Versatile Virtuoso’s Best-Seller

VERSATILE Jim Gorman has turned his hand to many things, during his life. But one of his proudest achievements must be the production of the book, “In the Shadow of the Arches,” which has been a best-seller.

Previous to this, the greatest challenge would have been the provision of a state-of-the-arts social, therapy and medical centre at Carnbane, for those who suffered from Multiple Sclerosis.

Artist, singer, sportsman, joiner and entrepreneur, Jim became involved in the project when his wife, Mary, was diagnosed as having MS.

While attending the opening of such a centre at Dunmurry in Belfast, he told the chief executive of ARMS (Action on Research into MS), that he would build a similar complex in Newry.

Ulster Television was covering the event, and presenter, Ann Hayes, told Jim: “Give me a phone call, when your are ready, and we will come to Newry and open it for you.” Ann was as good as her word.

Abandoning a flourishing business, Jim launched into the project, and called an initial meeting in November, 1987. Support arrived, as relatives and friends of sufferers realised that such a centre could offer solace and hope for the victims.

So, the Newry and Mourne Friends of RAMS was formed, with Pat Jennings as patron. The local group became part of an organisation, which had 60 centres throughout the British Isles.

One year later, the first sod was dug at the Carnbane site. And finally came the red-letter day, when the chairman of Newry and Mourne district council, Arthur Ruddy, officially opened the complex.

But a millstone of £150,000 hung around their necks. So, spear-headed by Jim Gorman, they embarked on the formidable task of fund-raising. Thanks to local business people, schools, social and sports clubs, as well as such supporters as Frank Mitchell and Gerry Kelly (UTV), Rowan Hand and Mark Robson (BBC), Barry McGuigan and Dave Boy McAuley, as well as people from South Armagh and South Down, - with a grant from the district council, - the deficit was reduced to £30,000.

In a unique message of support, the two primates, Archbishop Robin Eames and the late Cardinal O Fiaich stated: “May we both take this opportunity to convey our congratulations to those, who conceived this idea in the first place, and have made the commitment.”

Educated at the Abbey CBS, Jim Gorman served his time as a joiner, working at Heathrow airport, Morecambe and Glasgow, before returning home to be employed on the construction of Derrybeg housing estate, actually doing the carpentry on his future home.

As a boy, he had won singing competitions at Newry Musical Feis. And in his teens, he joined the first-ever skiffle group, the Satellites, including Mickey Doran. They did the warm-ups at the Frontier Cinema, every Saturday morning. Then they became part of a Country and Western group, with the title “Cactus Five.”

When the rest of the group became the nucleus of the Hilton Showband, Jim joined the John Murphy Ceili Band, which included a youthful Susan McCann. He later sang with the Vincent Lowe Band for six years. Then came spells with the Soundtracks, the Clippertones and the Epic Showband, before forming his own group, the Targets.

Over the years, Jim Gorman has been actively engaged in fund-raising for charity, organising, compering and singing at concerts. Also, he and his daughter, Patricia have been singing at evening Masses at St Brigid’s Church, for many years. They also brought out a cassette entitled: “Little town in the old county Down.”

Meanwhile, Jim, who has a diploma from the London School of Art, spent a period teaching Art and Light Crafts at St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook. Later, he conducted night classes at the St John of God Nursing Home every week. The project was intended as therapy for patients, but soon nurses, nuns and the general public began to attend the free classes.

In 1979, Jim was involved with Michael Goss in the establishment of a local newspaper, The Frontier Times, the staff consisting of Fabian Boyle and Rowan Hand, with Sean Hillen and Peter Maloy as photographers. Later, Jim formed his own company, Gorman Graphics, but abandoned it when his wife’s health deteriorated.

A founder member of Newry Mitchels GFC, of which he was Press Officer for 12 years, this genial personality was chairman of the Field Committee, responsible for the development of Pairc an Iuir, now Pairc Esler. And he was also a founder of the Down GAA Supporters Association.

And just to show how even-handed he has been in sporting terms, Jim has also been a dedicated member of the Glasgow Celtic Supporters Club, having made regular trips to “Paradise.”

Now, with this engrossing book behind him, the maestro has promised: “Now for further projects, yet to be fulfilled!”

© Fabian Boyle 2001-2008