Belfast Telegraph

Back Then: Were you the young lad who waylaid Galway?

In search of the Ballymena stripling who jammed with world's greatest flautist

By Eddie McIlwaine

Always at this time of the year my thoughts turn to an encounter a little boy flute player had with Sir James Galway and Lady Jeannie on a country road somewhere near Ballymena years ago.

The celebrated couple were on their way to an engagement and were running slightly late in the limo in which they were being driven.

But the time was quickly forgotten when Sir James spotted the lad, aged about 12, heading towards them 75 yards away up the road - carrying a gleaming silver flute.

As they drew level and their car came to a halt, the Galways were intrigued by the youthful flautist and engaged him in a chat.

It turned out he was just returning home from a music lesson and was amazed and delighted to be face-to-face with his hero, one of the all-time great flautists, and Jeannie, who plays the instrument too.

And you've guessed it - the little boy and Sir James staged an impromptu masterclass right there on a back road out of the Braid.

It must have been one of the strangest flute lessons ever given, but both enjoyed the experience.

Here's the rub, though - as their driver warned the Galways they were running out of time they clambered back inside the limo after a hasty goodbye and sped away to their concert, neglecting to get the boy flautist's name and address.

All I know today, around 12 years after the event, is that the 12-year-old was given a telling off by his mum when he finally got home.

Apparently, she thought that he was making it all up, only to discover he was telling the truth when she read a piece I wrote about the dramatic encounter at the time in the Belfast Telegraph. I'm as guilty as Sir James for not having the boy's name.

I used to have it on an old notepad, which ended up in the bin a long while ago.

What I want to know now is how the little fella matured with his flute. He must be in his early 20s and I'd love to hear how he and his music are getting on.

Please get in touch and tell me the real story of you and your encounter with the Galways that evening long ago.

Kyle and McIlroy are two of the greats. But George is the Best bar none

The question has been  asked about who was, or is, Northern Ireland's greatest sports star. In my book there are only three contenders: George Best, Jack Kyle and Rory McIlroy.

For sheer earning power McIlroy, the world number one golfer, is already out there on his own as the most successful.

Kyle, who died recently, was a genius on the rugby pitch and a gentleman and a champion of good causes - so he certainly gives the other two a close run.

But the outstanding candidate has to be Best. He was the ballet master of football, a natural performer until it all went tragically wrong.

I saw Kyle and Best play in their heyday and I'm following McIlroy on the golf course diligently. But the greatest of them all was George. I used to be amazed at how he danced into the goalmouth with the ball at his toe. A true great.

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