Blue plaque in honour of James MacCafferty

A blue plaque in honour of the late James MacCafferty will be fittingly unveiled outside his former home in Francis Street this Derry Feis week.

By Staff Reporter
Friday, 22nd April 2022, 10:11 am

The Ulster History Circle will reveal the memorial at 1pm on Saturday at 25 Francis Street where Mr. MacCafferty was born and lived for eighty years.

The terraced house was famously a base for countless aspiring Feis entrants, choir members and piano and singing pupils who the acclaimed teacher, choirmaster and Feis accompanist tutored over decades.

Mr. MacCafferty was a stalwart of Derry’s musical life for over six decades. Born in 1915, he grew up in a musical home where opera, church music and the Feis were central to family life. His parents, Patrick and Cissie, met in the mid-1920s during rehearsals for one of Joseph O’Brien’s opera productions in Derry’s Opera House. James was a musical polymath: a singing and piano teacher, choir trainer, accompanist, conductor and musical director.

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The legendary James MacCafferty with friends and colleagues including Phil Coulter and Josef Locke.

His career began in the mid-1930s and he was still teaching music a few weeks before his death in 1995. He formed, trained and conducted over twenty choirs, and was a giant of both the Feis and St. Columb’s Hall, as its Musical Director. He ran his own dance band, The Carlton Swingtette. Very few spheres of musical life were untouched by his musical prowess.

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MacCafferty’s long association with the Feis will be well remembered this year on its centenary. Countless Feis entrants will recall his unique skills in patiently supporting nervous contestants, calming their nerves and in adapting his accompaniments to their differing interpretations.

Although a versatile pianist with a gift for sight-reading and transposing at sight, he preferred to be out of the limelight. This was particularly so when he accompanied Josef Locke during his 1969 Blackpool summer season. MacCafferty is still remembered with great affection by many of his former pupils, choir members and friends who are delighted that the blue plaque is finally coming to fruition. There will be many of them at the plaque unveiling, keen to ensure MacCafferty’s legacy is well celebrated and fondly recalled.

Chris Spurr, Ulster History Circle chair said: “James MacCafferty was an outstanding man of music, who delighted countless thousands through his exceptional talents. One hundred years since the first Feis Doire Colmcille, the Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this renowned musician, teacher, choirmaster and Feis accompanist with a blue plaque at the house where he lived all his life. The Circle would like to thank Derry City & Strabane District Council for their financial support towards the plaque and the MacCafferty family for their valued assistance.”