independent

Sunday 17 February 2019

Calling the tune in Wexford for 125 years

Civic reception honouring St Patrick's Fife and Drum Band

Band members and council representatives at the civic reception for St Patrick’s Fife and Drum Band in the Irish National Heritage Park
Band members and council representatives at the civic reception for St Patrick’s Fife and Drum Band in the Irish National Heritage Park

Maria Pepper

Wexford is renowned for a strong musical culture, much of it rooted in the town's marching band tradition, and no group exemplifies that more than St Patricks Fife and Drum Band) which is now 125 years in existence.

The band (originally named St. Bridget's Fife and Drum Band) which was formed in 1893 in the home of Mr. Stephen Sinnott of Roche's Terrace, was afforded a civic reception by the Mayor of Wexford, Cllr. Tony Dempsey in the Irish National Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig to mark the milestone.

Young and older musicians, including former conductor of 15 years, Brother Bonaventure OFM and long-standing band member and current chairman Cllr. David Hynes, performed for dignatories and invited guests during the event.

Mayor Dempsey made a special presentation to Cllr. Hynes who was congratulated by fellow public representatives Cllr. Ger Carthy and Cllr. Mick Roche.

Down through the years, the Fife and Drum band marched at all of the town's important occasions including the 1905 unveiling of the Pike Man in the Bullring and the funeral of Mr Michael O' Leary who was killed by the RIC in a baton charge on the main street during a strike.

The outbreak of civil war in Ireland saw many of the country's groups and associations close down and the Fife and Drum band was no exception.

Mr Michael Kehoe of Carrigeen Street took care of all the instruments during those silent years and in 1922 he re-organised the band and renamed it the St Patrick's Fife and Drum Band.

The band, affectionately known by the people of Wexford as the 'boys' band', took up residence in Peter's Lane (also known as Foundry Lane) where it stayed until the 1970's. It is now situated in Bride Street.

In 1981 St Patrick's became the first band in Wexford to welcome girls as members and the first three females to join were Margaret Beary, Regina Kehoe and Attracta Kehoe who are still members today.

For many years, five bands regularly marched through the streets to celebrate and commemorate the town's civic occasions occasions, including the Holy Family Confraternity Band, Loch Gorman Silver Brass Band, Castlebridge Fife and Drum, Clonard Brass Band and St Patricks Fife and Drum Band.

Sadly the Clonard Brass Band and the Castlebridge Fife and Drum have since been dissolved. The Loch Gorman and the HFC do not march anymore which leaves St Patrick's Fife and Drum as the remaining group to maintain this invaluable piece of Wexford town's heritage.

The band rehearse on Sunday mornings and have recently introduced Tuesday evening lessons to teach the basics of the instrument. The tutor is music teacher Ann Wickham who herself started learning music from playing fife in the band.

The music programme is kindly supported by Wexford County Council Arts Department which has allowed the band to offer tuition and the use of an instrument free of charge.

Anyone interested in availing of this opportunity should contact the band's registrar Regina on 086 2513066 for further information.

Wexford People

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