‘Dee’ reunited with stolen banjo

editorial image

Coleraine folk singer Damien O’Kane has been reunited with a banjo that was stolen almost TEN years ago.

The talented musician from the well-known O’Kane family from Coleraine now lives in Yorkshire.

After playing a gig in Newcastle during his university years, Damien had a custom made banjo stolen, and in a rare twist of fate, he was reunited with the instrument last week - NINE years after he last played it.

“It’s a strange story,” he admitted to The Times on Friday. “I had been gigging with a few mates in a bar we used to drink in at Uni. I set the instrument down against a wall at kicking out time, and after I had finished talking to a few mates, I noticed that it was gone.

“It was a custom made banjo and I had my nickname ‘Dee’ inlayed on the heel of the neck. It was special to me as it was the first ever quality instrument that I had bought with my own money. I was gutted to have lost it - and, at that time, it was like losing my left arm.

“I had it insured, but I always kept my eye out in pawn shops, on Ebay and in second hand shops just incase it might turn up. You always hear of these stories of people finding things again.”

Damien loved the banjo so much he later had one made very similar to the one he had lost.

“It’s a funny thing - an instrument has special meaning to any musician, and to be fair to the girl that found it, she is a musician too.”

Damien said he was ‘really shocked’ when he got a ‘random message’ through Facebook from a girl called Amy Catherinie Elliot asking him if he had ever owned this banjo.

“She asked me to describe the banjo,” explained Damien. “But it turned out she had spotted the name ‘Dee’ on it and Googled it. It led her then to me.

“I was honestly like a kid in a sweet shop when I realised that it was my banjo that she had. I didn’t even ask how she had got her hands on it, the only thing that matters is that it’s back where it belongs. It is such a unique instrument, made of bird’s eye maple and the defining feature is of course the nickname in mother of pearl.

“This girl knew that it meant something to somebody, and being a musician herself I guess she understood the connection.

“A few days ago I was reunited with the banjo, to say I was pleased - well that was an understatement,” he added.

It’s been a month of good news for the talented local man. For his extraordinary album ‘Areas of High Traffic’ has been short listed in the “Best Album” category in the 2016 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Despite Damien’s fame, he hasn’t forgotten his roots, one of the songs on the album is called ‘On the Banks of the Bann’.

Speaking about the award nomination, the proud Coleraine man said: “It’s my biggest achievement to date. 
“I know my folks back home are really delighted and have been putting posters and that up around the town. The old O’Kane pr machine has been working overtime.

“It’s a prestigious award, so even to be nominated is a real boost for me,” he added. The ceremony will take place in April in the Albert Hall.