Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 44, Page 22

Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 44, Page 22
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periodical Publisher
Na Píobairí Uilleann
periodical Editor
Chairman, NPU
periodical Title
Píobaire, An
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22Imet Jim McIntosh early in 2006 through afiddler friend of mine, Ernie Swain andhis wife Sheila. Sheila worked in a com-munity centre at Ballybogey, near Newtown-ards. Jim, who lived in Donaghadee, had beenattending painting classes there and he toldher he wanted to sell his pipes to someonewho would play them.Ernie told me about Jim and we arranged tomeet and to see the pipes, which turned out tobe a full set made by O’Mealy.I bought the pipes on, as it turned out, his 91stbirthday, and we became great friends fromthen on. I visited him regulary and one stipu-lation of the visits was that I brought the pipesalong and played them for him.Jim loved music and played an electric organin his later years. However, when the pipeswere sold he went out and bought a fiddle,which he had always wanted to try.Early last year I brought along fiddler MartinDowling to Jim’s house and we played forhim. Only a few weeks after that get-togetherJim was taken into the Ulster Hospital wherehe died.Jim McIntosh was born and reared inBattenberg Street on Belfast’s Shankill Road.When he was young there were many pipebands on the road, and he played in a numberof them, the first being the Shankill Amateurs.During his time in the bands he got to knowpiper William (Billy) Hope and his sonFrankie, who was a similar age to Jim.Billy had a draper’s shop near Agnes Street onthe Shankill and taught pipes and suppliedequipment to the bands. However, he was alsoan uilleann piper, and this is possibly whereJim’s love of these pipes began.Jim began work on the Belfast trams where hewas a conductor for many years. He recalledan inspector on the trams who played the uil-lean pipes but coudn’t remember his nameHowever, it was possibly Billy Hope who toldJim of pipemaker Frank McFadden becausethat’s where he got his first uillean pipes.While visiting Frank he would have met otherpipers, including Belfast man Jack O’Rourke,who became a long-time friend of Jim’s. Jackmay have told him about Richard LewisO’Mealy in the 1940s because that was Jim’snext port of call.O’Mealy was living at 45 Rugby Avenue,Belfast, and it’s there Jim met the great manand ordered a boxwood set. Mr O’Mealy alsotaught Jim, using a tin whistle. He neverheard O’Mealy play his pipes as he was not inthe best of health in his later years.Jim’s other love was fishing and the two hob-bies competed with each other for the rest ofhis life. During one of the piping lessons MrO’Mealy told him: “You need to spend moretime on the pipes and less time on fishing,Jim”. R.L. O’Mealy died in 1947 and Jim andJack O’Rourke were among a small numberof mourners who attended the funeral inBelfast.After this Jim decided to have a go at makingpipes and bought O’Mealy’s lathe and otheraccessories from his wife. Included in theextras was a flat set of pipes and an unfin-ished concert chanter which Jim believed wasmade by O’Mealy. He later passed the flat seton to his pal Jack O’Rourke.Jim didn’t buy the set of pipes I now havefrom Mr O’Mealy. He was walking throughthe Smithfield area of Belfast one day – pos-sibly after O’Mealy’s death – and spottedthem in the window of a second-hand shop.O’Mealy made a number of BBC radio broad-casts when he lived in Belfast and after he~ Jim McIntosh ~
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Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 44

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