Tributes paid to pipe band leading light Jim

The late Jim McDonald.
The late Jim McDonald.

A SERVICE of thanksgiving for the life of Jim McDonald, founder and president of the McDonald Memorial Pipe Band, was held in First Dromore Presbyterian Church last Tuesday.

The service was conducted by the minister, the Rev Keith Duddy. Greta Baxter presided at the organ and led the thanksgiving praise,

‘The Lord’s my shepherd’ and ‘Abide with me’. Following the service, family members of the McDonald Memorial Pipe Band paid a fitting tribute to Jim.

His nephew, lone piper Norman McDonald (pipe major of the band) headed up the funeral cortege from the front of the church to the adjoining cemetery playing the well-known hymn, ‘Amazing Grace’.

The coffin, draped with the McDonald crest banner and family flowers, was carried by family members of the band including Jim’s son Ronnie, who is pipe sergeant of the band.

Jim McDonald was born on March 26 1936, the seventh of a family of eleven, nine boys and two girls.

He attended Mount Ida Primary School and left at the age of 14 to work in the textile industry. Not happy with this occupation, he left about 2-3 months later and took employment as a plasterer in the building trade.

He took employment as a plasterer with McLaughlin’s, Newtownards. Each Friday he went to the local chip shop in Newtownards and it was there that he met Norma Ledley. Jim was a rather shy person then, but due to a little nudge from Norma, a relationship developed and she was later to become his wife.

Jim and Norma were married in 1960 and moved to a house on the Banbridge Road, Dromore. They later moved to Gallows Street, Dromore and then to a modern bungalow built at the site of their first home on the Banbridge Road. They had a family of five - two sons David and Ronnie and three girls Joy, Brenda and Margaret. Jim established his own successful building firm and owned a hardware shop, children’s cloths shop, filling station and public house.

Jim was the main driving force behind the formation of the McDonald Memorial Pipe Band. In conjunction with his brothers Norman, Joseph and Albert, the band was formed in 1977 in memory of their father David, a piper in the 36th Ulster Division who piped at the Somme.

The band won many local competitions and was world champion in their grade in 1978. After a break of 25 years, the band made a welcome return to the competition arena at the North Down Pipe Band Championships at Bangor in July 2011. Jim’s son Ronnie is pipe sergeant of the band; the pipe major is Norman’s son, also called Norman; and the drum sergeant is Trevor Cunningham, son of Jim’s sister Nellie Cunningham (nee McDonald).

Jim will be much missed in the local pipe band scene but his memory will live on as the band continues to compete in local competitions.