I found truth in the saying, ‘friends are not made they are discovered’, for though I had known members of the Doherty family from my youth it was not until I joined Billy’s Band, the Beaumont 7, that I discovered what a truly dependable and reliable friend he was.
The eldest son of George and Maggie Doherty, Orchard Street, he was the brother of well-known Derry priest Father Jimmy Doherty, who passed away some years ago.
Outside his home life with his wife Bridie, daughters Margaret and Ann, music was Billy’s great love.
He had a great listening ear not just for music but for the ups and downs of others, giving of his time and advice generously.
Billy’s musical career began in the Saint Columb’s Temperance Association Brass and Reed band as a horn player. He later progressed to becoming the band’s drummer, always dependable and full of musicality.
Indeed Billy spent much of his time passing on his musical skills to younger members of the band.
Later Billy was attracted by the showband era and joined the Lakewood Swingtette as a drummer where he played alongside some of Derry’s top musicians, travelling the length and breadth of Ireland.
After years with the Lakewood Swingtette, Billy eventually formed his own band, the Beaumont 7.
He ended his playing career with his smaller group Sound Affair.
Billy’s love for drumming continued and he devoted a greal deal of his time, talent and experience to teaching his late grandson James to play the drums.
He also got involved every Wednesday night with a group of ex-dance band musicians for a session playing and remembering the good ‘auld’ days.
With Billy’s encouragement I convinced the group to play at a dance in the City Hotel for the shirt factory women.
It was Billy’s final public appearance playing the drums.
He had an affinity with the factory workers, having worked all his life in shirt factories as a ‘belt boy,’ ‘machine mechanic’ and as a special project’s engineer for Desmonds Garments.
He retired after a working life of 50 years.
Billy’s funeral Mass last week ended with that beautiful lament ‘Danny Boy’. And so the song will forever be a poignant reminder of the loss of a true and trusted friend. For his wife Bridie and daughters Ann and Margaret, it will bring to mind the loss of a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
May Billy rest in peace in the company of his parents George and Maggie and brothers Fr. Jimmy and Matt, and his grandson James in that place we call heaven.