History of Ballinacree Fife and Drum Band
The earliest mention of a band in Ballinacree was a report of a St Patricks day parade, in the ‘Nation’ newspaper in 1875. It was headed ‘Ireland Mountnugent’ and it states, “The anniversary of our National festival was celebrated by the Nationalists of this locality (Mountnugent) with all the reverence and solemnity which true patriots owes to faith and fatherland”. Mountnugent nationalists marched in procession to Oldcastle and were joined in the route by the Ballinacree parishioners “with their band and fine Banner” This was held approx. 3 years after the repeal of the “Processions Act” which forbade flags, banners etc. and the playing of ‘provocative music’.
Home rule and The Land League
At a demonstration and anti-eviction meeting in Mountnugent in 1880 to give “expression to the public feeling on the Land Question” the Ballinacree Band joined other local bands including Mountnugent, Ross, (The Ross band was accompanied by the Stonecutters Banner), Virginia, Ballyjamesduff, and Ballinagh. At the entrance to the village a scroll bearing the legend ‘Welcome to Co Cavan’ and on the other side was printed ‘Home Rule’. Local police were augmented by drafts from the surrounding stations but their ‘interference was not required’.
Political Rallies of 1893
The Fife and Drum band from Ballinacree along with a group of people from the area was in attendance at Nationalist political rallies in Carnaross, Crossakiel and Oldcastle in early 1893. They were there in support of the Anti Parnellite candidate in the North Meath constituency. A report in the Freemans Journal about the Carnaross rally in Feb 1893 stated that “the Ballinacree contingent was played into the village by their band”. The Ballinacree people that were in Carnaross were F Gillic, C Coyle, J Smith, P. Carroll, B Daly, J Gibson, T Lynch, T Comasky, O Comasky, M O’Brien, O Gibson, J Sheridan. During the mid to late 1890’s following the split of the Land movement (The National League and the Irish National Federation) the activities of both groups declined. The activities of the Band also seemed to decline.
The two groups came together under the United Irish League in 1898 and expanded rapidly. At a meeting of the Ballinacree Branch of the UIL in 1901 it was proposed by the chairman Mr J Smith RDC to re-organise the Ballinacree Band. By April of 1902 the Band were organised enough to play at a public meeting in Ballinacree. The Celt reported as follows;-“Ballinacree Fife and Drum Band played a pleasant selection of National airs before and after the proceedings”.
The Ballinacree band competed in the Meath Feis in 1904 at which they won 1st Prize in the Fife and Drum band class and were presented with trophies valued at £2. 10s. Oldcastle competed in the Brass and Reed section. The same year the band played along with the Oldcastle and Kells bands at a hurling match in Millbrook between Castlepollard and Kells before a large crowd.
In 1905 the band again competed in Meath Gaelic League Feis na Midhe held in Kells against Fife and Drum Bands from Julianstown, Druncondrath, Baldoyle, Moylagh and Rush. Mr Douglas Hyde, president of the Gaelic League attended and gave an address. Among other dignitaries present was Mr John O’Leary from the Gaelic League New York, and Nellie O’Brien granddaughter of William Smith O’Brien, and Patrick O’Daly, General secretary of the Gaelic League.
In 1906 both the Ballinacree Fife and Drum band and the Oldcastle Brass and Reed band were expected to attend the Kells Gaelic Carnival which was held on Sept 23rd.
According to Peter Boylans story of the band (written in the 1970’s the following names were involved with the band Cassidy, Smiths, Browns, Clarke, McCormack, Manley, Lord, Murtagh, Lynch, Hussey, and Foley.. The drummer was M. Carpenter. He said “On one occasion they played ‘Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff and the drum could be heard in that town. They won several trophies in Kells, Navan, Drogheda and Dublin. In years after there was two other successful bands which won prizes. Other drummers were Pat Lynch, and Joe Smith”.
In a report in the Anglo Celt Oct 1906 regarding a UIL meeting in Mountnugent, at which Fr W Egan PP presided, the following members of the band were listed; Joe Lynch capt, M Carpenter sec, B Lynch, M Smith, J English, T Smith, F Hoey, T Cassidy, P Hussey, T Manley, M Manley, T Lynch, T Smith, P Black, J Caffrey, C Smyth, M Hussey, T Murtha, P Murtha, J Muldon, J A Willan, B Lynch, M Smith, P Murray, M Smyth, J Clarke, A McCormick, T Chokman (Chapman), T Smyth, P Lynch, O Lynch, P Fitzsimons, J Fitzsimons, Pat Lynch.
At the July 1907 monthly meeting of Kilbride (Mount Nugent) United Irish League a motion was passed calling on all members of the branch to refuse to go to listen to Bulmer Hobson speak at the Myles the Slasher commemoration in Finea because James Devlin MP was not invited to speak.
“It was further proposed to call on Ballinacree Fife and Drum Band to also not attend. This motion caused tensions within the Kilbride Branch with allegations that the motion was taken when the members had left. After an exchange of letters to the Celt the secretary Mr Patrick Lynch resigned.
Mr William Ahern and the Ballinacree band attended that rally and even though the organisations had differences in policy, the speakers on the platform agreed to differ but to commemorate Myles the Slasher together.
The band however did attend an anti-eviction meeting in Lismacanican and Dungimmon also in 1907 at which the Mountnugent band also played. The Mountnugent banner had a representation of Erin on one side with the words ‘Welcome back my long lost sons’ and on the reverse side St Patrick. Castlerahan and Drumkilly bands were also there. They all played National Airs. 200 policemen with rifles met them at the laneway to the evicted farm in Lismacanican and after a standoff forced them to have the meeting off the farm. When the group headed for Dungimmon they were accompanied by the police who prevented them from having it at the appointed spot.
The band also attended the Myles the Slasher commemoration in Finea in 1909. The members of the band that day were, John Lynch, (captain), Pat Hussy, Jas Smith, Thomas Smith, Michael Smith, Christy Smith, Michael Smith, Jas Berin, Francis Hoey, John Muldoon, F Carolan, J Quillan, Thos Lynch, J Smith, Mat Smith, B Lynch, L Gibney, Jas Gibney, Michael McCormack, L Lee, J Caffrey, Jas McCormack, F Lynch. A rival Sinn Fein commemoration was held in Finea on the same day and 60 extra policemen was drafted in to keep the peace between the two groups.
The Band and the Meath Labor Union
The Ballinacree Branch of the Meath Labor Union was formed in 1907. This grouping represented the labourers within the United Irish League. In early 1908 they requested the Band and Banner to attend a meeting in Oldcastle of the local branches of the Union on the 28th Jan. All labourers were requested to attend. On Tues 29th June 1909 Ballinacree Fife and Drum Band travelled to Drumcree to play at a sports and pony races.
The New Banner
On the 1st November 1910 the Ballinacree St Patricks Fife and Drum Band attended a public meeting at the ‘Market House’ Oldcastle and played with enlivening effect. The following people were named in the report as members. Joe Lynch, conductor, Jas Smith, Pat Hussey, M Smith, John Caffrey, M Smith, M McCormack, Pat Lynch, Jack Smith, L Gibney, Luke Lee, Jas Beirne, Thos Gibney, Joe Smith, T Smith, Mat Smith, T Lynch, Peter Clarke, Hugh Clarke, Thos McCormack, and John Muldoon. At the end Nov/early Dec at a meeting of Oldcastle UIL a subscription list was opened in aid of funds for the renovation of the Ballinacree Banner. However in the Meath Chronicle 22nd April 1911, the Ballinacree Branch of the Meath Labor Union acknowledged subscriptions to the fund for the purchase of a new Banner. The total raised was £25-2s-10d and contributions were received from townlands in Kilbride, Oldcastle, and Fore as well as the local Ballinacree area.
The Unveiling of the Parnell Monument 1911
The Banner was purchased in 1911 and Ned Alwill, who was secretary of Ballinacree Meath Labor Union at the time was one of the people that collected it from the train and in July 1911 it was paraded by the band at a Bazzar and Fete in Oldcastle in aid of the building of Moylagh parochial House. On the 1st October 1911 the Band travelled to Dublin with its newly purchased flag or banner to commemorate Charles Stuart Parnell, the former leader of the Home Rule movement at the unveiling of a monument in his honour. The following days copy of the Freemans Journal (Oct 2nd) listed the Band as St Patricks Ballinacree Fife and Drum Band.
According to an account in a poem by Tom Foley the band achieved 1st grade for its playing and marching. It was also judged for its style and appearance which included its new banner.
The Formation of the Volunteers
In the years following the purchase of the Banner the band was active in supporting the Ballinacree Branch of the Irish Volunteers formed in April 1914. In mid June 1914 they marched with the Volunteers from Ballinacree church to Oldcastle to meet up with other Volunteer Corps and assembled on the Fair Green to listen to speeches from William Ahern and Sean McDiarmada. It was at this assembly that Oldcastle Volunteers were formed.
The band also played at a football match in Hones field between Ballinacree St Patricks and Castlepollard Gaels. Proceeds to go to clear cost of new hall. In August 1916 the band played at Fore sports. This was the last mention of this version of the band.
A New Beginning
Following a period of over 10 years the band restarted sometime in the late 1920’s. A notice in the Westmeath Examiner states that the band will only play at a football match in Hilltown because they considered it a non political gathering. They also passed a resolution which stated;
That the members of the band, being drawn from three parishes, three counties namely Meath, Westmeath, and Cavan and might hold different political views which might lead to disunion in our ranks, resolved that the band take no part in political meetings or functions organised by political organisations.
Over the years the band used various locations for its practices. The building at the rear of Ballinacree church was known in years gone by as ‘the bandroom.’ The band also practiced in Ballinrink Hall. Despite the ideals of the 1930 resolution, the band attended aeridheacht in Lough Lene in 1931, 1933 and 1934. In 1931, Helena Maloney from Dublin gave the talk in which she advocated republican ideals, as was fought for in 1916. That the people of Ireland should benefit from the land of Ireland and that people shouldn’t have to live in slums and bog land. The 1934 address was given by Shelia Humphreys, niece of the O’Rahilly who was killed in 1916.
The big occasion for the band in 1932 was the Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of the coming of St Patrick to Ireland in 432AD. The Band attended Finea sports in conjunction with the Mullahoran Fife and Drum Band, to commemoration Myles the Slasher in 1933. They played at an aeridheacht in Oldcastle in 1934 which was attended by the future president of Ireland Mr Sean T O’Kelly.
The Band Reformed 1952
Not much was heard of the band during the war years but in 1951 Pat Flood of Hilltown organised a meeting in an unoccupied cottage in Ballinrink where the home of Mrs Eileen Smyth now stands. The objective was to form a new band. About 40 enthusiastic young men attended. A committee was elected and one of its first decisions was to employ John Farnan a well-known music teacher and bandmaster from near Kingscourt to train the new band. Mr Farnam’s fee was about £1 10s per class plus bed and breakfast for him in Oldcastle. He travelled on his bicycle from Kingscourt and needed to stay overnight. Music practice was held on two nights a week in the little building below the Community Centre.
Quite a lot of money had to be raised to buy the instruments. The only thing that had remained from the previous band was the big drum and it needed a new skin. The funds were raised from Ceilidhe’s, concerts and plays, which were held in the old hall in Ballinrink, Glenidan and other venues, and by holding dances in Oldcastle and Kilnaleck.
Most of the members learned to play the instruments fairly quickly. The regular ‘bandwagon’ in the early years was Tom Brown’s Bedford lorry. The band first played in public in June 1952 and attended many outings over the next few years. On the 7th July they played at a football challenge match in Mountnugent along with Oldcastle Brass and Reed Band. This was part of Mountnugent Carnival held from June 26th to July 21st. They participated in Ballyjamesduff Feis in 1953. Their public appearances assisted them when they competed in several Fleadh’s. They won the O’Duffy cup for marching bands at the 1st Cavan county Fleadh held in Virginia in 1955. They were conducted by Mr J. J. Farnan, Tierworker. They also got another first, at Ballyconnell in 1957 when they defeated the Camaleer Fife and Drum Band from Cavan, They also participated at Kilnaleck Fleadh Ceol in 1960. In 1953 the Band played at ‘An Tostal’ celebrations and later headed a parade through Oldcastle. They also played at Aeridheacht at Loch Bawn.
The band played at numerous parochial fund raising events such as the parish sports in 1953 in Mountnugent and in 1955 in Hourican’s field in Raclahy as well as the sports in Castlecor in 1959 and the 1961/2 sports in Ballinacree. Christy Reilly took up the baton on occasions at some of these outings. In 1960 the band performed on home ground at the opening of Ballinacree new church.
The Band played in Oldcastle at Fleadh Rinnce na hEireann in Oldcastle in 1960 and 1961, as well as participating in many St Patricks day parades in the town. The band continued on for another year or two until Pat Flood, who had been the band conductor went to work in England and nobody took his place.
List of names taken from roll 1953
Peter Boylan, Patrick J Coyle, Owen Comaskey, Peter Comaskey Brian Comaskey, Bernard Donoghue, Thomas Egenton, Dennis Fitzsimons, Pat Joe Farrelly, James Farrelly, Patrick Flood, Patrick Fagan, Peter Hill, Patrick Lynch, Peter Lynch, Matthew Lynch, Michael Lynch, Brian Lynch, Patrick Lord, Thomas Lynch, Brian McGinn, Michael Monaghan, Christy Reilly, Michael Reilly, Thomas Reilly, Mick Reilly, Jim Smyth, Christy Seery, Bunnie Walsh, Sean Walsh, Joe Kevin.