The origin of Seapatrick Flute Band, or “The Village Band” as it is more affectionately known, is somewhat shrouded in mystery. The foundation year of 1873 is recorded but how the band came to be formed is anybody’s guess. It is, however, recorded fact that the inaugural meeting and subsequent early rehearsals took place in a sand-pit in the Weir’s Row area of Seapatrick village. Better accommodation was soon found in various houses in the village and it was around this time that a change was made in the conductorship, with a Mr Kerns from the Blackskull/Donacloney area taking over. Finally the band moved in the early1920s to the Church schoolhouse as it was then, now the Church of Ireland parochial hall for St. Patrick’s, Seapatrick.
The flutes used in those early days had only one key and all played melody. In and around 1880 a local man, Mr Robert Martin became conductor and in 1912 the band changed to part music. The outbreak of war in 1914, however saw a great many member serving king and country and many made the supreme sacrifice. During the war years, due to a depletion in its ranks the band once again reverted to melody only, most of the members being young boys. The war over, the band reformed as a part music combination and purchased a set of Crown AZ flutes. This brought the band up to seven parts, from its previous five, the piccolo being included for the first time. Indeed the bass flutes purchased in 1921 were used by the band up until 1980, the remainder of the flutes being changed just after the second world war, when the Rudall Cartes were purchased. The bass drum which was used right up until the 1980s was presented to the band in 1902 by the then rector, Rev C.T.P. Grierson.
In 1928, Mr Robert Martin resigned as conductor having been in charge of the band for some 43 years. Mr Samuel McCracken was duly appointed and he led the band until 1939 when once again war intervened. Following the war in 1945, Mr J.D. Barbour was appointed president and, with the assistance of a very active ladies’ committee, set about raising funds for not only the new flutes but also uniforms.
Seapatrick have always been duly proud of their smart and respectable turn out and indeed their white linen music band and straps and cap covers make them stand out in any parade. Information on early uniforms is somewhat sketchy but in 1895 it is recorded that the bass drummer wore no less a head gear that a busby. In the early 1900s the entire band was equipped with red military type tunics, and this was followed by a period between the wars when the band had no uniforms other than caps. The year 1950 was another red letter day when the band received new uniforms, which took them up to the middle of the seventies. A slightly modified uniform was purchased then and this took them up to their 125th Anniversary in 1998 when once again a new set of uniforms were purchased.
In a small village such as Seapatrick it comes as no surprise that certain families seem to have always been at the core of running the band. The Gault, Martin, Cowan, Smyth and Beattie families have all been involved with Seapatrick over the years, and their descendants are still very much a part of band life today.
In 1950 the band entered its first N.I.B.A. contest and took second place, success coming the following year when they managed first place. Another second in 1953 and once again first in 1954. Further success eluded the band until 1973 where they were once again first.
The band has continued to contest and success (if it can be measured in 1st places) has eluded them so far, but a band is not only about winning. The being there, the friendship, the parades, the concerts, the great occasions and the taking part are the things that matter most.