James McMahon

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Flute player James McMahon (1893-1977) was originally from Cornacreeve, Dresternian, Roslea, Co. Fermanagh, but moved to County Antrim, near Muckamore, when he married his wife Sally. He was part of the Belfast session scene in the 1960's and reputedly was the first flute player to play in traditional music sessions in the city. Rose Tally McMahon was a member of the McPeake Céilí Band in their early years (known in the 1950's as the Seamus McPeake Ceili Band, with sometime members piper Tomas O Canainn and fiddler Tommy Gunn). Leslie Bingham, son of a manager of the shipyards in East Belfast, became interested in traditional music in the late 1950's and early 1960's when he attended Irish classes and ceili's at Cumann Chluain Ard in the city. He recalled:

But anyway, there was a flute player, James McMahon. James would have been about in this 70's. I'm sure. He'd be the right age I am or coming up to it, and James played the flute. And I suppose with my father and the flute I took a notion I'd like to play it. So I asked James would he teach me it, and a couple of tunes, and he says, 'Certainly'. And he lived down in the Old Museum buildings, roughly, beside the Tech you know, lived there. And I used to go in and he...I'd watch his fingers and the first tune i learnt was 'The Lark in the Morning'. That's the very first tune I learnt off him, and then he learnt me a reel, 'The Sailor's Bonnet'. That was the first two tunes, and I don't know how long it took me. And then James got a new flute, he got an ivory flute, and I asked James would there be any chance...The only way you could have got a flute in those days was it it was 'queathed to you. You know, you just couldn't have got them. And I asked James would he sell the other flute. He says, 'I would'.[1]

  1. Martin Dowling, Traditional Music and Irish Society: Historical Perspectives, 2014, p. 250.