The 39th Old Boys’ Flute Band was founded in 1917 by a group of boys, who on passing out of the ranks of their Boys’ Brigade Company, decided on the formation of a band by which the fellowship enjoyed as members of the 39th Belfast Company, could be extended and enhanced in another sphere. Accordingly, a set of flutes and drums were purchased and the serious business of building a good band was undertaken. Valuable work was done in developing the playing talent available and the new band progressed rapidly so that concert engagements could be successfully fulfiled and championships and other prizes won with regularity.
From these early days, the 39th has continued to flourish, attracting flautists from all areas of Belfast and the rest of the Province. Despite its title, the ensemble has admitted girls for a long time, and is the only flute band in Ulster to recruit from all sections of the community.
The ensemble is known throughout the Province not only for its participation in concerts, contests and charity events but also for its provision of a high standard of musical tuition. Many excellent flautists have passed through its ranks, notably James Galway, Jennifer Sturgeon, BBC Young Musician finalist in 1998 (age 13) who with Simon Corbett, another member was Co-Principal in the Cambridge University Senior Orchestra 1994 and Gareth McLearnon from County Down who is now a professional flautist in England. The world’s foremost flute tutors have given masterclasses organised through the efforts of the band’s committee members.
No mention of the 39th would be complete without reference to the work of the late Billy Dunwoody who received an M.B.E. for his service to many flautists who passed through the ranks of the band. His daughter Andrene Bolger still carries on the family tradition in the band.