THE HANDSTAND

JUNE 2002

OF BANDS AND BANDITS..by Eddy Cody and Billy Kirwan.

INISTIOGE'S MUSICAL TRADITION dates back to pre-famine days, when the village boasted a Brass and Reed Band. Beyond the fact that a solitary worn-out instrument of that period may still have been seen here at the turn of the last Century, no details of the Band itself are now available.

No doubt there was a prolonged silence whilst the country made its slow recovery from the desolation of 1847. Local Band-music seems, however, to have regained its foothold within the space of 40 years or so.The Inistioge Fife and Drum Band, complete in their blue and gold pill-box hats and sashes led the procession that escorted Charles Stuart Parnell from Mullinavat Railway Station to the village centre on the occasion of the Land League meeting held there.

The Inistioge Fife and Drum Band continued in existence until 1889. In that year Dick Forristal. Baker, Shopkeeper and Coffin maker decided the time had come to attempt the re-organisation of a Brass Band. It is likely that he was influenced to some extent by the desire to put Inistioge on level terms with Thomastown and Graig.

The District Physician Doctor Charles Johnston set them off to a hopeful start by his promise, duly fulfilled, to purchase a Bombardon, the first instrument of the new Band. Lady Louisa Tighe donated two instruments and Alexander Hamilton another.Other members of the community bought instruments and both concerts and plays were performed, supplemented by house-to-house collections to finance the purchase of all the instruments that were needed .The eventual purchase of all, second-hand instruments, was achieved.

Bill Meaney offered the use of a corn loft he owned for rehearsals and then they moved into the Library at the rear of St.Columcille's Church. Not withstanding a short period of instruction each man was soon able to read musical notation and acquit himself tolerably well, each on the instrument alloted to him.Dick Forristal, dedicated to this project was not only now adept at reading music but also became a proficient instrumentalist on both the coronet and the trombone. This fine upstanding young man in his early twenties became the first Bandmaster of "The Saint Colmcille's Brass Band" in honour of the Pattern performed at the local well on the Saint's Day, 9th June; one man's dream had come true, all within the year 1889 !

The members of the Band were Dick Forristal, John Forristal, Jim Walsh, Patrick O'Leary,Willie Miller, Dan Kelly, Tom Tierney, Mike and Bill Dyer, Bill Meaney,Stephen Gaule,Paddy Murphy, Mikey Cahill, Ned Wallace,Tom Walsh, Frank Brown, James Joyce.

The Tighe Estate were managers of Inistioge Schools, and every summer a Sports Day was held in Woodstock grounds (at present undergoing renovation,Ed.) A German tune was one time requested by a friend of Lady Louisa Tighe, which they duly obliged and in compliment Col. Tighe spoke to a Band member who was mowing the lawns. He gave the Band a vacant house on the Mill Road for a Band Room, Free of Rent and Rates Forever where it can still be observed today.

Dick Forristal died a young man, within days of his 36th birthday,in January 1903,after a short illness.At his funeral his beloved trombone rested on the coffin. His comrades in music, on this cold and dry winter's day, led the cortege around the Village Square to the solemn strains of "Handel's Funeral March in Saul". After the final prayers were recited at the graveside the Band paraded back to the Band Room where the members gave a last farewell, with "roots","The Vacant Chair". May we trust that this once so critical ear now heard a flawless rendering from a vantage point in Heaven. R.I.P.

The Brass Band went on many outings, accompanied by supporters.On one occasion in 1910 they decided to travel to Waterford by boat, the "Ross Mic Treoin". They played musical airs on the trip down the river, enjoyed by all. The skipper and some members were enjoying themselves so much they had forgotten about the tide. The results were that the "Ross Mic Treoin", on the way home,grounded at the Red House, downriver from Inistioge - all on board had to wade through low water to reach the river bank and children were carried on the backs of adults, a weary 2 miles home... arriving in the early hours.

Two years after this the Brass Band was drawn by horse "caravanette" to Carrick on Barrow,Co.Wexford, and stayed overnight to play at a Bazaar to help raise funds to erect a new R.C.Church there.

In 1914 a group of young men organised a Fife and Drum Band, so there were two bands in Inistioge at the time. The Redmond Volunteers were formed and drilled by a man named Bergin from Callan, who was at that time erecting water pumps in High Street.The Brass Band used lead the volunteers who, locally, were called the "Berginites".At the same time the Sin Fein Volunteers were drilled by a man named Carty and they were known as the "Carty-ites," They were led by the Fife and Drum Band.

In 1922, Willy Cody, solo coronet player with the Band was employed in Kilkenny. There he assisted the St Patricks Brass and Reed Band. On the takeover of the Kilkenny Military Barracks from the British Army, 7th February of that year he conducted the first playing of the Irish National Anthem.

An annual event during those years was the torchlight parade from High Street to the Church Gate in commemoration of the deaths of Allen, Larkin and O'Brien, the Manchester Martyrs.

In 1935 the Brass Band travelled to Callan to play at the Athletic Sports; it was attended by "Danno Mahoney" who was Champion Wrestler at the time.

The Pattern at St Mullins was a yearly appointment for years, and the St.Patrick's Day Procession in Kilkenny City.

In 1966 the Brass Band led the County Board Members of the G.A.A. through Kilkenny City to commemorate the 1916 Rising.

Brass Band members took part in the film "Widow's Peak" in 1993. Today there are very few in the village who have not had in the past, close ties with the "St. Colmcille's Brass Band."To some it will come sorrow, to others joy; but no heart will be less than proud than that of a husband or brother, or father of members of this well loved Band.



Billy Kirwan 2002 & Eddie Cody 2002. All rights reserved.
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