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Freeman Memorial Flute Band, Coleraine.

MY NAME is Robert and Iím currently a member of the Freeman Memorial Flute Band, Windyhall, Coleraine.

I originate from Omagh, Co. Tyrone, where my love for the band scene began. Ever since I can remember, I have been involved in one band or another. My love for bands was breed into me by my uncles. One of them was a member of Omagh Protestant Boys Melody Flute Band. The other was a member of Edenderry Pipe Band, so I had a good mixture!

When I was five I walked my first band parade. I held the band stick for the Edenderry on 12th July 1989. I think the parade was in Donemana and I was proud as punch. I also joined the Junior Orange Lodge in Omagh when I was eight. Before I left Omagh in 1996 I was the Chaplain for the lodge.

I canít quiet remember when I started playing the flute. Another uncle has told me that Iíve been playing since I was six or seven. In fact, he said I could play the flute before I could even play the recorder!

After about four years with the Edenderry Pipe Band I spent a year with the Feriegh Pipe Band. Feriegh is a townland just outside Omagh. I held the band stick for them as well. But all the time I was learning to play the tenor drum.

But my real love was always Blood and Thunder. After many months (probably closer to a year) of annoying my parents, I was finally allowed to join the Blair Memorial Flute Band, Omagh.

I had a flute that my uncle gave me. I tried to learn new tunes all the time. I was only ten when I joined the Blair Memorial FB. Because of this, in my first year with them, I was only allowed to do parades close to home. I practised constantly in the conservatory at the back of my house. My mates and I even used to leave the football lying to have a blast on the flute down at the local play park!

In my second year with the Blair Memorial FB we got new uniforms. I also started to do some more parades. I remember clearly that Easter Monday, where we paraded in Lurgan. We then went on to the main parade in Portadown. It was brilliant. I couldnít believe how many bands were there.

In summer 1996 my family decided to move to Coleraine, Co. Londonderry. Leaving the Blair Memorial was probably one of the hardest things about leaving Omagh.

When I moved to Coleraine I joined Junior LOL 267. In 1998 I joined the Freeman Memorial Flute Band (FMFB). I missed doing band parades so much, but once I became friendly with some from the band I joined as soon as I could.

(The FMFB was formed in 1977 in memory of Sgt. Geoffrey Freeman. He died on 2nd October, 1975, whilst on active service for the Ulster Volunteer Force. He was with three other volunteers, Davy Swanson, Aubrey Reid and Mark Dodds. All died when an explosive device exploded prematurely in their car. Sgt Freeman was from Windyhall, which is a Housing Executive estate on the outskirts of Coleraine. Some of his friends from Windyhall decided to form the band in his memory).

My first parade for FMFB was one hosted by Dunaghy Flute Band in Ballymoney. I was a bit nervous because of the different flutes and tunes that the band played. However, I soon settled in and have been there since. I try not to miss many parades throughout the year. In addition to this, Iím also the webmaster of the FMFB web site www.freewebs.com/fmfb

Recently, the FMFB has experienced some of the best years in the bandís history. Three years ago, we obtained new uniforms and last year (2002) we had our biggest band ever! There were seven in the colour party, 12 drummers, two bass drum, three playing the symbols, one on the triangle and 42 fluters. Unfortunately, we went down slightly this year, but things are looking bright for the future. This year we held our biggest ever Annual Parade with 35 bands in attendance. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come!

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