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Pakenham Memorial Silver Band
September 1951, heralded the change of Silver. The first half dozen second hand instruments arrived at Nutts Corner Airport from Messrs. J.Reynolds & Sons, Salford, Manchester putting the band in debt to the sum of £400. Band night found eager and excited members holding, examining caressing their new found toys, with puffed cheeks we all had a go to produce a sound. More agonising weeks were to pass before we eventually received the rest of the instruments. At last 20 eager players under the conductorship of George Moore puffed, grunted, and struggled to produce the right note and eventually we managed to play a "C" scale. It sounded great. A lot of home practice was the only answer. More and more practice elevated us to playing Hymn tunes and our first march Fraternity. As successive weeks passed our playing improved.
The first task was to select a committee and draw up rules. The first committee consisted of President J McConnell, Vice- President J.J Morrison, Chairman G. Henry, Secretary D.M. Price, Treasurer S. Lewis, Conductor G. Moore
At one of the many band meetings the question arose, what to name the band? Perhaps a left over from early accordion days. The unanimous decision was to name the band after the Pakenham family and in particular the late Major H.D Pakenham who died from war wounds received at Dunkirk during the Second World War. His home in Langford Lodge was the headquarters of Northern Ireland Base Command for the United States troops during the period 1941-1945. The huge rambling mansion was finally destroyed by sappers of the Territorial Army in 1959 and the land taken over by Martin Baker Company. The only visible sign left of the Pakenham family is the family church at Gartree. The Major's Widow gave us the necessary permission, enclosing a donation for our kind gesture, and Pakenham Memorial Silver Band was born.
Many weeks of rehearsal passed with George's guidance. Having done the spade work, with learner's classes, plus band night and extra work at his employment, it was getting rather much for him so he reluctantly set about looking for a replacement. It was Robert Adair of Laganvale Silver, who came to our rescue on a temporary basis, until we could find a permanent man. Some other bands in the province were also changing to silver, one being Bruce Hamilton, Dromore. Adair knew his music and what a gruelling we got, but we took it in our stride. Many weeks passed trying t find a permanent conductor, finally ending with Harold Callen, of 55th Old Boys Silver Band, taking over. Perhaps small in stature, if anything worse than Adair, it would be a lie to say we were pleased. The opposite was more truthful, and a number of the boys were about to chuck in the towel. One night Harold arrived with three of his colleagues from the 55th and what a threat that night had in store for us. Their demonstration renewed fresh vigour to the Crumlin Bandsmen.
We took to the minor roads to march and play, boosting our ego. Soon it was time to show Crumlin the Silver Band. The dreaded day arrived, and under the command of Samuel Lewis, his style and command ensured we put our best foot forward. On his command of "Attention", quick march, and drum rolls, we were off playing "Fraternity". Our hearts and souls poured into the piece. Crumlin, we hoped would welcome the sound of Silver.
During the next year we managed to get some sort of uniformity in the form of second hand ex army battle dress uniform, dyed blue, perhaps not the best, but it served our purpose for some years to come.
1953 saw the band take part in the usual parades as well as lead the Fancy Dress Parade to the Park and take part in the entertainment to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. By this time we had really settled down to hard practice, our repertoire was increasing, new marches and tunes could now be easily mastered. The first chance, outside Crumlin to show off the band came in 1954 it was an Empire Youth Sunday Parade in Glenavy. We lead the praise in the grounds of Glendona, something we carried out for a number of years. To round off the year the band competed for the first time in the November band contest at the Ulster Hall, Belfast. Nerves were to play a major part in this escapade, but nevertheless we put on a good show.
During the early period, Ladies and Committee worked extremely hard to clear the debt, a job made harder by the recent innovation of television. To detail all band activities over the years I feel would be rather boring, but in general we carried out the usual parades, church engagements, etc, etc. as well as organise various functions to raise the necessary cash to enable the band to function.
It was November 1958, when the band held its Annual Election of office bearers for the coming year. My decision, that time had come for me to relinquish the post of secretary, after some 12 years of service. It was tome new blood was at the helm, this was not well received, but my mind was made up. Jackie Robb was chosen as my successor. Reluctantly I left the band in May 1959 to take up employment in England, for some ten years, but in that time I still kept in touch with band activities.
From reports, the early sixties was a lean time for the band. H. Callen left and again G. Moore stepped into the breach and rallied all around, until W. Watson took over as our conductor. New blood entered once again, more hard work, and soon the band was back to strength. The second hand instruments at this stage began to give trouble, leaking seams, valves sticking, slides coming adrift, etc,. Decision was taken to replace, over a period of time, the old instruments with new Boosey and Hawks.
The wise thing at the start of silver would have been to purchase new, but in those days it would have cost the band £1,500 and as we had no sponsors the inevitable happened.
In the early sixties the band entered the Brass Band Contest and though not getting to the first position, their efforts gained them second place, as well as third, in the November contest. This was the boost the band really needed. At this juncture let me introduce the magical figure THREE, with the new blood we had three from each family, namely the Brothers Christies, Higginson's, Becket's, Robinsons and Williamsons, all playing a part in band activities. Samuel Lewis's death in April 1961 left the band without a leader, and Joe Williamson jokingly said during a conversation at work "Oh I'll take the Pole", good to his work Joe carried out the duties of Drum Major for the band up until 1970 when shift work intervened.
Ulster can proudly boast of its statesmen, generals, poets and scholars. So can we, one of the magical three Billy Beckett, as a young lad joined the Village Band and there started his musical career as a second cornet player. Billy's love for music eventually found him playing for Fred Hanna's Dance Band. The spirit of adventure gripped Billy and on 1968, he set sail for Australia. There his talent was soon spotted and he joined Manley Town Silver Band near Sydney. Perhaps it was the Zealand and settled in Marsterton. Again, the lure of the Silver found Billy playing his part. His flair for music found the lad from Crumlin playing with a sixteen piece dance band. Proud e all are to hear that this year Billy's training in Crumlin has exalted him to the notable achievement of winning New Zealand's highest award of "Bandsman of the Year". May I on behalf of the band extend to Billy our congratulations on his fine achievement.
In the 1965 to 1968 period, conductorship changed to J. Bayford, Belfast, who during his period, introduced the band to the composition and theory of music for the brass bands.
The tradition of Xmas Carols started by the accordion band has continued over the years without a break, sometimes in very cold and frosty conditions. Perhaps not known, cold can affect the sound produced. It was such a night in 1966 the band had finished playing at the Mill Road and made its way up to play at Ballytromery. Alas, as they prepared to start playing it was discovered that the trombone slides had frozen solid. A kindly neighbour came to the rescue with a kettle of boiling water.
The year of male domination in the band came to an end. 1968 saw a few young girls attending the learners' class. Would these brave girls make the grade? Let me here mention that one such brave lass Miss Daphne Williamson did and is now the Solo horn player. Romance also blossomed, with the solo trombone and solo horn players getting engaged to each other and married on Monday 30th August, 1976. To both we offer the band's congratulations.
For a second period W. Watson returned and by all reports the band gave a very good account of itself on the concert platform.
Something that is easy to write about is the support from the Ladies of Crumlin and district. Without their help at our many sales of work, coffee parties Fashion shows, etc and their support, we would have ceased long ago. Owing to their continued interest in the band we have survived. To those ladies let me say on behalf of the band a big thank you. Also to our present Ladies Committee. Their help over the years has ensured a superb working force. Since pre accordion days, long before committees were formed, these young ladies pitched and provide the cup of cheer. Well I remember in accordion days the first band committee set up, led by Miss McMullan (Ingram) their lively satirical comments and chin wag put you off the business pending, but Miss McMullan would say “Now Ladies down to business” and in a few minutes all was arranged. Always, may I say to the entire satisfaction of the band members. These ladies are the backbone of any organisation and Pakenham Band is justly proud of its Ladies.
Enterprise within the band creates a healthy spirit. In 1969 the Love of music and bands drew me once again to take an active part. This year I feel must be recorded as their finest so far. The band decided in April to hold a solo contest among its members. This created the spirit of extra practice, and a challenge to win the Silver Cup presented to the band by the Late James Lilley, himself a keen band enthusiast. These contests ran for a number of years.
In June, the band competed at the Monaghan Festival the test piece being a fifteen minute selection of our own choice. Under the baton of W. Watson. The final result proved electric. We won the cup and First prize. We all "Lived it up" that evening. Next was the Brass Band League contest we were beaten into second place by a mere point, and to end the year the N.I.B.A contest, although we had won the Hymn Tune section but on overall performance we were again beaten by a single point. The band had at last got the spirit of improving its image. And so over these years the band has faithfully taken part in all band competitions. Why might you ask, do we not win more often? The answer is simple - MEMBERS. When you compete with a band of 20 against others with 28 players, the inevitable result is bound to show. As well, a new player takes time to train and play the many musical parts of the band. To round off the year we placed an order for a cheap uniform, blue casual jackets, black trousers, and new hats, not really a uniform as such, but it added sparkle to our appearance.
In November, 1972, after a short illness, it was with deep regret we learned the passing of a true and faithful colleague, George Moore. Indeed, the band is sadder without his help, talent, and experience.
His 50 year spell with Flute, Accordion, and Silver was over, not only to us but his pupils as well. We carried his remains to the church in a final and farewell tribute to on whose life was dedicated to the love of music.
Over the past few years the fame of Pakenham Band has spread. Requests came from Dublin to take part in the St.Patricks Day Parade and also the Lord Mayor's show in Belfast. We also answered the call for help from the 55th, Ballyduff, and Dundrod Silver Bands. This is Bandsmanship.
Sponsored walks were the done thing by many organisations to raise money. We choose differently, namely a ten hour sponsored play on Saturday 14th June 1976, from 10am to 8pm. This innovation was well supported financially, a task overseen by Morrison, Glover and Lindsay. Around 5.00pm the players were beginning to feel the strain of exhaustion, but a few words of encouragement and determination sustained more hot soup and tea, revived all to lead up to the magical hour 8.00pm. The tune "Now is the Hour" led us to completion on our self set task and reward.
1975 undoubtedly gave pleasure to the Senior Citizens of Antrim. Our programme included old time tunes know to all. Their singing, hand clapping, and feet tapping made the evening go with a swing. To the strains of a Waltz they took to the floor and the novelty of conduction the band heightened their enjoyment of the evening's entertainment. Antrim, Holywel and Muckamore Hospital's have, over the years had their Xmas brightened with the bands carol playing.
Let me end the history up to the 14th September 1976. In January the decision was made to deck ourselves out in a tailored uniform as the old outfit was beginning to wear. The contract was placed with Mr. Herron, of Dromore. It saddened our hearts to hear on the 6th April, of the death of Mr & Mrs Herron and daughter burned to death in a fire at his premises. All stock plus part of the band uniform was lost, it would not be in order for me to say at this point in time how it happened.
On St. Patrick's night, at the invitation of Roy Wilson we gave hour's concert in the Golden Slipper Club of popular Irish Airs. From reports it was well received, in fact we were asked to do a repeat performance sometime during Crumlin Civic Week. It all goes to show that we can play tunes other than marches.
During the year the band will have completed up to the 24th September, no fewer than 26 engagements, these include Church Parades, Contest at Banbridge, Local Parades, Parties, Community week entertainment etc. and our Annual Band Parade held for the past 11 years. This year 11 bands participated. By all reports this year's parade was the best ever. Style, behaviour, and their music delighted the watching crowd.
As with the first Flute band, the present day band has remained an independent organisation, electing its own Chairman and Officers. The only means of incomes are dues given by the members, parades and street collections, also donations given by various organisations.
Otherwise, we depend on the local community, to which great credit is undoubtedly due. This year the band committee will have to shoulder heavy responsibilities, due to the ever increasing cost of electricity, rates, conductor's fee's music scores, and spares for the instruments. Our sponsors are Nil.
The cost of replacing a cornet now costs £175 and a Bass in the region of £1000. Will we be able to carry on! That is something we cannot answer; Crumlin, I feel would be sadder without its local band, but I'm sure the committee and band members will do all in their power to carry on, with the support of the villagers of Crumlin.
February this year found the band again looking for a conductor as Mr. Watson had to enter hospital for a short period; Rather than leave the band without a conductor he resigned.
The committee and members selected by Ballot Mr. Wyatt from Belfast a widely experience Musician since the age of 9. He has had connections with brass bands, as well as having played with the Northern Ireland Orchestra.
On Friday 24th September, 1976, Crumlin will witness a pageant of invited bands from around the province, with gleaming instruments and stepping briskly out to parade the village. Poignant though it might be, the last march tune to be played will be Death or Glory, Death and Destruction in our province since 1969 will not deter the bandsmen of Pakenham Memorial Silver Band in their glory celebrating 25 years of Bandsmanship in Crumlin. Let me now end the history with these famous words of William Shakespeare as spoken by Duke Orsino in "Twelfth Night".
1981. September will see the Pakenham Silver Band reaching the ruby anniversary, thanks to the many supporters over the years have by their contributions to band funs, enabled the band to provide that musical background, to Parades, Social evenings, and concerts, and I think a record that is well worthy of mentioning, that in all those years, of many hundreds of engagements, not once did we let the organiser down, something that we are very proud of.
Over the years we have met many band colleagues, that to this day remain close friends, to mention one such friend, is the Derriaghy Accordion Band, in January this year we were able to help their band funds by taking part in a concert, and towards the end of January we gave assistance at the inaugural meeting for the setting up of a New Silver Band in Antrim. Someone who had the enviable task of putting the Silver band on the road, our first conductor and Bandmaster Robert Adair died on the 3rd February 1981.
February 19 was a night of departure, honouring some band members, Barty Beckett and family, were again returning to Australia, as we said our farewell with a small gift to mark the occasion, Mrs H Beckett and Miss D Moore two long serving ladies committee members were presented with parchment scrolls to mark the occasion of outstanding service, Miss ? received the Lilly Cup for the most promising player during the year, its not very often I draft out a speech but on this occasion it was a must, in presenting the PRIMILBEC cup. A closely guarded secret, I had to bluff my way, before announcing the Winner John Beckett, a astonished John received the trophy, after outstanding work during the year a worthy winner.
Gloom and despondency during March with a crippling budget and nearly 100,000 unemployed not a pleasant outlook to the year with the prospects of more joining the dole queue March 26 we ran a variety concert with Wilson Knipe as compeer one of the highlights was the appearance of the Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band, who said bands don't mix.
The Final Curtain and Death Knell of Pakenham Silver
Thursday 12th April in the Pakenham Arms bar in Crumlin, saw the end of the Pakenham Silver band. The instruments were sold and the money raised was divided equally between Muscular dystrophy and Leukaemia research, £900 was presented to each of the representatives. 60 special guests, ladies committee, ex and present band members were in attendance. It was a night that brought great nostalgia to those present.
It was sad to say goodbye to something I had cherished since the accordion band and since 1951 the Silver band. What had gone wrong? Perhaps the changing face of society we live in. Crumlin had expanded so there should've been plenty of youth to take the place of those who had served the band faithfully for years. The instruments had even been lent to the High school in an attempt to resurrect the band but unfortunately this failed. Few were interested. As I wind up the history of banding since 1880, I fell every stone has been turned to attract new recruits.
Numerous bands and other organisations around Crumlin were also feeling a lack of involvement or the spirit to continue, people could not, or would not take on the running of such an organisation. People want entertainment but are not prepared to give it ago. Perhaps the last straw was the loss of the band room, again big business was the culprit, the band room was knocked down and the search for new premises was fruitless. The band could not afford to pay rent, a conductor, buy instruments and uniforms. With inflation at 8.1% perhaps the right decision was reached. Crumlin would no longer see the Blue band members playing Death or Glory, or light of foot. Perhaps it's easier to put on a record or tape and sit in your easy chair than listen to a team of musicians using their musical ability. In a few months I doubt the younger generation will even remember the Pakenham Silver Band who had walked the street of Crumlin since 1951. It is sad to say farewell, but I hope the name Pakenham will be remembered in the Pakenham Arms Bar, long may it remain to remind those of the years of making music.
Pakenham is now only a memory.