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Sudden death of bagpipes enthusiast who worked in the ‘Con’ for more than half a century

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Sudden death of bagpipes enthusiast who worked in the ‘Con’ for more than half a century thumbnailMr Drew McDermott playing his beloved bag pipes.

THE sudden death took place peacefully in South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen, on Saturday of Mr Andrew (Drew) McDermott (82), who was employed in the Tyrone Constitution for more than half a century.

As news of his death spread there was much shock and sorrow in the Omagh community and its surrounds, where he was well-known and highly respected.

The esteem, in which he was held, was marked by the very large attendance at a service of thanksgiving for his life held in First Omagh Presbyterian Church on Monday afternoon.

His remains were piped in and out of the church to acknowledge his great love of bagpipe music. Not only was he a talented piper himself, but he passed on his knowledge to many others over the years.

Mr McDermott lived at Townview Avenue North in Omagh with his wife, Edith, the couple having been married for over 56 years. He was regarded as a kindly neighbour, who was always willing to extend a helping hand when needed.

The funeral service was conducted by the minister of First Omagh church, Rev Jane Nelson, who also gave the address.

Andrew Irwin McDermott - known to all as Drew - was born on November 4, 1934, at Drumlegagh. He was the second of four children and is survived by his older sister, Isabel, and younger brothers, John and Sam.

Said Rev Nelson: "He grew up on the family farm and it was a happy childhood with the children attending Drumlegagh School and Drumlegagh Church and Sunday school which was extremely important to them all.

“His brothers remember him getting his first Ambassador motorbike and motorbikes were a passion of his right up until he was 75!"

He had a life-long interest in sport and was a constant supporter of local hockey teams when they were in action.

At the age of 14 Drew went to the technical college in Omagh and within a year was recommended for the job of typesetter at the Tyrone Constitution where he worked for the next 51 years. He worked his way through the various jobs on the floor ending up as the works manager overseeing the print works - even agreeing to stay on an extra year past retirement, so that he could see in the Millennium.

Said Rev Nelson: "There wasn't much that Drew didn't know about printing and before the introduction of computers there would have been a steady stream of people knocking at the door of his home to ask Drew if he could get wedding invitations, orders of service or party invitations printed for them - often at short notice! But Drew always went out of his way to help folk whenever he could.

“Nowhere was Drew happier than when he was playing the bagpipes or practicing on the chanter. Drew McDermott and bagpipes fitted together like Fred Astaire and dancing!

“He trained many pipe bands in his day - among them Killycurragh, Drumquin, and Brackey and for Drew the bagpipes knew no bounds and he was tremendously proud of training the Drumquin Ancient Order of Hibernian pipe bands and seeing them win the Ulster and all-Ireland Fleadhs. Drew played in Omagh True Blues and Eden Pipe Bands himself - helping out in others - and was very proud to be the sole piper at the televised Omagh Bomb memorial service.

“He has piped many a young bride out of the church and many a friend to their final resting place as well as performing at Burns Nights and many special charity functions down through the years. Drew's greatest interest was in the solo piping competition and he regularly travelled to Inverness for the World Championships.

“Drew was one of those men who was always on the go and always willing to be of help to his neighbours whether that was cutting their grass, trimming their hedges or giving them advice. He was generous to a fault and was always willing to stop and have a friendly chat with his many, many friends and acquaintances across Omagh town.

“He was a very sociable person who was involved in many clubs and societies across town and was one of the first people in Omagh to gain his gold pelican badge for donating 50 pints of his own blood to help others. In retirement he continued to enjoy his bagpipes, his gardening and watching his lovely grand-daughters growing up and he was immensely proud of them and was forever talking about their latest little achievements".

The minister added: "Sadly his days of playing have come to an end and he will be a big loss to our local community, to the piping fraternity but especially to his family. None of his sons took up the pipes themselves, but Keith and Angus are both gifted musicians in their own fields."

During the service Angus joined with his fellow band members of the Blue Notes to play a short musical tribute to his father.

Scripture lessons were read by Mr McDermott's eldest son, Colin, and Rev. Nelson.

Hymns sung at the service were How Great Thou Art and Abide With Me.

Following the service and refreshments in the church hall the cortege made its way to Drumlegagh Presbyterian Churchyard for interment.

Mr McDermott is survived by his wife, Edith, sons, Colin, Keith and Angus, sister, Isabel, brothers, John and Sam, grandchildren and wider family circle.

Funeral arrangements were carried out by RG Adams and Son, Dromore.

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