The recent death of Jim Canning in October following a short illness saw Derry lose one of its most popular showband musicians.
Jim was originally from Deanery Street in the Brandywell district of Derry. The son of James and Alecia Canning (nee Campbell), he was reared in a family of six by his mother who, following the early death of Jim’s father in 1934, raised her family of six (brothers Michael, Tom, Jim, Liam and sisters Anna and Bella) with a strong matriarchal steer.
Outside his family life which he shared with his wife Lita (nee Gallagher) and their six children including three sons and three daughters, Jim’s ultimate passion was music and his love of Derry. He was well known in band circles across the city. He first started out playing in the St Columb’s TA Band and in the early 1950s he was a member of the Owen Rose O’Neill Flute Band. In the same period he also played drums in the Wolfe Tone Silver Band then under the conductorship of Willie McShane.
During the showband era he played bass guitar and vocals in the Beaumont 7 which included some of Derry’s finest musicians led by the late Billy Doherty on drums. Jim played in dancehalls around Derry and travelled extensively the across the remote parts of Donegal with his band colleagues before the advent of the new emerging professionally managed showbands fronted by lead singers began to change the face of the music scene in Derry and across Ireland.
He ended his music career playing with the Sound Affair where he continued to play bass guitar, vocals, harmonica and the keyboards which he frequently enjoyed practicing at home.
Jim retired from work in 1992 after nearly fifty years. He started his working life in the Bayview Shirt factory and later worked with his brother Tom running the paint and decorating shop on Beechwood Avenue before moving to DuPont where he worked until his retirement.
He retained a keen interest in music and continued to play with ex band colleagues at the St Mary’s Community Centre in Creggan every Wednesday night where they reminisced about life on the road and the ‘good auld days’. Jim’s love and appreciation of music and singing was in display at his funeral mass attended by members of his immediate and extended family including his 8 grandchildren who travelled from across Ireland and England to celebrate his life. His daughter Rona Harkens delivered a series of moving hymns ending with How Great thou Art.
Jim was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. May he rest in peace in the company of his son baby Seamus, parents James and Alecia and brothers Michael, Tom and sisters Anna and Bella.
Jim’s month’s Mass will be celebrated at St Mary’s Church, Creggan, on Saturday 14 November 2015 at 6.30pm.