A Warrenpoint man, Mr William Barton Blythe took part in the first North of Ireland Bands Association championships in 1910 and his interest never flagged. In his early days he played soprano cornet with Warrenpoint and Cookstown bands, and was a talented flautist. He had the unique honour of winning the soprano medal with a brass band and a solo flute medal with a flute combination in the same year.
In the first championship contest of the N.I.B.A., he conducted Portadown Brass. He was bandmaster of the 8th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in France during the 1914-18 War. In 1919, he was appointed Conductor of the Ulster Amateur Flute Band and held that position until 1951 when for health reasons he had to resign, but remained a member and paid regular visits to rehearsals. In 49 contests after 25 years service the band were awards 24 Firsts, 10 Seconds and 10 Thirds. In 1946 the Band celebrated its Golden Jubilee and Mr Blythe his Silver Jubilee as Conductor.
For many years he arranged the test piece for the senior flute section and time and again was complimented by the adjudicators. The present high standard of our flute bands is a monument to his work and we shall never see his like again. One of his friends included the late William Love also an arranger of Flute Band marches.
He conducted the Deramore, Reid Memorial, Corcrain and Ballygowan Flute Bands, also Colonel Eager and Carrickfergus Silver Bands. He also served as a bandsman with the Sirocco Silver and Willowfield Military.
Two of his sons, Stanley and Billy were members of the Ulster Amateur Flute Band. In business, he was with W. & G. Baird Ltd, for 45 years and retired in 1952. He died on 9th December 1953.
He was the Vice-President of the Flute Band League of Northern Ireland for many years prior to his death.
William B. Blythe also wrote the following Flute Band Marches and Concert Pieces:
Alice Where Art Thou, Ballygowan, Blythe and Gay, Eglinton, Ever Bright, Ever Faithful, Gordon Castle, Grandcourt, Happy Valley, Moygannon, Peace and Plenty, Vernon, The White Chateau, Woodvale, Elmwood, Sandon, Irish Jigs and Songs of the Plantation.
Compiled by W. A. Mullan