The band was formed in 1958, under the direction of Mr D J McCartney, as the 3rd Carrickfergus Boys’ Brigade Band. The band went from strength to strength and won the Marching Bands Competition in Belfast three years in a row as well as featuring in the major Brass Band contests throughout Northern Ireland. The Band eventually disbanded in 1968 as the boys got older and left the BB.
They reformed in April 1973 as the 3rd Carrickfergus BB and Old Boys’ Band, again under the direction of D J McCartney. This position was soon taken over by Dr R W Hylands. He was a lecturer in civil engineering at NI Polytechnic at Jordanstown. He was previously conductor of Ormeau Military Band and Templemore Avenue Silver Band, which was the top band in Northern Ireland when he was with them.
In its first contest after reforming, the NI Bands Associations Championships, it took second place, then in March 1975, it won the Brass Band League (Section 3) in Northern Ireland with 185 marks out of a possible 200. It continued with its winning streak and under his direction, Dr Hylands took the Band from the Junior Section to the Champion Section with a total of sixteen consecutive first places in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain. This record is yet to be broken.
The band won the highest honour “Band of the Year” in 1976. As a junior band this was a great achievement. This award was shared with Agnes Street Silver Band, which was a senior band. This was the first time a junior band had ever won this title. The win qualified the Band to compete in the Pontin’s Holiday Camp Band Contest in Southport, one of the biggest British fixtures. The Band won this competition and went on to gain second place at the National Finals in Wales in a contest with over 100 competing bands. During the year of ’76, the band also won nine entertainment contests and their conductor, Dr Windsor Hylands, won the “Conductor of the Year” award.
The late 1970’s saw a large number of females entering the band. The first two ladies to join were Barbara Binding and Janice Curry (15 and 17 years old respectively when they joined). They were both made very welcome and were greatly respected for their commitment and attendance at rehearsals. Band officer Jim Simms was quoted saying, “The pair of them are just great. They don’t seem to mind at all and we’re only too glad to have them in our ranks. They are both talented musicians.” Today, there is an increasing number of females joining the band, with a current total of ten.
Throughout the next few years, and in to the early 1980’s, the band took part in many concerts and public appearances, both locally in Northern Ireland and in England. Individuals and ensembles took part in festivals and competitions where they won many prizes. Frequent winners included Dean McNally, Peter Graham, Thomas Binding, Ruth Binding, Hazel Bannister, Barbara Binding, Diane Howlett and Nigel Hylands.
Throughout the 1980s, the band continued with their local engagements across Ireland and although competing in local competitions they failed to achieve their previous successes. During this time the band focused on the junior members encouraging them and improving their skills and techniques. At this stage, the junior band had about 18 members.
1986 saw the appointment of a new Musical Director – Mr Desmond Graham. Des had played in the band since it was first formed and often helped out by leading section rehearsals.
Des led the band to victory in March 1993 when it was placed second in the Northern Ireland Brass Band Championships then, in March 1995, the band celebrated a notable championship double of the North of Ireland Band Association’s Annual Contests in the Ulster Hall. This was the second time the band had won the coveted Rose Bowl, the first being in 1976.
The band has continued, to date, playing in many concerts throughout the year, particularly over the summer and Christmas months. During the summer the band hosts open air concerts across Northern Ireland and during Christmas, the band enjoys playing for shoppers in many of the local shopping centres, including Castle Court – Belfast and the Tower Centre – Ballymena, for the arrival of Santa Claus.
In addition to contesting and concert performances individual members and groups have scored notable successes in various Music Festivals throughout the Province. The younger players connected with our Youth Bands have been particularly successful in these events.
The band have had a long and successful history and have endeavoured to keep the fun in both the music played and in the rehearsals. This, it is hoped, will create the right atmosphere to encourage learning and the introduction of new up and coming younger members thus ensuring a healthy future for the Third Carrickfergus Band.
After a continued and consistent run of wins over a number of years a decision was made in August 2015 that the band would move up to the Championship Section after an absence of almost 30 years. This is a big step and will require much continued dedication and work from all members of the band in order that we can become genuine competitive contenders in the country’s top section.
After taking the band back to the Championship Section, early in 2016 Des Graham decided that the time was right for him to retire from his position as Music Director, his last contest as conductor being the BBL Spring Festival hosted at the Alley Theatre, Strabane on Saturday 16th April 2016, although he would still continue his role working with the junior and training bands giving much needed teaching and guidance to the musicians of the future. The band wish Des many years of happiness and health in his well deserved retirement and wish to thank him for the work, teaching, enthusiasm and dedication during his 30 years at the helm. His retirement was celebrated at a celebratory dinner hosted in his honour by the band where he was presented with a portrait which was commissioned by the band and was painted by a well known local artist.
The band committee had the difficult task to go out and find a replacement for Des who could continue where he had left off and keep us moving in the right direction in helping us improve to compete at the highest level. This replacement came with Brian Connolly, a banding veteran, with a wealth of experience in band training and conducting at the top level and indeed as a very talented tenor horn player and soloist. Since his appointment, Brian has worked tirelessly with all members of the band, mentoring, encouraging and improving the skills of each for the task in competing in the Championship section. The process is proving to be successful with some very favourable results being achieved by the band in a relatively short period of time proving that the decision to move to the top level was indeed correct and that suitable hunger and dedication was shown by the band members to improve and advance their playing abilities. This hard work and dedication will continue as the band work toward the future.
Suddenly in March 2020 things came to a grinding halt for the brass band movement (along with a massive impact on each and every person – worldwide) with the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID19). This resulted in the cessation all activities and meetings – an event that lasted over 12 months.
Even during the pandemic, the committee were hard at work in the background to ensure that when normality returned we were ready to proceed and move forward from where we left off. One of the most important and exciting things to have happened was the purchase in 2021 of our new band rehearsal hall which, as we have had to rent and rely on help form various organisations since our formation in 1958 and for which we will be forever grateful, will transform the band as we now will have a permanent home and base for both our Senior and Youth bands available as and when required. The band also attained charitable status which will assist in ensuring all available help towards our financial future.
Going forward, both conductor and band are up for the challenges ahead and so the story of the Third Carrickfergus Band continues …………