Friends Neil McCready (left) and David Mercer get in some practice before their 12 hour sponsored drum-in on Saturday, April 13, in Gourley’s Bar, Ballygowan. The guys will be drumming from 12 noon to midnight in aid of Cancer Focus NI.

By Ismay Woods

PATRONS of a bar in Ballygowan are being assured they can still have a quiet pint while a charity fundraiser with a difference takes place on Saturday, April 13 – Grand National Day.

In a change from the usual coffee mornings and cake sales, a 12-hour ‘drum-in’ challenge is being held in Gourley’s bar, to raise funds for Cancer Focus NI. The man who came up with the novel idea is Moneyreagh resident Davy Mercer, who will be aided by work colleague, Neil McCready, from Ballyhalbert. The 12-hour drum-in, beginning at noon, will take the form of eight hours on an electric kit, followed by a 70s, 80s and 90s disco and four hours on an acoustic kit.

Asked why he had chosen to raise funds for Cancer Focus NI Davy revealed his wife, Cheryl, had been diagnosed with melanoma in 2019, and son Rhys, now 24, had previously competed in marathons for the charity. Thankfully, Cheryl was treated successfully for the disease, and in fact was a finalist in a UK-wide slimming competition at the end of last year.

Davy (58) took up drumming at the age of six, and played with bands including Comber Brass and then pub groups, amongst them local outfit Bad Reputation. At the age of 18, he undertook a 24-hour session on the ‘skins’. Following Cheryl’s diagnosis and treatment, and Rhys’s fundraising marathons, Davy admitted the idea of doing his bit ‘always stuck in his mind’. “I was thinking of organising something but then Covid hit,” he said, revealing it has been ‘five or six years’ since he last sat behind a drum kit.

Unfortunately, his original choice of drumming partner was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, but when Neil McCready became a work colleague, Davy discovered the Ballyhalbert man was also a drummer. “I bent Neil’s ear a fair few times, and he eventually agreed to do the drum-in,” Davy said.

The challenge will involve using an electric drum kit for the first eight hours.

Davy explained: “We can hear the music and hear the drum sound through earphones, so the customers [in Gourley’s] won’t have to ask to have the music turned down.”

The second part of the challenge will be on an acoustic kit, with a perspex drum cage to keep the volume down. Having not been behind a kit for so long, Davy admitted: “I needed to get a lot of practice in; the muscles weren’t up to it at first, but I do a session for an hour every night.”

Drumming partner Neil has played with both Comber Brass and Dundonald-based Harmonic Sounds, and he and Davy have had long discussions about what to include in their playlist. Being of slightly different generations, the two don’t always have the same musical tastes, with Davy sometimes perplexed by Neil’s choices of music by more ‘recent’ artistes. Despite that, the playlist has now been agreed, and will include ‘everything from Abba, through to AC/DC, Queen, Bon Jovi, Tina Turner and Phil Collins’, Davy said.

The DJ for the evening session will be Davy’s fellow Moneyreagh resident, Paul Withers; doors to the disco will open at 8pm, and admission will be a minimum £5 donation.