Search billions of records on



Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Carlow Youth Centre Band

Golden days of Youth Centre Band

Great reputation in Carlow

By Des Cahill

TWELVE years ago (1968) the Carlow Youth Centre Band had quite a reputation. Its presence was part of almost every public occasion in the town and county and indeed further afield. An. indication of the band's talent is that 16 of its members went on to become professional musicians. Sadly, the Band broke up some years ago.

Founders of the Youth Centre Band were Fr. John Fingleton and Frank Scully who saw it as a way of offering youngsters something more than sporting activities. They had no doubts that the venture would be successful as so many of the boys who came to the Youth Centre were both talented and enthusiastic.

Puppet on a string

The Band started one Saturday morning when Frank, a Sergeant in the Curragh Army Band, brought his saxophone and clarinet up to the Centre where 60 youngsters queued just to have a blow.

Encouraged by the response Fr. Fingleton arranged for instruments to be got in Dublin, and the Carlow Youth Centre Band was born. The group practised regularly and soon were showing great promise.

They were lucky enough to be given a set of uniforms by the ITGWU Band in Dublin for a mere £3 each.

The Band's first big break came when they were asked to play at half-time during the Leinster Championship game between Laois and -Kildare at Dr. Cullen Park, The match was shortly after Sandy Shaw had won the Eurovision Song Contest (1967) singing "Puppet on a String", and the Band thought it would be suitable as it was so popular at the time.

The tune proved very popular with the huge crowd, but unfortunately wasn't so popular with the GAA officials. The "Ban" was still going at the time, and they were disappointed that an English song had been played. Nevertheless, the band was paid the princely sum of £4! As more and more boys became interested, Frank got Bertie Harris, then a Band Sergeant in the Curragh, to help train the young musicians. While the band was in existence, Frank reckons that hundreds of boys from Carlow passed through its ranks.

Somewhere to go

 "It was tremendous that so many boys took part, because it not only gave them a cultural, interest, but it also gave them somewhere to go in the evenings and keep them off the streets," says Frank. "Of course none of it would have been possible if it hadnít been for Fr. Fingleton. He really did tremendous work for the boys. Ask any of them, and you will find out just how much he is appreciated. I did speak to some of the "boys" to find out how they enjoyed their band days.

"Boys" is not really very appropriate as most of them are now waving goodbye to their '20's! Nevertheless, they still have the boyish twinkle in their eye as they recall those happy days. The boys regularly went to Dublin to see musical shows as well as playing in concerts around the county. They also went camping each summer for a couple of weeks at a cost of £3 each.

Education and hobby

Every member I spoke to feels it is a great shame that the Band is not still going. They believe they got both an education and a hobby from the band in their youth ó not to mention that so many of them got jobs. "In all 16 members of the Carlow Youth Centre Band are now professional musicians," says Jimma Rea, a member of the Curragh Army Band.

"Pat Gorman, Ber Doyle, John Kenny, Joe Hayden, Willie Keating, Kevin Connolly and Ber Keating are all with me in the Curragh. Tom Lacey is in the Cork Army Band, Ger Lacey is with the Athlone Band and Peter Lacey and Ber Shelley are in the Garda Band." Frank Scully explained that the most inhibiting factor in starting a band now is the cost. "A moderate clarinet would cost at least £100, and you would need eight clarinets plus a lot of other instruments,"

Cost very high

Fr. Fingleton said he would love to see a band again in Carlow but he too realised the cost would be very high. "Apart from that a lot of enthusiasm and hard work is needed. Thankfully we had the people who put in the work and we ended up with a great band ó and a great bunch of fellows".

He suggested that perhaps the Department of Education or the VEC might introduce more music into their curriculums, as it was a valuable experience for young people. Carmel McDonnell of the St. Vincent de Paul Society which has responsibility for the Youth Centre gave a lot of financial assistance to the Band says the instruments are still kept in the Youth centre in reasonable condition.

Youngsters could learn on them but she admits that they were not be good enough to be used for concerts but she would love to see them in use again. In short everyone would like to see the Youth Centre band revived it would be interesting to see how young people would react if a group got together and tried to organise it.

The Carlow Youth Centre Band that was second in the Allan Street Cup.

Carlow Youth Centre Band 1969
In this photo: Fr. John Fingleton, Johnnie Horahan, Frank Scully, Robert Fleming, Paul Fleming, Noel Fleming Here's a photo my dad acquired recently, itís entitled 'Carlow Youth Centre Band' and dated May 1969.
By Peter Heary Facebook

Source: Michael Purcell, Facebook & The Nationalist November 7th 1980

Eileen Aroon

© Artwork by Michael Brennan 2012
The information contained in these pages is provided solely for the purpose of sharing with others researching their ancestors in Ireland.
© 2001 Ireland Genealogy Projects, IGP TM  By Pre-emptive Copyright - All rights reserved