Golden days of Youth Centre
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.
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.
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
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
The Carlow Youth Centre Band that was second in the Allan
- 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
© Artwork by Michael Brennan 2012
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