Legacurry drummer was leader in pipe bands community

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Mourners gathered in numbers recently to give thanks for the life of a former Legacurry man and leading member of the pipe bands community.

Frederick Joseph (Fred) Walker, who died on March 19, a little under three months shy of his 88th birthday, was involved with pipe bands for more than 69 years, both as a drummer and as a senior administrator for the Northern Ireland branch of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, of which he was immediate Past President and acting Life Ambassador.

Branch representatives joined others from the RSPBA in Glasgow, the Irish Pipe Band Association and a host of bands members at the recent service of thanksgiving in Carnmoney Presbyterian Church.

Fred Walker left school at age 15 and worked in Ravarnet Linen Mill for two years before taking a job at the Aircraft Factory at Altona, near Lisburn.

Two years later he moved to the Belfast Rope Works Company and, after attending evening classes at Lisburn Technical College, he was appointed works foreman, a position he held until the factory closed down.

Fred was to work as a security guard and a petrol pump attendant before gaining employment making vacuum cleaners at the Goblin Factory in Belfast; when it closed he worked at Mossley Mill until the early 1990s, when it too closed down.

It was while working at Altona in 1945 that teenager Fred joined Legacurry Pipe Band as a side drummer. For 30 of his more than 50 years with the band he served as it secretary.

He was appointed leading drummer after the band’s 1949 win in the novice grade at the Mid-Down Contest in Dromara and in 1956 he became the first drummer from a Grade Four band across Northern Ireland and Scotland to gain his advanced certificate.

Along the way Fred developed an affection for the cornet, which eventually saw him become a member of Hillsborough Brass Band too.

Representing Legacurry Pipe Band at branch meetings, Fred was appointed RSPBANI Branch Secretary in 1964 and after 37 years in the role, in 2005, he succeeded Ronnie Crawford as branch President, a position he held for nine years, until his retirement in November 2014.

He was also a member of Legacurry True Blues LOL 164 and Anahilt Golden Crown RBP 363.

Fred is survived by his wife Margaret (nee Kennedy), son Neil, daughter Rosemary, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

He and Margaret got engaged in 1957 and married a year later in Ulsterville Presbyterian Church, Belfast, setting up home in Carnmoney, where Margaret joined the local Presbyterian Church Choir and Fred became a member of the Kirk Session.

The thanksgiving service there was conducted the Rev John Dickinson. Fred’s daughter Rosemary Wallace read a personal tribute to ‘My Dad’ and his son Neil recalled happy memories of a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Fred’s grandchildren Neil Wallace and Emily Walker and niece Victoria Gilmore also paid tribute.

Donations in memory of Fred may be sent to Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI c/o Wilton’s Funeral Service.