Tuesday 24 April 2018

Gifted craftsman Jim sailed around the globe five times

Jim Hamill who died on March 11th, age 71, at Killybegs Community Hospital in Donegal, was a member of one of Blackrock's oldest and most respected families.

His death followed a tragic fall at his home at Mullnamina, Glenties, over three and a half years ago from which he never regained consciousness and was under professional care and in hospital ever since.

He made Donegal his home, working and residing there for 50 years, while still retaining his links with his home village. In 1995, Jim sailed on the 'General Richard Dudley-Blake' – the village's last lifeboat on its nostalgic return to the village, an event instigated by his brother John.

A shipwright by profession, the expertise that he held in this respect was shown in his involvement as a consultant on the building of a replica of the famous famine ship 'The Jeanie Johnston', now a big visitor attraction in Dublin, complete with a museum.

He was a highly gifted craftsman, particularly in regard to carpentry who was imbued with a strong and abiding love of the sea from his earliest years living in Blackrock when he fished with Jim 'Collation' Carroll's crew for salmon in the local bay.

He went off to work with Irish Shipping as a 16 year-old, pretending he was 18 to secure the job, and over the course of his seafaring days circumnavigated the globe five times. During his career he also worked with the Blue Funnel Shipping line.

Jim left home in 1957, after attending Blackrock NS and Dundalk Technical College. Three years later the rest of his family, parents Pat and Peggy, his brother John and sisters, Eileen and Maureen, emigrated to Liverpool.

Before this the family ran a shop from their home located between the skating hall (now Village Centre) and Saint Oliver Plunkett Church in Blackrock village.

His father Pat and mother Peggy (née Tuite) had grown up not much further apart than a good drive shot. Peggy lived at the bottom of the laneway that still retains the family name, next to the then clubhouse of Dundalk Golf Club. Pat lived on the Old Golf Links Road that runs past the public road end of the laneway.

Jim later joined his family in Liverpool after spending six years at sea and met with Nora Boyce who worked as a nurse in Walton Hospital, Liverpool.

They married and returned to Ireland to Nora's native county of Donegal and settled in Glenties where they reared their family, sadly losing son Dermot at just nine months old. Another son, Kieran tragically died as a result of a motor accident in Kildare in 1996.

Jim who qualified as a shipwright continued his working relationship with the sea. He obtained work with Bord Iascaigh Mhara, repairing and maintaining boats at Killybegs. As part of his job he travelled to harbours in different parts of the country, including Tyrell's Shipbuilders in Arklow and to Castletownbere in Cork. He garnered a lot of the experience that later was invaluable in his involvement with the Jeanie Johnston project.

When that work finished Jim went to sea again, fishing on trawlers.

Building small boats was a hobby of his, and he literally could turn his hand to anything, especially where woodwork was concerned. He enhanced his qualifications in his chosen profession by undertaking a seamanship course at the Maritime College in Liverpool.

The sea and his work formed his main hobby, which including fishing. He also loved Irish music and played the button accordion, which he learned to play as a very young member of the AOH band in Blackrock during 1950s.

Jim's accident was a further tragedy for his family after the death of his two young sons. It occurred on the happy occasion of an entire family reunion when members of his family were ready to return home from a holiday with Jim and the family in Donegal.

Jim is survived by a large family including many grandchildren and his wife, Nora, sons, Raymond, Dublin, Kevin, Leixlip, Enda, Letterkenny, and daughters, Christine, Glenties, Jeanette, Dublin, and Carol, Carndonagh, his brother, John, Haggardstown, sisters, Eileen Sprakes, Nottingham and Maureen Bigland, Aintree.

Requiem Mass and burial took place on March 13th in Glenties and the large attendance at the ceremonies, included many of his extended family and friends, many from his home parish, testified to the high regard in which Jim and his family are held.

The Argus