Thursday, 11 December 2008

Davy Hammond 1928-2008

David Hammond passed away near the end of August. I heard so a few weeks after the event, and it's only today that I was properly put in mind to have a look about at some of the obituaries. I see the BBC ran a good obituary and a collection of tributes, and at the foot of both of those pages is a lovely little video that offers glimpses of his singing and filmmaking and a remembrance from Seamus Heaney. Another of the friends remembering him therein comments that essentially Davy was all about taking time when time otherwise moved too fast: this is why Hammond was such a great man for noticing things, seeing their value, passing that on.
I was introduced to Davy by his friend the great Matthew Evans, subsequently Lord Evans of Temple-Guiting - the kind of distinction in life about which Davy was very wry. The one occasion Davy and I spent good time together in Belfast, round 2000, we managed to drink a bottle of Irish whiskey right down to 'the heel', as he called it, and I've used that fine expression of good near-drunk bottles in honour of him even since.
Anyone can look at film or recordings of Davy Hammond and see that he was beautifully gifted and wise and a life-affirming presence in this world. He could pick up a guitar very casually and charm a packed room, but in that charm he was instructive - he was incredibly canny under the avuncular exterior, could cut to the core of things with a slight remark, which must be part of why the likes of Seamus Deane and Tom Paulin treasured his friendship - and the sharpness under the warmth didn't seem to me any kind of a ruse on his part, in fact it's a quality intrinsic to the very best of Belfastmen, as Davy Hammond was and will always be.

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