Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Galway quit booze to help his friend

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 22/11/2007

Star flautist Sir James Galway has revealed he gave up alcohol and was teetotal for a whole year.

But it wasn't because the Man with the Golden Flute was having a problem with the Devil's Buttermilk.

To this day Sir James, who is coming home to Belfast next spring to appear with the Ulster Orchestra in the Waterfront Hall, is merely a moderate drinker.

"I gave up the sauce for 12 months to help a close friend who was hooked on alcohol," he said today.

"I told him that if he knocked off the hard stuff for a year I would do the same and that I would telephone him every day without fail to check up on him and give him support.

"He gave me a promise and kept his word and I made those daily calls no matter where I was in the world. The scheme worked - he is still off drink to this day. Mind you it was expensive - I spent as much on phone calls as would have stocked a small bar.

"But the way my friend got his cure wouldn't work for everyone and that's where Alcoholics Anonymous comes in."

Which is the reason why Sir James is talking about the pitfalls of drink in the first place.

He and Dame Judi Dench are going back to church next month at a service in St Peter's in London's Eaton Square aimed at drawing attention to the essential work AA does in prisons.

"AA does a productive job behind bars with prisoners who got into trouble in the first place because of their addiction," said Sir James. "The organisation helps people serving sentences who are struggling because of drink and its workers deserve support for the unheralded way they do things."

Sir James admits that as a young man he did his fair share of boozing.

"When I was playing with big orchestras in London and Europe at the beginning of my career there was a lot of drinking going on after performances," he said.

"But I never had a problem with alcohol and nowadays as I grow older [he's 68 on December 8] I imbibe only moderately and have done so for years."

The Galways - Sir James and wife Lady Jeanne - will be together with the Ulster Orchestra down on Laganside on April 19 next year for a sell-out gig.

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