History of the Mayo Concert Orchestra

Condensed from a thesis by
Joanne McEvilly

  • 1900s
  • 1920s
  • 1940s
  • 1950s
  • 1970s
  • 1990s
  • 2000

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  • In Castlebar it is said that "a town without a band is like a ship without a sail." Castlebar, the capital of Co. Mayo, is a thriving town with an increasing population, boasts many facilities and activities but perhaps its greatest pride lies in the Castlebar Concert Band and Mayo Youth Orchestra.

    There has been a tradition of bands in the town for the last hundred years or more from brass bands to pipe bands. The actual name of the band has changed many times over the years. There is a confusion about the names but in short the name has had many variations, e.g., Castlebar Brass Bard, Castlebar Temperance Band, St. Joseph's Silver Band, Castlebar Town Band, Castlebar Concert Band - both senior and junior (eventually student) and its present name is Castlebar Concert Band and Mayo Youth Orchestra.


    When the British Army was stationed in the town in the early 1900's each regiment had its own band and often gave recitals on the Mall and marched to church services. It was a former British Army bandmaster, J. P. Mullins, who was mainly responsible for organising the Castlebar Brass Band in the early years. Apparently this band was an amalgamation of various other bands, some of whom were associated with another British Army man, Drum Major Kells

    Members of the Castlebar Brass Band 1909
    Front row left to right: H. Hoban, H. Leahy, J. Gavin, P. Chambers, M. Mullins, M. Flannery, J. McGreal, T.A. Lavelle, H. O'Dwyer, C. Hanley
    Second row: S.J. McCormack, J. Gavin, Rev. Fr. P. Madden, C.C., J.P. Mullin bandmaster, J. O'Malley, G. Conway, R. Wynne
    Third row: Joe Conway, P. Fallon, Tom Cresham, T. McTigue, J. Worthington, J.P. McCormack. Back row: P. Rainsford, P. Flannery, J. Horkan, J. Hoban, M. McDonnell, J. O'Dwyer, J. O'Connor.

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    Later the Castlebar Temperance Band made a name for itself in the 1920's, Their bandleader was Jimmy Horkan. Others to lead the band in the late 20's and 30's were Johnny Gavin, Charlie Guthrie and Jack Cahill. Emigration and the ageing process made matters difficult for the band and they became defunct, However, individual musicians did form a band for the Corpus Christi Procession and other events.
    Members of the Castlebar branch of the Irish National Foresters' Friendly Society and Temperance Band
    This rare photo dates back to the mid 1920s.
    Back row left to right: Joe McGlynskey, John O'Malley, John Flannelly, Jimmy Connor, unknown, Harry Ainsworth, Mick Dunne, Martin O'Neill, Pat McGreal, William Downes, E. Lyons, John Gallagher and Walter Burke.
    Second row: John McLouighlin, unknown, T.J. Armstrong, John Quinn, Anthony Loftus, Eddie Lennon, Tommy Hamrock, Eddie O'Malley, Tommy Hamrock Jnr., Tommy Mitchel, J. Garvey, Pat Conway and Jim Smith.
    Third row: Jack Farnan, Sam McCormack, Anthony McHale, Paddy Horkan, John Bourke, Sean Walsh, William McGlynskey, Paddy Dunne, Paddy Heneghan, William Doyle, Hohn Tierney and Sonny Horan.
    Forth row: John McCormack, Anthony Hynes, alfie Johnson, T.H. Gillespie, Pat Griffin, P.A. Horkan, Pat Concannon, Dr. Faughner, William Staunton, Tom McCarthy, Maurice Dunne and Michael Harrison.
    Front row: Tommy Ainsworth, Tom Gutherie, Jim Scott, Paddy Brady, Willie Cresham, John Walsh, John forkan, Mickie Cahill, John Dargan, Paddy Ainsworth, George Lane, Joe Chambers, George Smith, P. McAndrewe and Jimmy Horkan band leader.
    The five young boys seated at the foreground are Frank Ruane, Joe Conway, Tom Brady, Jimmy Rainsford and William Chambers.

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    Castlebar also had a Pipe Band in the 1940's. This band was organised and conducted by Paddy Rainsford, an excellent tradesman and noted musician and by a former Irish Free State soldier, Mr. Dillon, who was a graduate of the Army School of Music, a piper and excellent teacher.

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    1950s and 1960s

    During the 50's and 60's there were a number of school bands and finally in the early 60's the Brass Band got under way under the baton of Leonard Sheridan, (BMus, who was a teacher with Mayo V.E.C. The members of that band were Vincent Murray, Tom Brett, Jimmy Feeney, Michael Heverin, Noel Feeney, Jimmy Bourke, Noel Quigley, Michael Rice, Tom Bourke, Declan Hynes, Sean Bourke, Michael Basquill, Tommy Joe Prendergast, Philip Ainsworth, Andy Feeney, Thomas (Sonny) Guthrie, Francis Nolan, Sean Nolan, Kevin Bourke, John McHugh and Dermot Lally. Michael Basquill was appointed marching leader.
    St. Joseph's Brass Band, Castlebar, pictured in the mid-sixties.
    Front row left to right: Wincent Murray, Tom Brett, Jimmey Feeney, Michael Heverin, Noel Feeney, Jimmy Bourke, Noel Quigley, Michael Rice, Tom Bourke, Declan Hynes.
    Back row: Sean Burke, Michael Basquill, Tommy Joe Prendergast, Philip Sinsworth, Andy Feeney, Leonard Sheridan, Bandmaster, Thomas Guthrie, Fr. Wm. Nohilly, Francis Nolan, Sean Nolan, Kevin Bourke, John McHugh, Dermot Lally.
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    1970s and 1980s

    The band was left without a teacher when Leonard Sheridan moved to Donegal in the early 70's. Every effort was made to find a replacement but to no avail. Eventually Paddy Jones from Foxford agreed to take the position on a temporary basis and remained with the band for four years. After his departure Jocelyn Smith from Crossmolina took up the position, Under his direction the band took a new route in the area of recruitment by holding auditions. Mr. Smith eventually left in 1981 and Bro. Maurice, a teacher in Saint Gerald's College took charge. He was followed by Tom Bourke, who had returned to the town from Canada, He formed a very strong junior band which has continued to prosper over the years.

    Castlebar Concert Band, 1984

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    When Mike Roberts left in 1993 the band was conducted by Ann Hoban, BMus, until a replacement for Mike Roberts was appointed. George Lee took over as musical director in 1993, He was also musical director of the Castlebar Choral Society which resulted in combined concerts with the choral group. It was during this time that strings were introduced into the band to form an orchestra from which came the Castlebar Concert Band and the Mayo Youth Orchestra.

    Castlebar Concert Band, 1990   rehearsing in the St. Patrick's National School Hall

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    Castlebar Concert Band, Marching in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade, 2000

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