A giant of man who was respected right across music circle

Jim Girvan.
Jim Girvan.

LURGAN man and one of the borough’s foremost musicians, Mr Jim Girvan, has died in hospital after an illness. Mr Girvan had been admitted to hospital a few weeks earlier with general ill-health, but his death on April 26 was sudden and unexpected.

He was 72 and had been visited earlier in the evening by his wife Gwynneth, who was informed of his passing by the hospital soon after she arrived back at their Princess Way home in Portadown, where they had lived for 43 years since their marriage.

Mr Girvan was well-known in a wide range of musical circles - church music, a full-time tutor with the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB), a player of brass band instruments and all types of keyboards. He loved music and taught in his own quiet, professional manner.

He was a giant of a man in every way - 6’4” tall and loved and respected in every facet of his life. It was through music that he and Gwynneth (nee Lyttle) met. He was organist at Edenderry Memorial Methodist Church (1967-74) and the future Mrs Girvan was in the choir. They married in December 1969.

Jim is also survived by daughter Nannerl, Niall and grandchildren Eve and Annie, Perth Australia, son Gary and Sharon, and son Andrew, Natasha, and grandchildren Ellie and Seth, as well as sister Margaret and brother Clarke. He also leaves in-laws Graham (Queensland), Jennifer and Norma.

As a child Jim Girvan attended Carrick Primary School and Lurgan Tech. His first job was with the wages department of Lurgan Limited Weaving Company, followed by Baird’s car parts in Belfast and Wilson’s Garage back in Lurgan. After that, he joined the recreation department of Portadown Borough Council at Bachelor’s Walk and moved across to Craigavon Borough Council on the 1973 re-organisation of local government, based at Lismore House in Church Street, Portadown.

His all-consuming love, though, was music. The Girvans were a Church of Ireland family in Lurgan, but his godfather, David Gillespie, was a member of the town’s thriving Salvation Army. It was there that Jim was introduced to the trombone at the tender age of eight. He was a complete ‘natural’, soon conducting the Citadel’s junior band, emerging as an accomplished accompanist on keyboard (organ, piano and the rest) and he also tutored piano from home.

Gradually, he moved into the arena of full-time music with the SELB, and was appointed peripatetic music tutor around the various schools (primary to grammar). And when he settled in Portadown, he played trombone and bass in the First Portadown Old Boys Silver Band, which was part of the Methodist scene, and conducted the Old Boys Male Voice Choir for a spell, taking over from his father-in-law Mr Norman Lyttle, who ran a foundry business at Meadow Lane.

He later played in the South Ulster Concert Band, and then took over from Ronnie Bothwell as its conductor. In latter years, he tutored piano from his home, simply as a hobby, and his quiet, professional manner with his pupils endeared them to him - a quiet manner that he used throughout his career, encouraging rather than “pushing” his young charges.

He loved classical music and opera, and especially traditional hymns, and was no lover of the “modern” hymns.

Outside music, he enjoyed crosswords and following the Formula One car racing scene - Gwynneth had recorded the latest world series on television anticipating that he would be discharged from hospital.

The funeral service was from a full Edenderry Methodist Church, conducted by the Rev David Clements, followed by burial at Kernan Cemetery. Donations in lieu of flowers are to Chest, Heart and Stroke NI, c/o Joseph Poots and Son, Funeral Directors, 42 Bridge Street, Portadown BT63 5AE.