Over the years St. Patrick’s Band has attracted many people to its ranks, some of whom have been mentioned previously and deserve great credit for their contribution.
There are many others who also deserve a special mention, people such as the late Tom Feeney, who was Honorary President and one of the great stalwarts of the band. Tom was born in 1927 and immigrated to England as a young man. While there he joined the Royal Air Force Band. His instrument at the time was a French horn. After he returned to Galway he joined St Patrick’s Brass Band and played the trombone; and later the euphonium.
Tom served the band in many roles and eventually became bandmaster. He put countless young musicians through their paces over many years and led the band through the streets of Galway in countless parades and events.
Following his death in 2014, the band decided to organise a memorial concert in memory of him. The event took place in July 2015 and was attended by a huge cross section of the community. President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, and his wife Sabina also attended as did many of the leading local politicians. President Higgins spoke of his friendship with Tom Feeney and remembered warmly his lifelong love of music. During the course of the event the then-Mayor of Galway, Councillor Frank Fahy presented the current bandmaster Michael Dooley with a euphonium that was specially engraved with
Tom Feeney’s name.
Another man who gave sterling service to the band is Pat O’Sullivan. He succeeded Tom Feeney as Honorary President. Pat joined the band in circa 1949. He became a leading member of the band serving in a number of posts including secretary for many years. This highly talented musician plays the baritone and has given exceptional performances over the years. Some of Pat’s family, Stephen, Patricia and Kevin were also members of the band for a time.
Peter Power is the current Chairman. He joined the band during the 1970s as did his brothers Thomas, Brian, Joey and Leonard. Peter later married Mary Joyce, whose family have stamped their name into the history of the band. Tommy Joyce was Bandmaster for many years during the 1970s and 1980s. He took his inspiration from the old stalwart, Michael Mitchel. Other members of the Joyce family who play with the band include Margaret, Mary, Paddy and Julie. Sadly another member of the family, John, passed away many years ago, but his wife Geraldine and their family, Lisa, Karen and Jonathan carried on the tradition as band members. Margaret Joyce married Frank Donlon in the 1970s. Frank joined the band during that period and played the cornet. He succeeded Tommy Joyce as Bandmaster. Frank’s father, Mike Donlon was a member of the Colour Party and accompanied the band on parade during those years. Frank’s brother, Michael Donlon is also a prominent member and excellent musician. Frank and Margaret’s children Kevin, Francis and Anne continue this involvement in the band. Kathleen Joyce married Willie Cooke and their children Terry and Joyce, are also excellent band musicians.
The Joyce family alone could form their own band as generation after generation are represented in this wonderful organisation. Pat Jones is another staunch member and plays the French horn. His father also served and as previously mentioned, his grandfather Bill Jones was an eminent member during the earlier years. Pat’s wife, Martina is also a member, as was his sister Anne. Anne married Joe Smyth, who was a member of the band. Joe was a member since his youth along with his brother Colie and sister Yvonne. Their father, Colie Smyth, was a committee member for a number of years during the 1970s.
Michael Dooley is the current and very talented Bandmaster. His family also have an involvement that goes back many years. His uncle, Christy Dooley was a strong presence in the band during the 1920s and 1930s. Michael’s mum and dad, Kieran and Claire were members during the 1960s. His sister, Joan, and her son Stephen are also members. Another dynasty that has a long history with the band is of course the Rabbitt family. Peter Rabbitt is possibly one of the most well-known figures and is former treasurer of the band. Outside his band duties, Peter plays at many other events throughout Galway city and county. His brother John served with the band as did his daughter Louise. His son, Conan Rabbitt, (fourth generation) is currently a member playing the bass. Peter’s father, Murtagh Rabbitt was treasurer of the band over many years. Looking back to yet another generation, Peter’s grandfather, whose name was also Peter, was mentioned previously as a founding member of the band.
There were many other families who played leading roles with the band. These include the McDonagh family, Tom, John and Paddy, who were long serving members. Paddy’s sons Paul, Michael and Brian were also involved. Brian is still a member. Galway’s own Don Stiffe was a band member and so was his dad and uncle. Nonie Hanley from Bohermore was a member and her sister, Margaret, continues her involvement with the band. The late Patricia Folan, who was the former Chairperson, and her family were members. There were many more involved, but due to the space constraints it would be impossible to profile all of them; this would certainly require a book on St. Patrick’s Band.
Since its foundation, St. Patrick’s Band has played at many events including sporting and charity occasions, and given hundreds of concerts at an array of different venues. Many of these events have been already mentioned in the previous sections. Some of the more recent ones include leading President Michael D Higgins through Galway following his successful election campaign in 2011. They participated in the raising of the National Flag ceremonies on 1 January 2016 at County Hall. They also played at the Galway 1916 Commemoration Ceremonies in Athenry in March 2016. The band held its 120th Anniversary Concert in the Radisson Hotel in May with special guests Don Stiffe, Mark Roberts, Bel Canto and the Galway Choral Association. Proceeds from this hugely successful concert were used to carry out renovations at the bandroom and in particular to repair the roof. Today due to its open door policy the band has attracted members from places further afield, who are working in Galway; or attending university or college in the city. This has resulted in the band having made many contacts around the world. It is a very positive move for the organisation.
The band has come a long way since 1896 and the future is looking bright indeed with so many young people involved. Another hugely important aspect for them is of course the family traditions that have evolved over the past 120 years. This is so much part of its existence and success today. One could add that romance seems to thrive in the old bandroom, with so many young people meeting there. Just to mention one of the future events is that the band has been invited to a Band Festival in Valencia, one of the great and historical cities of Spain in April 2017.
Events of Note: The band will be holding a Christmas Concert in the Hotel Meyrick on Sunday 11 December. They will also be performing ‘on the town’ during the run up to Christmas as they have done since the 1960s, so please support this great old Galway institution. The launch of Seacht mBua an Éirí Amach / The Seven Virtues of the Rising at Galway City Museum will take place on Saturday 10 December at 6pm. The idea for this bilingual publication was first mooted by Brendan McGowan of Galway City Museum and Diarmuid de Faoite to bring the work of Pádraic Ó Conaire to a wider audience.
The result of a collaboration between Galway City Museum and Arlen House, in association with Cló Iar-Chonnacht, the book has been part-funded by Galway City Council as part of its Ireland 2016 Centenary