JACK MAKEM was born in the early twenties in Keady, Co. Armagh. The oldest of a family of five he learned most of his music and song from his parents, Peter and Sarah and from the wandering musicians who travelled the country attending fairs and ceilis. Jack remembers people like Johnny Doran and Maggie Barry, calling around on a fair evening for their tea when the singing and playing would continue into the small hours.
As a school boy he spent most of his holidays and weekends with his uncle Paddy Makem who taught him many tunes and songs and by the age of seven, Jack was a member of the local Derrynoose Flute Band.
Jack was educated at the Christian Brothers School in Keady where his musical talents were directed and encouraged. Being something of a 'Jack of all trades' he navvied in the local quarry and worked as a butcher in Keady and periodically as a scutcher in the local flax mills.
He played in local ceili bands like John Conway's and Traynors, on the tin whistle and piccolo and although he played the fiddle from an early age, he was best known as a whistler. In or about 1945 he bought a set of uilleann pipes and on the evening he brought them home he sat down and promptly gave a rendering of 'The First House in Connaught'. He also played for years with his old side kick, Mickey Gaffney, at parties and charity concerts. He has appeared on radio and television and remembers well the night he graced the box on Ulster Television. He also made numerous broadcasts on BBC radio, N. Ireland, for Maurice Leitch on 'Listen Here Awhile', and recorded material for Bill Meek and Diane Hamilton.
Jack is also the brother of the world famous, Tommy Makem, who sang with the Clancy Brothers and who now tours the globe with Liam Clancy. As well as giving younger brother Tommy an ocean of songs he also taught him to play the tin whistle. Jack is accompanied on this record by his two sons, Tommy on banjo and Gerry on pipes. Tommy works with the Northern Ireland Electricity Service as did his father until the mid sixties. Gerry, the piper, and I suppose the foundation musician on some of the musical tracks, works very appropriately as a bricklayer.
The trio, who tour extensively throughout the North are always in constant demand to render the songs, tunes and stories that have made the word Makem a household name not only in Ireland but from Australia to America, and back …
I would like to thank the Makem family for their hospitality during the recording of this record. For the tea & sandwiches, fags, drink and buns.
Thank You – Bobbie Hanvey