On the 6th April 2010, the Ulster Scots community suffered a severe blow, with the sudden death of one of its most knowledgeable and talented son's - George Douglas Holmes MBE.
Geordie, as he liked to be called was an exceptional man. I had known about George for many years, in fact since I was a child, as he used to call to our street in Newtownards to pick up Billy McConnell - another local musician. George would drive up in his car with this great mop of hair and bushy beard, load the car with musical instruments - usually Banjo’s & guitars and then drive off, however it was not until 1998 that I formally met George.
Soon after the formation of the Ulster Scots Agency I attended one of the early Ulster Scots seminars, George and I shared a passion for the lambeg drum tradition and both had a desire to promote and develop the fife & lambeg drum tradition in the N’Ards & Ards Peninsula area. Through many hours of telephone calls and meetings, George acted as my mentor, pointing me in the right direction, opening doors for me that may have been closed before - and yes we had a high degree of success.
As well as a high intellect and great orator, George was a very gifted musician, storyteller and wonderful singer. I could write many, many words about George and still not pay an adequate tribute to him - It has been said that ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ and in this case - here is one of those pictures.
Thanks to Mark Thompson for this excellent photograph, taken at the Smithsonian Festival, Washington, a few years back – for me it encapsulates George as I remember him!
Mrs. Holmes, Georges widow called me recently seeking advice and help, I hope to visit soon and help with a momentous job of collating many of George’s musical collection, such as musical instruments – of which there are many, but also his musical archive of paperwork, CD’s, audio tapes, LP’s books, etc. I look forward to that with George’s other great friend Martin Shane.
I have a couple more snaps of George playing ' The Lambeg Drum under the Arch' in Newtownards, I intend to post them at a later date.