'THE BOYS O SOORHILL'

 

The album ‘Endangered Species’ is dedicated to ‘The Boys o Soorhill’.

 

This was the name given to a group of traditional musicians who, during the 1970s and 80s, met regularly on the Sour Hill, Galgorm, mid-Antrim, in the home of Joe and Ethel Mills. Joe Mills was an absolutely brilliant character and excellent fiddler, who died on the 25th February 1998 at the age of 88. Joe’s fiddling truly expressed the essence of rural Ulster, and inspired many a young musician in his locality, but he often insisted that the best music of all came from the wee Thrushes, Blackbirds and Robins, that sang in the bushes and tall trees around his house.

 

The last remaining member of The Boys o Soorhill is Willie Lorrimer, who at the time of this recording is in his 88th year. A wee bit deaf nowadays, Willie no longer plays music, but remains strong in mind and spirit. He is well known for his storytelling and his accomplished musicianship on fiddle, French fiddle, jaw harp and Lambeg drum. He is also considered by many to be the best fisherman that ever walked the Braid or Maine Waters. In the early 70s, Willie was not overly enamoured when a great monstrosity of an administrative building, known as the County Hall, was built across from him on the grounds of Galgorm Castle, thus interfering with his view of the open countryside he loved so much. Shortly afterwards, in the town of Ballymena, a stranger was trying to determine the exact location of Willie’s abode and said to him: "Ay, you’re near the County Hall aren’t you?". Willie replied "Naw – the County Hall’s near me".

 

The music and spirit of The Boys o Soorhill remain a great inspiration for the Ulster-Scots musicians of today.

 

From the sleeve notes of ‘Endangered Species’ 2003.

 

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