Belfast Telegraph

Ex-school musical director who had passion for melody behind Danny Boy


By Eddie McIlwaine

Dr Brendan Drummond, former director of music at Coleraine Academical Institution, has died just as he put the finishing touches to his book on the Londonderry Air for which he had a passion. He was 72.

Copies of 'The Londonderry Air ... the Real Origins of Ireland's Most Famous Melody' (GPS Graphics £7.99) became available at the Book Well on Belfast's Belmont Road, as Brendan's funeral service was taking place in St Patrick's Parish Church, Coleraine, conducted by the Rev Robert Cooke. He was buried in Portstewart Cemetery.

The much-loved melody was played as the coffin was carried up the aisle of the church for the service.

"Brendan spent a few years since his retirement from Coleraine Inst researching the story," says his friend, retired teacher Jim Kennedy.

"It's a shame he didn't live to see it going into general circulation in music circles. However, proceeds from sales will go to Marie Curie Cancer Care, Macmillan Cancer Support and Drumachose Parish Church in Limavady which has associations with the Air."

Brendan Drummond, a native of east Belfast, spent 32 years teaching at Coleraine Inst and devoted his retirement delving into the facts and fiction surrounding the melody and the song Danny Boy, the lyrics of which were set to the familiar tune.

Educated at North Road Primary School in the city and at Campbell College, he won a scholarship to Oxford University to study music.

Afterwards, he moved for a year to the Royal College of Music before he became a teacher at St Edmund's Public School and Theological College outside London.

Later he moved to St Peter's School in Seaford at Sussex and came back to his homeland in 1969 to take up the director's post at Coleraine Inst until his retirement in 2001.

It was while he was in his early years at the Coleraine school that he met and fell in love with Hazel McCausland who was to become his wife.

She survives him with three children Christopher, Monica and Sylvia, and four grandchildren Caleb, Joshua, Elsie and Ruby.

In retirement Brendan was appointed as a music examiner for the Guildhall School of Music in London and Trinity College in London - both of which eventually merged.

As an examiner he went on tours to Australia and the Shetland Islands and many countries in between including India.

Belfast Telegraph


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