St. Patrick’s Brass and Reed Band, Galway (1916)

Peter Rabbitt

St. Patrick's Brass and Reed Band (c. 1914)

A 120th Anniversary Concert was held in the Raddison Hotel, where 500 people, led by the Mayor of Galway Frank Fahy, enjoyed a great night’s entertainment in May 2016 by the Town Band and friends including Mark Roberts, Don Stiffe, Bel Canto and the Galway Choral Association.  The Band has fully-completed its projects for this year due to the success of the concert and with the generous support of Galway City Council, Galway businesses, individuals and supporters.  The Bandroom continues as a wonderful music centre in the heart of Galway.  St. Patrick’s Brass Band is in a healthy state with three bands on the go and the future is bright for this Galway institution.

St. Patrick’s Band was founded in 1896 as the Forster Street Fife and Drum Band, moving to its Bandroom on Frenchville Lane, off Forster Street c. 1900 and changed its name to St. Patrick’s Fife and Drum Band in 1906, becoming St. Patrick’s Brass and Reed Band in 1912 with the addition of brass instruments and the Society was twenty years old in 1916.

The events during the year 1916 in Ireland, one hundred years ago, was to shape the history of Ireland, and Galway was to play a major part in the Easter Rising that year.  The Band also had an eventful and busy year, facing many challenges.  All over Ireland there were military groups drilling and undertaking route marches including Galway, where they marched in the town in the March procession.  On 17 March 1916 the band was prominent as usual in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, playing every year since the first parade/procession in 1903.

‘The advent of St. Patricks Day, 1916 finds Europe still at war…the procession started from Eyre Square at 12.45 p.m., and the route…Shop Street…Dominick Street…the Cresent, New Line (St. Mary’s Road and New Road) and back again to the Square via St. Francis Street…about 300 Irish Volunteers’ from around the county attended.
Galway Express, 18 March 2016.

‘The National Festival was celebrated on Friday last, in the usual manner, and a great day was witnessed, as the triple leaf shamrock was worn by all classes, and green was to be seen on all sides.  The day kept up splendidly…the procession was nearly all that could be desired and presented a splendid appearance but the whole feature of it was the large number of Volunteers that took part, and especially their well drilled appearance, their marching in such splendid order, and military like fashion.  The contingents came from Athenry, Craughwell, Castlegar, Moycullen, (Oranmore) and Spiddal.  The St. Patrick’s Band played in superior style, the Monastery school and the Pipers in full costume also played beautiful airs.’
Galway Observer, 25 March 1916.

A month later many of the Volunteers that took part in the parade behind St. Patrick’s band and other bands were taking part in the Easter Rising in Galway.  The Galway Express, 25 March 1916 described their appearance in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.‘  The Galway City Corps of the National volunteers (under Capt. J.P. O’Neill) armed with rifles with fixed bayonets, occupied a prominent place in the procession, and about 500 Irish Volunteers, also participated, they being drawn from Athenry, Castlegar, Galway, Barna, Moycullen, Barna, Moycullen, Spiddal, etc.; while many of them bore no arms, those who were equipped carried spears and rifles.’

The 1917 St. Patrick’s Parade was cancelled due to a ban imposed by the military authorities as a result of the 1916 Rising.  It only resumed in 1922, following the withdrawal of the British from Galway with the new Irish Free State.

But by the summer of 1916 Galway was coming back to normal following the rebellion, with hundreds of holiday makers travelling by train from Dublin, Athlone, and other parts.  The papers reported the gradual release of prisoners from Frongoch camp and other places.

‘St. Patrick’s Brass and Reed made its first appearance for the season last Sunday when a route march on the Grattan Road and Salthill took place, numerous popular selections being rendered.’  ‘For the summer it will follow out last year’s programme, giving public recitals in the Salthill Park and Eyre Square on Sundays’
Galway Express, 27 May 1916.

In May the Band also accompanied the National Volunteers on an excursion on the ‘s.s Countess Cadogan’ to Cong (Galway Express).

‘St. Patrick’s Brass and Reed Band, under the able conductorship of Mr. P. Larkin, discoursed a varied and entertaining performance at Eyre Square on Sunday afternoon, and a large number of spectators thoroughly appreciated the selections…’ Galway Express, 8 July 1916.

But difficulties faced the Band and its committee, and these were clearly outlined in the Galway Express 8 July 1916:

‘Elsewhere we publish an appeal on behalf of St. Patrick’s Band Society, Galway for funds to enable it to fulfil its useful social functions during the year. This popular Band is an indispensable institution in Galway, and we are sure the citizens will readily respond the deserving appeal.’ The appeal stated:

St. Patrick’s Band Society,
Galway.

An Appeal

With the advent of the summer season and when, in the interests of the citizens utility, an extra demand is made on the energies and resources of this Society, we are constrained to appeal to the generosity of the indulgent people of the city and county of Galway for financial assistance to enable us to maintain our institution on a more improved basis, if possible, then heretofore. We are sure the public will generously acknowledge the fact that the existence of the Band is amply justified, and that it fulfils a most important social requirement. Its musical discourses have always furnished an appreciable medium of enjoyment and relaxation, and its absence would create a void for which no effective substitute could be found. Furthermore, it has always been placed unreservedly at the disposal of the public.

There are many reasons why we are compelled to issue this appeal. Firstly, we have found it necessary to provide new instruments and to repair some of the old ones; secondly, owing to the depletion of our membership in consequences of war-16 of our Members are with the Colours-we have it necessary to recruit new members, the training of whom is an expensive item, involving, as it does, the constant services of a bandmaster and instructor; thirdly, the maintenance of a Hall, including repairs, fire, light, &etc.; fourthly, there are incidental expenses which forms by no means an inconsiderable item. These are but a few of the reasons why we find it necessary to make the Appeal, and we feel certain that the public will respond to it with their characteristic generosity, notwithstanding the trying period through which we are passing.

Subscriptions will be thankfully received by the undersigned, and will be gratefully acknowledged in this journal,
(signed)
ML. SPELLMAN, Secretary
PETER RABBITT, Treasurer.
Galway, 5th July, 1916.

Galway Urban Council responded immediately; Galway Express, 8 July 1916 ‘at Thursday’s meeting of the Galway Urban Council, Mr. Griffin moved that £25 be contributed to St. Patrick’s Band Society in recognition of its service during the summer season, and the motion was unanimously agreed to, members paying tribute to the utility of the band as a social asset.’

St. Patrick’s Brass and Reed, according to the Galway Express of 22 July 1916 was ‘…showing wonderful improvement, under Mr. Larkin.’  At a recital in Salthill, ‘…the very large number of visitors at the place enjoyed the following programme:- March ‘Distant Greeting’ (Goring); valse ‘Always Peaceful (Bordigni); selection Irish Airs’ (Hartmann); air vatie ‘O Lovely Night’ (Round); selection ‘Coonland’ (Bidgood); valse ‘Wildflower’ (Rimmer); march ‘the Old Rustic Bridge’, and finale ‘A Nation Once Again.’

The Band attended many events throughout the city and county during the year, e.g. the Shrule Sports in August.  By the end of 1916 it was re-established as the town Band and the Bandroom continued to be a centre of musical and social activities.  Paddy Larkin, a fine cornet player, was bandmaster that year and he was formally a member of the Connacht Rangers Band that was stationed in Renmore, Galway.

Today, in 2016, 100 hundred years later, St. Patrick’s Band again undertook a major fundraising campaign to fund instruments and repair the roof of the Bandroom that had been rebuilt in 1987, which is still on the original site off Forster Street.  A 120th Anniversary Concert was held in the Raddison Hotel, where 500 people, led by the Mayor of Galway Frank Fahy, enjoyed a great night’s entertainment in May 2016 by the Town Band and friends including Mark Roberts, Don Stiffe, Bel Canto and the Galway Choral Association.  The Band has fully-completed its projects for this year due to the success of the concert and with the generous support of Galway City Council, Galway businesses, individuals and supporters.  The Bandroom continues as a wonderful music centre in the heart of Galway.  St. Patrick’s Brass Band is in a healthy state with three bands on the go and the future is bright for this Galway institution.

This article and accompanying photograph was kindly given Galway: Decade of Commemoration by Galway County Librarian, Mr. Peter Rabbitt.  It was first published in ‘St. Patrick’s Parish’ magazine (Christmas 2016).

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