Belfast Telegraph

Sir James: why I still love Belfast

Eddie McIlwaine

Sir James Galway's Belfast secret is out today – the Waterworks off the Antrim Road was his favourite place on earth when he was growing up.

"I used to go there to sail my toy boat and dream of being a famous musician," he reveals. "It was a lovely safe place to spend a summer afternoon in the holidays out of Mountcollyer Public Elementary School where my English teacher was David Honeyman.

"I used to go there from my home in Carnalea Street in the York Street district. I would spend hours with my little sail boat.

"I didn't want to be a sailor, I just fantasised about sailing away from Belfast one day to be a celebrity."

And the Man With The Golden Flute declares: "This is one life that wouldn't be the same without the help of Dear Old Belfast.

"I'm so glad this place where my parents worked so hard to raise me is having that 400th.

"I couldn't have achieved so much in life if Belfast hadn't been my background. I still love to come back home just to enjoy the atmosphere and think of getting my first lessons from my uncle Joe McAdorey and playing in Onward Flute Band.

"The only dark shadow is that the Waterworks isn't as safe in 2013 as it was in my boyhood.

"Anyway, Belfast occupies a very special place in my life. I was born in Vere Street round the corner from Carnalea Street to where the Galways moved and I want to say thanks for the memory.

"The wee streets where I used to roam were dwarfed by Jennymount Mill, but I used to climb up on the Iron Bridge over the railway to watch the trains go by underneath out of the LMS Railway. And as I got a wee bit older my best pal Gibson Lyttle and I used to go exploring in his ramshackle Ford car which had no floor."

Sir James remembers two great pubs in his district – the Waterloo Bar and the Edinburgh Castle which as a little boy he never was allowed to enter.

But he was always welcome at the BBC where Cicely Mathews was the host of Children's Hour on the wireless where he appeared often.

"I remember music people who helped me on my way like Havelock Nelson and my old pal, the late Billy Dunwoody of the 39th Old Boys Ensemble who once presented me with a miniature Lambeg drum which still has pride of place in my home in Switzerland."

He adds: "Belfast and its people – I adore the city and its folk and I always love coming back."Homesick: Sir James Galway

Belfast Telegraph


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