James McNelis (1917 – 1996)

(26th March 1917 – 10th June 1996)

Jimmy McNelis

James McNelis or Jamie Johnny Mhicí as he was known locally was a melodeon player from the townland of Srath Laoill Theas. Apart from a short spell in the USA at the end of the 1940’s, James spent his life at home where he lived with his brother, Francie and his family. James had a relaxed nature and helped Francie with the farm work in any way he could, particularly in the bog and during the harvest. He also worked for the Electricity Supply Board during the electrification of south-west Donegal in the 1950’s. James learned melodeon mainly from his uncle, Patrick O’Donnell who was a neighbour in Srath Laoill Theas. He often played at dances in Mín an Aoire School and at big nights throughout the area with local musicians such as Mick Carr and Jimmy Neddy Boyle . A highland, known locally as Jimmy McNelis’, is still played at sessions in south-west Donegal.

‘James McNelis’ highland’ performed by Pádraig Molloy and Derek McGinley

Patrick O Donnell, Kitty, Maggie, James McNelis