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Death of James McKeefry

The death has been announced of the popular country and Irish music festival promoter James McKeefry.

He died peacefully on 1 December from the pancreatic cancer he had fought for 18 months. He was surrounded by his family.

His family said he approached his illness with strength and dignity and throughout it remained positive, full of heart and humour.

They said he maintained his determination to make the most of each day with his family and to continue to enjoy and pass on his lifelong love of music.

James grew up in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, where he met his wife, Tina McKeefry of Belfast.

As a teenager, James played in local folk bands across Northern Ireland and organised local dance evenings in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1970s, James moved to the UK to work as a teacher and became headteacher at St Elizabeth’s School in Tamworth at the age of 30.

At the same time, he and Tina juggled the demands of raising a young family with championing Irish music in England.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, James played with his band at venues around the UK.

After months of sending demo tapes to local radio stations to make his case for an Irish music radio show he was taken on by Coventry’s Radio Harmony in 1990.

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In 1991, the success of that show led to an eight-week contract at BBC Radio Leicester.

His Celtic Fringe show was made permanent and James was given a twice-weekly slot, every Sunday and Wednesday, on Radio Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Lincoln.

He interviewed artists including Daniel O’Donnell, Dominic Kirwan and Christy Moore and showcased then rising new acts such as Nathan Carter.

James and Tina exploited the success of the radio show to launch a live, residential event – their McKeefry Irish Music Festival.

It has been running for 25 years, featuring hundreds of acts and entertaining thousands of guests.

James kept abreast of, and championed, new Irish bands such as Fontaines D.C. alongside music by his all-time favourites, The Dubliners.

He is survived by his loving wife, four daughters, son, and seven grandchildren (his ‘skitters’ who called him ‘Dado’): Tina, Sinéad, Gráinne, Aisling, Fergus and Ursula, Stevie, Posy, Molly, Monty, Malachy, Bridget and Etta.

His funeral will be on Wednesday 20 December at 1.45pm at St John’s Church,
2 St John Street, Tamworth, B79 7EX followed by cremation at 3.30pm at Fradley Crematorium, Fradley Lane, Lichfield, Staffs,
WS13 8GA

Family flowers only but donations to Sheldon Chemotherapy Unit at Good Hope Hospital, who took care of James, are welcome (c/o M G Evans on 01827 310035 or via


To live stream the funeral at 1:45 pm on 20 December click here.

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