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Friday People: James McKee on his special relationships

By Kerry McKittrick

The 52-year-old is the director of the Walled City Tattoo, which takes place in Londonderry next week. He lives in Bready, Co Tyrone, with his wife Mandy and they have two daughters, Jamie (27) and Georgina (24).

My wife, Mandy

We met in Strabane High School when we were pupils there.

Mandy looks after the day to day running of the Sollus Centre here in Bready, where the Bready and District Ulster-Scots Development Association is based.

I think what brings us together are our similarities. We have common interests as both of our families were involved in the pipe band scene.

I go to Mandy for advice nine times out of 10, although I don't necessarily take it.

My children, Georgina and Jamie

Jamie is now a nurse at Altnagelvin Hospital and Georgina is a dance teacher and choreographer of the Walled City Tattoo. Life's a bit unfair because Jamie had to work very hard to get through the curriculum to get where she wanted to be, where I never saw Georgina do any homework and she came second in her school in the GCSE results.

I'm very proud of where both of them have ended up.

There was never any problem for Georgina in studying dance because we come from a creative background and are into the performing arts. We work together on the Tattoo and I'm learning to listen as well as give advice. Jamie also has two sons, Callum and Blair – they're the reason I want to live until I'm 150.

My best friend, Willy Craig

We met at primary school and were friends throughout our schooldays. We've remained close even though we've been apart for a good many years.

Willy lives a good bit away now but we meet up two or three times a year and try to roll back the clock. We might take a few more beers than we should!

My parents, Samuel and Lou

My mum is still here but my father passed away three years ago. Both of my parents came from a farming background. I was the oldest of seven and my parents were very supportive of me when they realised that farming wasn't for me.

There were three boys younger than me so I figured at least one of them would want to go into farming. We are a close family but we don't get together often these days because everyone has gone on to have their own children.

We would have congregated at home each Sunday but since my father died my mother comes to one of us.

The person I go to for advice

Jonathan Burgess, who I have worked very closely with over the last 10 years, is a producer-playwright. He has a knack for dragging ideas out of people and turning them into plays. I need people like Jonathan to make sense out of the ideas I have.

My mentor

Someone who is a a real inspiration to me is the assistant producer of the Walled City Tattoo, Darren Milligan.

I've known him since he was nine and I call him my wingman.

He's the first person to get a degree in music from the University of Newcastle with the bagpipes as his principal instrument.

He has a young, fresh mind and is so talented and tuned in.

My secret crush... Kim Wilde

It has to be her, even my wife will tell you that. She was the first wee twinkle in my eye and I always sing along when she's on the radio.

My fantasy dinner party

Elvis Presley is the first because of the music he brought out. Everyone my age thought they were Elvis when they were young.

Next I'd invite Freddie Mercury because of the pure genius of the man. He had real talent.

I'd also bring Georgie Best. I have a football that he signed. I went to see him in Coleraine one night and he chatted away and signed the football.

My final guest would normally be John Wayne but I've changed that to Gerry Anderson after the sad news yesterday of his passing. Gerry's attitude to life was that if he had something to say, he was going to say it and he didn't give a damn what anyone thought. I loved the man to bits.

  • The Walled City Tattoo takes place at Ebrington Square, Londonderry, from next Wednesday to Saturday, August 27-30. For details, visit

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