroke and breathing difficulties. He was in his 92 year.

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The name James McKay was synonymous with music and song. He had a passion for the banjo, accordion and flute and was a member of his church choir.

Some sixty years ago, Jamie formed the Clough True Blues flute band and watched it grow in numbers with members maintaining the traditional musical and drumming styles that characterised similar bands years ago and has largely been overtaken by many of today’s bands.

He hardly ever missed a parade and was a familiar figure along side his younger colleagues never looking out of place and always ready to impart his musical knowledge.

Last year was the Clough’s anniversary and it was a proud James McKay who paraded with them at the Twelfth in Cloughmills.

In his younger days, he worked in Moygashel and while there played football for Moygashel Rovers. During his 12 years away from his village, James resided in Portadown and regularly walked the two miles to his employment.

His love of music became known in that area and he teamed up with the Eric Thompson dance band and the Mick Comic Ceili band. He was seldom at home during the weekends with musical engagements all over the country.

He rarely turned down a request to play at venues and when once asked how he learned to play the various musical instruments and sing, he replied: “I just picked them up from the boy beside me.”

That summed up James’s modest approach to life. He never sought any prominence or praise in anything he ever did for his community and his joy was seeing the band maintain its presence alongside others in the district and help out where he could with Clough Village Association.

A close friend, Bertie Johnston, who was a fellow band member, remembers James with great fondness.

Mr. Johnston said: “James had that gift and ability to fit in with any group and share joy and life with all people.”

He added: “Since retirement he spent a lot of time between the Orange hall and the Masonic hall keeping things in order for others to enjoy.”

Mr. Johnston paid tribute to his friend at the funeral service in Newtowncrommelin Presbyterian Church conducted by the Rev. George Johnston last Thursday. Earlier, a guard of honour had been formed by members of the Clough band.

The funeral itself saw a large attendance of family and friends many of whom will retain fond memories of a man who was held in high regard by all sections of the community.

James was one of a family of ten. He is survived by his wife, Rosaleen, and one brother, Alfred to whom sympathy is extended.