History of Banding since 1890

This material was written by David Magill Price (1927 – 1997). Permission has been given to reproduce the material on the website. Thanks to Caroline Price who kindly donated the material and the photographs

Flute Band 1890 – 1934

The village of Crumlin for over the past 86 years has reverberated to the Music of Flute, Accordion, and Silver. Friday 24th September, 1976, heralds a year of nostalgia to members of Pakenham Memorial Silver Band Crumlin, rewarding their efforts in attaining their Silver Jubilee.

Crumlin can proudly look back to around the year 1890 when first a group of young men gathered at Nixon’s General Store and Hardware shop, now the Ulster Bank Ltd. It was there the foundation of bandsmanship in the village was born.

Gilbert Harkness, a business man living in the vicinity, carrying on the business of Harkness and Company, Haulage Contractors, Belfast, learned of their scheme. Gilbert was instrumental in providing the incentive fo the formation of the First Flute Band in Crumlin.

Their bandroom was an old vacant cottage at a place well known to older inhabitants, as Entwistletown. Nearby was the site of a knackery, but the heat and the smell of a summers evening did not deter their music making.

Brothers Tom and Billy McKeen, their old homestead still exists near to the first bandroom, were members. It was Billy who undertook the task to teach and shape Crumlin’s First Flute Band.

In those far off days when you made your own entertainment, band night was a social occasion. Many young, eager lads awaited their turn to have a toot on the flute. Indeed, many an hour was lost in the popular music of the day.

Unlike todays band with over 100 music scores, countless hymn tunes and marches, their tunes were easily remembered. Sometime in the early 19th century the band was called Crumlin Conservative Flute Band. W.Gray was the Drum Major, his pole was topped by bible surmounted by a crown, and the only uniform was a type of skull cap decorated with gold braid around the edges and a design on top, a small black peak completed the headdress. About twenty members made up the band.

At the turn of 1908, the band moved to practice in what was known at 471 Lodge Room, This is now the restaurant connected to the Cobweb Bar. Entrance was from the Main Street by a stairway, now the entrance to Colin McCluney’s Hairdressing Salon.

If this old building could only speak of band night and social evenings activities, where one could hear the whoops of Lassies and lads as they danced the Lancers. Two Steps, and many other square sets to the sound of fiddle and melodion ending at 6.00 a.m. in the morning. Such was life then against the ear shattering Hi Fi amplification of today’s groups, twisting gyrating dancers.

The earliest record of Flute Band days recalls the election of officers of the 18th August, 1909.

President – James Gilmour
Secretary – Joseph Campbell
treasurer – Harry Robinson

The working committee consisted of Messrs. Thomas Gray, Thomas H.Doyle, Mathew Glover, Henry Courtney, and Alex Meeklejohn. In that year 37 members made up the band, their attendance record showed 100% attendance. The dues being 3d per week and the bandmaster received the sum of 3/9d or 19 new pence. The years trading showed the band to be in the red by a few shillings, perhaps the most interesting was the cost a new flute a mere 3/6. On one such occasion the band stood the lads a round of drinks, beer in those days cost 2d per pint.

It was around the latter end of 1909, that Tom Ewing Belfast was appointed bandmaster, a post he held for over 10 years. Tom’s method of teaching the band to march and play, was to get off the train at Glenavy, and there meet the band. Off they would set to march to Crumlin playing.

The band flourished, taking part in all parades. Little did they know that on 12th July, 1914, the sound of many happy hours of music would soon be silent. The call to arms was great and many of the band members answered the call to duty. Not all lived to return home to their village. Perhaps if like to-day records of the First Flute band had been preserved a more interesting picture could be written. Alas, sad to say, only one of the original bandsmen is with us now, and that is Harry Robinson, Grandfather of Winston Robinson, Chairman of the present band.

November 11th, 1918, saw the end of the war. Soldiers returned to their homes and victory behind them. Early in 1919, the First Flute band reformed again, but changes soon took place. First flutes gave way to part music, seven parts in all. The Bandsmen of 1919 believed in quality: 24 of the best Hawks AZ flutes were purchased. The Bandroom echoed again to older members instructing the youngsters. Slowly but surely headway was achieved. In the latter end of 1919 Tom Ewing was forced to resign owing to transport difficulties but his drive and determination got the band on the road, headed by their Drum Major W.Gray, with such names as McMullan, McQuillan, Greys, Dobbins, Morrisons, Lindsays, Glovers, Palmers, Lewis’s, Doyles, and many others of younger years.

A great Uncle of the Author, a John Bamford, came to reside in Mill Road Crumlin during 1920. Needless to say his services were much appreciated by the lads. In no time the band was striding out to such tunes as Punjab, Belphfager, Light of Foot, and many other stirring light airs. The order of the day was dark suits, band caps, and patent music bags, which was progress indeed from the First Flute Band cloth and cap stage. Perhaps it was John Bamford’s strict military bearing that led the bandsmen to give of their best on parade etc. But it also has many amusing incidents. John was taking a learner’s drumming class, four lads around an old table beating out MA DA MA DA MA DA in time to the melody, but the lads were less enthusiastic, so he asked them to whistle the tune. Naturally the lads could not for laughing. John roared “GET OUT” and chased them down the stairs and up towards the hill. Another day John, walked up to the Bank corner where Peter McMartin and John Lindsay were standing and without warning grabbed the boys by the scruff of the neck and landed them up to the bandroom for extra practice. Dare any bandsman forget to have his boots shining like a new sixpence when on parade? Once neglected never forgotten!

During the middle twenties the ravages of age claimed some of the founder members, but unlike today, recruits wee in plentiful supply to carry on the tradition. It was around this period their efforts took them to the concert platform, as well as playing at fetes, election campaigns, Sunday School outings, and parades. The laying of the foundation stone and opening of the Orange Hall, Crumlin, in 1927/1928 found the band leading the praise and taking part in the ceremony. Oldstone, Muckamore, and Ballinderry were entertained to their part music.

Wilson’s of Pakenham Arms Hotel supplied the motivating power in the form of a horse drawn brake. What a wonderful sight it must have been to seen driver with whip held high, bandsmen seated each side of the brake and those bandsmen with bicycles, following behind.

Gilbert Harkness did not neglect the boys on special occasions as he entertained the lads to a meat tea and liquid refreshments in the hotel. One such occasion was the opening of the Diamond Orange Hall, after marching there and back. The bandsmen of the 1920’s had stamina; they thought nothing of leading the lodge on a “Twelfth” day to the field in Antrim and back.

During the period 1921 to 1926 the aftermath of war made it self felt in the great depression and trouble of Home Rule in Ireland. The band had many ups and downs, but somehow managed to carry bravely on. May 1921 saw James Craig, later Lord Craigavon, elected Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1921 – 1941, arrive at the Manse Corner on a Victory Parade through Crumlin. The plan was for Craig to travel on a float supplied by the Ulster Woolen Mills. Craig, however, had other plans, and instead took his place at the head of the band and set off on his tour. Another incident was on a very hot summer’s day during 1924. Some of the bandsmen on returning to the Ulster Woolen Mill after lunch break were a trifle late and were locked out. It was a strict rule that on the stroke of half-past one, the second horn gave a toot, the main gates were then closed, and you had to gain entrance by a side door and also loose 15 minutes pay. The story goes that on this particular occasion, the lads locked out made their way to the bandroom, picked up their instruments and proceeded to march around the square, ending in front of the Mill gates, where they gave a short a short concert. Their ingenuity perhaps could put the present day generation to shame. When they wanted to march and practice on a dark night this was easily overcome by placing a tin containing fuel with a wick, on top of a pole, which each man carried, giving enough light to read and play the music.

In 1932 John Bamford and family moved to work Belfast, as work in the country was scarce, but John returned every Saturday night to put the boys through their paces for a few months until an up and coming bandsman, Tommy Morrison, a well known figure in the jewellery and watch business, took over control. I’m sure, had there been a Flute Band contests in those days the Crumlin lads would have been in their first three places, if not indeed first, as their playing and marching was superb.

It was during this year that the band moved to the Orange Hall for its rehearsals. William Glover, their secretary for twelve years, recalls that many nights of discussion took place. The younger element wanted a change to the more versatile accordion, whilst the older hands opposed the change. A vote was eventually taken and those for change to accordions won. After forty years of Flute Band music in Crumlin, the era of the Flute was over.

Pakenham Flute Band

Pakenham Flute Band

Accordion Band 1934 – 1951

In August, 1934 the band committee placed an order with Charles Rollins, and Son, Donegall Street, Belfast for twelve, three voice, four, four voice Black Dot Double Ray Hohner accordions, complete with bass and four side drums, total cost £175, Rollins taking in part exchange their flutes. All that Rollins could allow was a mere £16 credit on the transaction, no doubt disappointing the committee. The bargain had been struck, Crumlin was not alone, flutes were ten a penny. Undaunted, the members set to with a will and held a series of very successful Saturday night hops, in the Orange Hall, at the just right price of Ladies Sixpence and Gents ninepence. This dance attracted considerable patrons from around the district. Royal Air Force, Aldergrove, Airmen and staff took advantage of a good dance floor, good music, and a cheap night’s dancing. Success was assured with W. Glover as Master of Ceremonies; Miller Moore and Price as door men, while other bandsmen saw to it that all had an enjoyable night. The Saturday Hop proved such a success that soon the band was debt free. Such was the driving force and tenacity of its members.

Some of the old flute band members left, but there was a plentiful supply of eager lads awaiting the arrival of the accordion.

George Moore, a flute man, took over the task of teaching and conducting. Practice night found many young and eager lads hoping for the chance of a vacant accordion. Eagerness usually paid off in the end. Once the instrument had been mastered you would hear some of the members attempting to play some of the popular tunes of the day.

Indeed, a proud day in 1935 saw the band take the road, decked out in dark suits with white covered band caps and black leather satchels, remnants of flute band days. George’s hard work and patience had paid off. Drum Major James Price led the newly formed accordion band on its first village parade, naturally followed by the local small boys.

The next few years saw the band playing its part in the usual parades, Sunday school fete’s etc. rather an uneventful period of band history. As yet the band officially had not got around to giving itself a name, but was called Crumlin Accordion Band. It was in 1937 that the committee decided to write to Col. Pakenham, asking for his permission to name the band after the Pakenham family, owners of the large estate at Langford Lodge, as well as a greater part of Crumlin, if not all. Permission was duly received, with a donation, but for some obscure reason this was never carried out.

During 1937 the Spanish Civil War broke out. Col. O’Duffy’s volunteers were formed in Ireland to help the Spanish Nationals, better known as the blue shirts. Gracie Fields opened the Ritz Cinema in Belfast, newspapers cost one penny, times were hard, jobs hard to come by. Few then realised, that within two years the serenity of the village life would be disturbed. Great Britain and Germany would be at war. The build up to September, 1939, saw many bandsmen leave to join the Forces. The Second Great War of 1939/1945 was upon us.

The band disbanded in 1939 for the duration of the war and instruments stored. Sad to relate, many former bandsmen made the supreme sacrifice to crush the ruthless enemy.

May 8th, saw VE day and August 8th 1945 saw VJ day celebrations left behind. Again some band members returned to carry on the tradition with spaces left by former members, who would never return to their native village.

I, like many other lads of the Village, attended a band meeting and there decided to join the ranks of bandsmanship. Before we could do anything, the accordions stored during the war, all had to be overhauled before the band got under way again.

George Moore again took up the reigns and many hours’ hard work passed before we were ready to head the Victory Parade in Crumlin to the Park in May 1946, headed by Drum major Fred Curry, complete with new band pole. We stepped out to the tune, "Moore Street", our repertoire wasn’t large. A few march tunes sufficed to carry us through the event.

The remainder of the year we all buckled down to the task of rehearsing more march and hymn tunes. It was at this time band elections were held. The following were elected and held their posts until the star of the Silver Band:

Chairman – William Millar
Secretary – David Price
Treasurer and Conductor – George Moore

Perhaps, I, as a raw youth learned under the guiding hands of older members, that the post of secretary had many pitfalls. The band depended on one’s ability to perform the many tasks imposed, but we all learn by our mistakes and soon progress was made.

In 1947 saw the band performing the usual parades. In those days it was hard slog. The Sunday before the "Twelfth" the usual parade to Glenavy. We all marched from the Orange Hall, Crumlin, to Glenavy, and paraded to church and marched home again by the Ballytromery Road to the Hall. Heat and flies added to the discomfort of the march.

During the latter end of the year we ventured to the Ulster Hall platform. Needless to say, it was for the experience as our chances of winning were pretty slim. Xmas approached and we serenaded the villagers with our carols, assisted by the ladies as collectors and songsters.

In 1948 the local lodge and the band could not agree terms for the "twelfth" parade, so we advertised and got an engagement with a Belfast Lodge on the Antrim Road, near Carlisle Circus. That year will forever stick in the minds of bandsmen participating in the parade. As we marched, Fred was grumbling about the square sets and tram lines since leaving Carlisle Circus. All went well passing the City Hall I grand style and up to Shaftesbury Square. As we were about to enter the Lisburn Road, It happened!.. Fred thumped the Pole down and there its stayed, firmly wedged in the tram line points. We marched on as if nothing had happened, at the same time splitting our sides laughing, poor Fred struggled and heaved, but nothing happened. On we marched, minus our leader. It was about the City Hospital that Fred caught up with us, nursing a badly damaged band pole. More titters and laughter, and Fred never lived that one down.

Like our predecessors we ran Saturday night dances and engaged a dance instructor from Belfast to give dancing lessons. To those of us who thought we could dance it was a revelation under John’s expert tuition of slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, and the records of Victor Silvester we cast aside our basic steps and started again. All had great fun while it lasted, but like everything else the novelty wore off after we had completed the course. Robin McCord and the band provided the music for our dances which were well patronised. Sales of work, Jumble sales, in fact anything to raise cash to purchase band uniform, were organised. We had in the back of our minds for some time, the idea of forming our own dance band. In September 1948, we took the plunge and purchased a drum kit and Alto saxophone, J.McMullan, violin, D. Christie on drums and myself on piano, not a superb dance band, but we had a good beat and seemingly, the dancers enjoyed the music produced. Some months later we added a tenor saxophone, played by W. Miller completing the group. Soon, we were getting plenty of engagements and certainly a very hectic time. Playing Thursday, Friday and Saturday, left the members exhausted. We overcame the problem of playing at halls without a piano by purchasing a piano keyed accordion. Like all good things, it had to come to an end. Our girlfriends were making strong objections, and one after the other made his way up the aisle and eventually folded up. Another page In the history of the Silver Crescent Dance band.

1949 was an uneventful year. More trouble with the accordions, more repairs, and we talked over what we should do. Either scrub the accordions, change to other instruments or carry on as best we could. The decision, after lengthy discussion was postponed for the time being. Just the usual parades and the November contest. We had set our hearts to prove our worth with many nights extra practice. The big day duly arrived. We all stood around with abated breath, listening to the results. We had gained second place, and naturally this put us on top of the world. It had been worth the effort.

1950 was to be the turning point in the accordions career. The local Black Preceptory had engaged us for their parade at Doagh, a day never to be forgotten. The morning was dull and overcast with promise of bright intervals. Few had brought their overcoats. On the way to Doagh it started to rain. The procession assembled and marched off to the field, it was still raining. To cut a long story short, it rained and rained and rained, the field was like a quagmire, shelter was nil and we stored the accordions under the lodge banner. Time to go home and thankfully we all were. Then it happened; as we prepared for our first tune, no sound, only squeaks from limp, lifeless accordions. We made our way back to the bus by the sound and beat of a very slack side drum. Playing was impossible, still it rained. Crumlin was reached and a bunch of dejected, soggy and drenched men marched in silence to the hall, and home for a change of clothing. The dye from our suits had penetrated our underclothing, the rain still pelted down. When reminiscing with those who were at Doagh on that day the same old cliché still comes through.

"Ever at Doagh on a wet day?"

As far as repairing the instruments was concerned the cost was out of the question. We patched them up as best we could. A full committee meeting was called, including the eight lady committee members. After all the pro’s and cons were discussed the decision was reached. We would change to Silver.

Pakenham Accordian Band - D Day

Pakenham Accordian Band – D Day

Pakenham Accordian Band

Pakenham Accordian 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".


Members of Pakenham Silver Band outside Station House, Glenavy

Members of Pakenham Silver Band outside Station House, Glenavy
David Price is 3rd from the left

Pakenham Silver Band Practice

Pakenham Silver Band Practice

Pakenham Silver Band Practice

Pakenham Silver Band Practice
David Price is the righthand
trombone player

Pakenham Silver band 12th of July

Pakenham Silver band 12th of July – year not known

Pakenham Silver Band led by David Price

Pakenham Silver Band led by David Price

Pakenham Silver Band

Pakenham Silver Band

Pakenham Silver Band

Pakenham Silver Band

Pakenham Silver Band (Nov 1966)

Pakenham Silver Band (Nov 1966)

Pakenham Silver Band

Pakenham Silver Band


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.

April 12 saw the launch of the first space shuttle Columbia, a 75 ton monster fixed to a rocket, took off to mark the 20th anniversary of the first Russian Yuri Gagarin into space, what wonderful pictures on TV as the space craft returned to land in the Mojave Desert California, a wonderful achievement after many drawbacks.

April 3 was night I dropped a clanger, at a programme we played for over 120 senior citizens in the Community centre drawn from over a wide area, organised by the Community Association, we had played a Hymn tune and a few of the Senior Citizens, asked for a few more popular hymn tunes, I went over a few popular tunes and said would they like to hear the Old Rugged Cross, yeah was the reply. It would happen the book containing the hymn was missing did I feel a fool, and to make matters worse the tune that the band choose to play in its place very few people knew it. Ah well it can happen to the best of us.

April is the month for the youth church parades, First was the Boys Brigade Antrim Battalion Church parade in Antrim with over 500 boys and Officers taking part, The following Sunday was the turn of the Girl’s Brigade with over 26 Battalions taking part over 750 Girls and Officers taking part to Glenavy Parish Church, and to end the month it was the turn of the scouts and Guides for Empire Youth Sunday in Antrim with over 600 taking part, Lucky on each occasion the weather was kind all the parades well organised.

May did we play at the Antrim Forum????

May 13th the World was shocked to hear of the shooting of Pop John Paul, as earlier in the year an attempt to short President Regan of the U.S.A. and during the Queens official birthday, a man discharged a gun during the procession route. Society is reaching a terrible pitch when our world leaders’ lives are at risk.

May 17th leading the praise at Glenavy Civic Week Interdenominational Service, those present must have enjoyed the music even with the ending of the service all sat to listen to the band.

June 5th, Crumlin was to hear of the recently formed first flute band, Crumlin True Blues Flute Band, made their début in Crumlin after a lapse of 48 years flutes were in the majority for the following band parade.

June 29th Heir to the throne Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer Marry in St. Pauls London amongst pomp and ceremony with massive TV coverage.

July 31st, Friday opening night for Crumlin Civic Week and for those who saw the parade what a band the Pakenham turned out that night, naturally with the help of many Silver bandsmen from other bands helping to swell the ranks, when you put your mind to a thing we put on a magnificent show.

August 2nd leading the praise at the Civic Week interdenominational service, and afterwards we gave a 30 minute band concert this is the first time that we have presented an open air concert in the village.

So my story ends my tale of past history of the Pakenham Silver Memorial band, 30 years of service to the community, 30 years of bandsmanship, during that time many former bandsmen have passed on, lets hope in the coming years there are the Youth of Crumlin who will fill the ranks to keep alive the spirit of Bandsmanship in the years to come and still preserve the name of Pakenham Silver.

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.

Orange Banner is unfurled at Glenavy

Procession through Glenavy headed by Pakenham Silver Band

Procession through Glenavy headed by Pakenham Silver Band
Date and source unknown
The procession headed by Pakenham Silver Band passing through Glenavy with the new banner which was unfurled by Mrs. W. Moore for Pride of Glenavy LOL 618.

Florence Harbinson presenting scissors to Mrs W Moore before she unfurled the new banner

Florence Harbinson presenting scissors to Mrs W Moore before she unfurled the new banner

Orange Banner is unfurled at Glenavy

Pride of Glenavy LOL no 618 unfurled their new banner in the Protestant Orange Hall on Saturday evening last. The banner replaces the old one, which is 25 years old.

Br. George Kane, Deputy District Master, No 9 District, Belfast, took the chair, and the banner was unfurled by Mrs. W. Moore. She was presented with scissors by Miss Florence harbinson.

Rev. A.J.E. Campbell, M.A. Rector of Glenavy Parish, performed the dedication ceremony.

Speakers included Br. R. Harbinson, W.M., Br. W.J. Forsythe, D.M., Br. R.A. Bell, Br. D. Steele, Br. J. Magowan W.D.M. No 4 District, Br. R. Higginson, and Br. W.J. Harbinson.

Pakenham Memorial Silver band led the parade through the village after the ceremony. Lodges represented were Ballynadrenta No 1055, Crumlin 314 and 471, Fourscore 340, Dundrod 73, Crewe 124, Ballydonaghy 351, and Glenavy 227. the banner cords were carried by Masters John Scott, Thomas Moore, Ivan Harbinson and Mervyn Harbinson.

A Band with a Gift for Survival

The following is an extract from The Ulster Star dated 12th October, 1979 and appears with permission of The Ulster Star.

Packenham – A Band with Gift for Survival. I all started at a street corner….

In the year 1890, and, as was the fashion in those far off peaceful days, a group of men and boys gathered at a corner of a street in the village of Crumlin and the corner shop was Nixon’s General Store and Hardware Shop, (now the Ulster Bank).

One of the men, Billy McKeen had been associated with a flute band at one time, and he remarked that there was enough gathered at the corner to start a band.

The idea quickly caught on, and an old vacant cottage at Entwhistletown was fixed up and used as the bandroom.

Mr. Gilbert Harkness, a local resident and chairman of the well known firm of Harkness and Company, haulage contractors, Belfast, gave them every encouragement and practice help and soon a flute band was in full swing under the baton of Billy McKeen.

There were more learners than there was flutes for, so the competition amongst members was fierce for Billy only gave instruments to those really trying.

The band became known as "Crumlin Conservative Flute Band" and their first drum major, W.Grey, had a distinctive mace pole topped with a Bible and surmounted by a Crown. Other than that the band had no real uniform except a type of scull cap decorated with gold braid around the edges and a design on top and a small black peak.

The band, now going strong, moved to what was known as 471 lodge room in 1908. This is now the restaurant connected to the Cobweb Bar. On August 18 1909, Mr. James Gilmour was elected president with Joseph Campbell, secretary, and Harry Robinson, treasurer. The committee consisted of T. Gray, T.H. Doyle, M. Glover, H. Courtney and A. Meeklejohn.

The membership was 37 with a 100 percent attendance each practice night.

The dues were 3d per week and the bandmaster received a weekly fee of 3s 9d, but considering the cost of a new flute was 3s 6d this was quite a lot of money.


From 1909 to 1919 Tom Ewing from Belfast was conductor but the band was sorely weakened from 1914 when again like other towns and villages throughout Ulster, the members of Crumlin Conservative Flute Band joined to fight in the First World War.

The few that did return home rejoined the band and because of their experiences abroad where they had heard great part music bands they were able to persuade their own Crumlin band to purchase band to purchase 24 of the best Hawkes AZ flutes and go full part music.
When Tom Ewing resigned he left behind a first class outfit, with players like McMullan, McQuillan, the Greys, Dobbins, Morrisons, Lindsays, Glovers, Palmers, Lewises and Doyles and many young learners under the command of Drum Major W. Gray.

A military man and good musician, Mr. John Bamford came to live at Mill Road, Crumlin in 1920 and the Crumlin Conservative soon enlisted his services as conductor.

With his strict military discipline John soon had the band, now in dark suits, band caps and patent music bags marching like guardsmen at all the parades to tunes like Punjab, Belphfager, Loght of Foot and many other marches of the era.

Crumlin Orange Hall was opened in 1928 and the band led the Praise at the ceremony in which Oldstone, Muckamore and Ballinderry Bands also took part.

In the year 1932 John Bamford moved to Belfast and local man Tom Morrison from the band membership took over.

The band then moved to the new Orange Hall and at this stage many of the younger members wanted the band changed from flute to the more versatile accordions that were beginning to become fashion.


Many of the older members protested strongly, but the younger members won the vote to change from Accordion, and so after 40 years flute band music in Crumlin was over.

In August 1934 the remaining band committee placed on order with Charles Rollins and Son, Belfast for 12 three voice, four, four voice Black Dot Double Ray Hunter Accordions complete with bass and four side drums costing £175.

All the music shop would allow the band for their flutes was £16, and they were lucky to get even this amount as, by then, flutes were "ten a penny."

However the new Crumlin Accordion soon cleared its debt by organising Saturday night Hops in the Orange Hall. Ladies sixpence and gents ninepence admission.

Because of Crumlin’s nearness to Aldergrove the dances were frequented by Royal Air Force and other military personnel as well as local people and the dances were a great success.

Due to the untiring efforts of George Moore, a local man from the flute band who took over the teaching of the members on the accordion, the band made its first proud appearance since the change over.

Dreesed in white covered band caps and black suits and black leather satchels they paraded the village.

Still not officially named the committee wrote to Colonel Pakenham at Langford Lodge and in 1937 permission was received to use the Pakenham family name. A large donation was given but for some obscure reason the naming was never carried out.


At the outbreak of World War Two the band disbanded and the instruments stored away and the band once more marched off to war.
In 1946 the band reformed with William Millar as the chairman, and David Price as secretary, with the conductor, George Moore as treasurer.

In 1948 the band and the local lodge could not agree terms for the Twelfth parade so the band headed a Belfast Lodge from near Carlisle Circus Antrim Road to the Field at Finaghy.

The Drum Major Fred Curry, complete in new uniform and pole marched proudly but between tunes he could be heard muttering angrily about the tram lines and cobblestones.

As the band left Shaftesbury Square Fred thumped the Mace Pole hard to the ground and it stuck fast in the tram lines. The band marched past trying not to laugh at Fred’s vain attempts to extract it. They didn’t see him again or his badly mutilated "weapon" until he caught up with the band near Adelaide. He never uttered another word the rest of the day!

By 1949 the accordions were almost beyond repair and the idea was mooted that the band should change to other instruments was shelved.

However, in 1950 on an extremely wet Black Preceptory Parade to Doagh the old accordions give out their last doleful wheezes and the band walked home to the beat of a side drum without playing a single note.

That was the last day in the life of the Crumlin Accordion Band.
The next band night was taken over by the full band, including a very active Ladies Committee for discussion and the outcome saw the start of the Crumlin Silver Band.

During World War Two Major H D Pakenham died from wounds received at Dunkirk and his home at Langford Lodge became the Northern Ireland Command headquarters of the American forces.

In 1959 his estates were taken over by the Martin Baker Company and today the only visible signs left of the Pakenham family is the family Church at Gartree.

The new silver band secretary D.M. Price wrote to the Major’s widow asking permission again to use the name Pakenham and again the answer was yes and another donation sent. Thus Pakenham Memorial Silver Band was born.

Once again a new President was chosen, J. McConnell, The Vice-President J.J. Morrison, Chairman G. Henry, Treasurer S. Lewis and the Conductor once more G. Moore who did a most Herculean task in redirecting the musical skills of the players to adopting Silver band instruments which the secretary managed to get from J. Reynolds and Son, Manchester, for £400.

Later on the conductor found the amount of work too much for him and he asked to be replaced.

Robert Adair of Laganvale took over for a temporary period and then Harold Callen, of 55th Old Boy’s Silver, was engaged.


He was so tough that some of the lads thought of chucking in the towel, however Harold arrived one night with three members of the 55th and gave a display, which was such a lesson in good playing, that it reinvigorated the despondent members to new determined interest.

The first outing was round the streets of Crumlin under the leadership of Samuel Lewis, playing "Fraternity". During the next year the band brought ex-Army battle dress uniform, dyed in blue which served them for a number of years.

In 1953 the Band took part in their first contest in the Ulster Hall, Belfast and they didn’t disgrace themselves. Since then the band has never looked back winning many contests and etching a name for themselves in the Silver band world.

Girls first joined the band in the late sixties and have long since proved their worth. One ex-member was judged New Zealand’s Bandsman of the Year, and another plays with a world famous dance band.

There is much more to tell about the Pakenham Silver but perhaps it is best summed up by saying they have a gift for survival, which may have something to do with their habit of seemingly doing everything in threes.

Comments are closed.