Early Years with Don MacCafferty

Pat MacCafferty
Cis MacCafferty
James and Don
MacCafferty Team of the North West Senior Billiards 1914-15
Scouts going to the 1932 Eucharistic Congress. Don & James are 3rd & 4th on top row

James MacCafferty was a born musician. His natural gifts were recognised and fostered by his parents. He readily acknowledged the importance of their influence upon his life in one of his radio interviews : My mother and father were very musical. They were both singers. My mother played the piano. My father played the euphonium. I don’t think they were great players, but they loved music and they sang a lot in choirs and operas and things like that.

In fact, I remember seeing them, I must have been two or three, coming in with their costumes on from singing in The Opera House - Faust or something. I remember being frightened seeing them in these strange rigs. My mother was dressed as a nun; my father was dressed as a crusader or something. He had one of those big crosses on his chest.

James’s parents, Pat and Cis, were much sought after for their vocal talents. Pat was a real bass who sang in many of the choral groups of the time, both mixed voice and male. Cis was a talented contralto who took lead parts in Mrs E.H. O’Doherty’s productions and they both performed with the Derry Philharmonic Society and in O’Brien’s annual operas. When the Derry Feis began in 1922 they  competed regularly throughout that decade, and thereafter, continued as committee members.

James’s brother, Don, was born in 1916 and he showed musical promise too. However, they did not receive any formal musical tuition until they were ten years old. James was sent to piano lessons while Don took up the cello. Again, they competed at The Derry Feis, both vocally and instrumentally. Indeed James and Don maintained the family tradition with their life-long association with the feis. They also shared musical tastes and interests and were inseparable throughout their careers.

Don’s wife, Jeannie, summed up their relationship: "They couldn’t have been any closer if they had been twins; and they were always wonderful friends. They were friends first and brothers afterwards. They were really very, very close."

Below is a photo of Choir of the Society of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (1920s). In the front row, far right the 3rd lady in is Sis MacCafferty. Included in the pitcure is Bishop O'Kane, Mrs O'Doherty, Danny Casey and Bridie McGuinness

Choir of the Society of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (1920s)