Churchill Flute Band

The early days of the band are a bit hazy, probably no minutes being taken or none surviving, however we do know that the band was formed in the Churchill area of Glendermott and the date of formation 1835 has been carried on successive drums to this day. Although not an Orange Lodge Band, at the beginning they did link up with the Churchill Lodge. An entry in the City of Derry Grand Orange Lodge Minute Book for 1865 noted that the Churchill Lodge and Band paraded to Church when the Lodge was granted its Charter.

Initially a Melody Flute Band they changed to parts in the early 1900s having engaged a local female Church Organist to teach them to read music. They also built a Band Hall around this time at the Milltown-Drumahoe earning the nickname locally of the “Milltowns’. The band purchased uniforms in the early 1930s, probably the first band in the North West to do so.

Strong family links can be identified over the years and names such as Mitchell, Foster, Nutt, Hawthorne and Porter have been common within the band. The late Andy Porter joined the band as a boy in 1918 after the First World War and his son the late Drew known for many years as their Conductor, joined as a boy in 1946 immediately after the Second World War. Joe Hawthorne was Treasurer for 42 years.

Style and deportment on the march has always been a feature of the band. They won a Style and Appearance Contest (North-West) at the Brandywell Football Ground in 1938. The prize was a Drum Majors Mace.

Throughout the 1950s the band featured regularly at the Portrush Fire Works at Ramore Head and the work put in for these events paid off when they won the Style and Appearance Section at the Monaghan Festival in 1967, 68 and 69 and also successes at Newtownards.

To facilitate the many “City” members, the band moved to the “Tower” Bonds Hill before the war and are presently based in the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall within the Historic City Walls.

Desiring to improve their standards the band purchased a set of Crown AZ wooden flutes in 1961 from Motherwell Old Comrades (they having pioneered the instroduction of Silver Concert flutes). Although not part of the deal they got David Howie from Motherwell O.C. as well. David had family roots in Londonderry and had returned here to work and under his skillful tuition the standard improved considerably.

The Monaghan successes were during this period and having converted to Silver Flutes in 1970/71 and aided by Bandmaster Tony Gomersall of the 1st Bn The Royal Anglian Regiment stationed at Ebrington Barracks the bands future looked bright. David Howie was conductor when the band gained their first win at Intermediate Section of the N.I.B.A Competition in 1973 playing the test piece called “Ballet Egyptien” by Luigini.

Drew Porter seen playing the Glockenspiel, Belfast 1985

Drew Porter conducting the band rehearsals, Limerick 1995.

Successes continued under the baton of Drew Porter winning competitions in both the N.I.B.A., Flute Band League and North-West band contests.

For many years the band worn black uniforms but in 2003 the band changed to scarlet uniforms later that year they toured the battlefields of the First World War and again in 2006 returned to take part in the 90th Anniversary celebrations for the Battle of the Somme.

Churchill drum corps parading up to Thiepval Memorial 2006

On that occasion they arrived early at the Thiepval Memorial the organisers thought they where the official band to lead in the hymns, turns out the military band had got stuck in traffic and had to run with full kit on and carry their instruments for a mile to the Memorial and arrived just in time to relieve the Churchill Band.

The band has released two CDs, one entitled “Freedom of the City” and the recent CD is called “Established 1835”.

More recently the band has appeared in the Lord Mayors Parde in the streets of London alongside Ballywalter Flute Band and in 2014 appeared in the Belfast Tattoo alongside Ballylone, Cahard and Hunter Moore Memorial and again in 2019 alongside Ballywalter Flute Band.

The Fifers Cave has the original Church Flute Band rope tension bass drum now in their collection.

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