Since their formation over fifteen years ago the Ramelton Town Band has won five All Ireland Fleadh Ceoil titles, including their second senior win on Sunday in Cavan. Therefore the big challenge is to make it three in a row in 2011 and they are already up for that task.
They returned home to Ramelton on Monday night and as usual they paraded down Church Street and along the Shore Road before arriving at Gamble's Square. That is their tradition and regardless of how they've done and no matter where they've played their final stop is always back in Gamble's Square.
A big crowd had gathered and the home coming committee as always had organised the platform, cordoned off the Square (PJ granted the closure permit at an hour's notice) and so the scene was set. Willie Joe McDaid, Paul McCahill, Norman Irwin and Kevin Coyle were the main workers and shortly after 8.30 the place was ready and all lit up. But we had to wait until after nine to hear the sound of the music as the band came over past McDaid's Bottling Stores.
Young and old had gathered and many were already recording these precious moments on the mobile phones. Wee Claire Friel, from Castle Street is only seventeen months and her mum had just brought her back from hospital where she'd gotten her plaster renewed for a dislocated hip. I remember taking Claire's photo last year as a little baby and my goodness how she's grown and how pretty she looked all decked out in her best finery for the band and smiling at everyone.
Later I photographed the majorettes and some day soon Claire will be among this group. The band came into the arena to play their 12 minutes (11.56) actually of wonderful music and drill and one could identify the sense of pride and honour this group has brought to Ramelton. It was a bitterly cold night but the music and the great achievements in music of this small town is something that we'd stand out all night to enjoy.
There were nice speeches off the platform. Fr. Michael Carney, PP who knows more than most of us about music added his own words of congratulations, as did Cllr. Ian McGarvey.
The main man in the band (and other things in Ramelton) down the years is PJ Kavanagh and he was in fine form as he reflected good humouredly on the band's success. He recalled some fifteen years ago being asked to help out with the drill for the new band and now all these years later he's still at it and obviously loving it because it involves so many of the town's young people and their families.
The music tradition is a very old one in The Holy City and it dates all the way back to the foundations of the pantomime in the nineteen fifties or as Thomas Harte would say, to the days when Molly McBride was staging concerts in the Town Hall. The pantomime is so central to the development of the music and presentation and the kind of confidence it generates in children from five years of age is something that money could simply never buy.
Danielle McNamee who is the band leader had a lead role in the panto two years ago and so the legend goes.
Since the band was founded they've played in so many parts of Ireland at competitions and they are in huge demand for St. Patrick's Day Parades.
And for the record Benjo Ward from the Bridgend has been their number one man because it is his steady hand that has recorded for posterity every competition and every victory... where would they be without him?
PJ Kavanagh dedicated Sunday's victory to the hard working committee and that is so right. Because without the huge support and dedication of them it could not happen. Perhaps it is pride in the kind of community spirit that is so unique and so special.
And then the band members were called on to the stage to be presented with their certificates of victory. And then we were all invited back to Durkan's for a quiet cup of tea and everyone was safely tucked up in bed by eleven o'clock. Mind you I'm not saying if it was eleven that night or the next morning...