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Up the Shankill

Sons of Ulster Flute Band (Glasgow)

UP THE SHANKILL, the third hotly awaited release by the Sons of Ulster Flute Band, Glasgow, arrived on the shelves this week.  Following in the steps of We Shall Remember and Before an Empires Eyes, Up the Shankill is a mixture of melody and Blood and Thunder.

Like the last two they have dedicated this CD to the memory of Volunteer Noel Kinner, 1st Battalion No.5 Platoon (A Company) Ulster Volunteer Force.  The band was formed in memory of this Volunteer.  For more information on the history of the band and their formation visit their web site www.noelkinner.co.uk.  You can also purchase copies of their CD's here.

Up the Shankill was recorded live in Thornliebank, with 9 flutes and 3 drummers plus a bass drummer.  Itís nice to see more and more bands resorting back to the live recording scene. 

The CD is a mixture of music, vocals and two excellent poems.  The two poems, The Fight and Ulster Volunteers are both beautifully spoken and an education to listen to.  The second CD contained the Rudyard Kipling poem Ulster 1912.  If you delve into your history you will see that poems like these do exist and can prove to be an education to us all.  The Sons of Ulster Flute Band should be commended for, once again, bring these poems to the attention of the Protestant community.

I feel the title of the CD is apt, especially in this the 91st anniversary of the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force.  he Shankill Road would have to be undoubtedly the home and birth of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

"Who fears death for Ulster's cause?" are the opening words of the poem The Fight, the first track on the CD. One section of the British communities that have never feared death for the cause of Ulster would have to be the people of Ulster themselves.  The Protestant people at that.

The next vocal track is the superb Chocolate Soldier.  This is a song about a young member of the Ulster Division writing home to his sweetheart, with the simple message Ulster will be right!

Then they have a new musical version of the Ballad of Noel Kinner, incorporating the banjo.  Excellent re-working of a superb ballad.  A ballad that I feel is the type of song that should not be messed with, but I feel the band have done a wonderful job on this new version.  So, I won't shout at you!

Then we have the song Clydevalley.  Superb song, superb rendition.  What did happen to the Clydevalley?  Answers to flutebandnews@aol.com  (For those of you that don't know the Clydevalley was the vessel that brought over 30,000 arms into Larne harbour to arm the Ulster Volunteers against the threat of Home Rule in 1912).

We then have the fantastic poem Ulster Volunteers, read to the music of Derry Walls.  If you consider it, were the Ulster Volunteers of 1912 of the same stock of the Brave Thirteen, the Apprentice Boys of Derry?  After all did the men of the Ulster Volunteer Force not close the doors on the face Irish Republicanism, in the way of mobilising against the Home Rule Bill?  May sound a funny comparison, but think about it.

The next vocal piece on the CD is an old Orange song, The Bold Orange Heroes of Comber.  This to me is one Orange Ballad that is not recorded as often as it should.  A bit like the Union Cruiser.  This is also good to see that the link that was so strong between the Orange Order and the Ulster Volunteer Force is not being laid to rest.  I wonder how many Orangemen served in the 36th Ulster Division?  Quite a lot I feel, as there is a Lodge in the jurisdiction of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland named after this fine band of people.

The final vocal is the excellent Eternal Light.  This is a ballad by James Gourly dedicated to the MacDowell family who come from the Shankill area.  It's a ballad about a Father and his three sons who never returned from the fields of the Somme. Apparently, in a church on the Shankill Road there is a light that is constantly lit as a dedication to these four brave Ulster soldiers.

The Sons of Ulster Flute Band are renowned for their musical prowess, their discipline, their pride and the dignity in which they represent themselves, and the memory of Noel Kinner.  You can see this in the rules of the band.  Attendance is compulsory, no alcohol while on duty with the Sons of Ulster and an anti-drug policy are just three of the bands rules.  Wherever you go on the Loyalist marching season you will hear people talk about the Sons of Ulster Flute Band.  Listening to them, and having the privilege of seeing them perform, you can understand why people rave about the band.  Their musical ability is shown on Up the Shankill as well as their last two releases.

Up the Shankill has fifteen musical tracks on it.  Some of the tracks are outstanding.  Scipio, which means ceremonial staff, is superb.  Lilibulero, or as we all know it The Protestant Boys, is a tune which is being constantly modified.

The Sons of Ulster have done justice to the Regimental march of the Coldstream Guards.  On the track Royal Union the band have a guest flautist, Laurie Johnson from the excellent Imperial Corps of Drums from Liverpool.  This is followed by the superb Conway Street, which includes one of my all time favourite tunes God Bless the Prince of Wales, otherwise known as Men of Harlech.

Then we have the marvellous tune Volunteer Robin Jackson.   Volunteer Jackson was a member of the Mid-Ulster Brigade (UVF) and a friend to some members of the band.  Sadly, Volunteer Jackson died some years ago of cancer.  This is a fitting remembrance to him from his friends in the Sons of Ulster Flute Band.

Then there is the superb Crimson Banner, a tune that was written about the Siege of Derry in 1688-89.  This was when the forces of King James II try to take the city of Londonderry only for the Thirteen brave Apprentices to shut the gates in the faces of the rebel forces.  The Crimson banner was lofted with joy at the breaking of the boom by the Mountjoy.  

Glory! Glory! Apprentice Boys.

The boom has been broken was the cry.

Long may the Crimson Banner wave
A meteor streaming airy
Portentous of the free and brave
Who guard the walls of Derry
And Derry's sons alike defy the Pope
Traitor or pretender and peal to heaven
the 'Prentice cry their patriot-
"No Surrender"


The next tune that stands out is the excellently played Volunteers.  Is this a tribute to the many Volunteers who have lost their lives for the defence of their beloved Ulster.  But then again, is it an acknowledgement?  An acknowledgement of the fact that the Volunteers are still ready for war, if so called upon?

The tune that made this CD for me was the track Lament to the Fallen.  The one word that can sum this up is superb.  I tried to explain this tune to a friend and the only way I could describe it was a slow version of Noel Kinner and Y.C.V. Brigade.  I hope that is doesn't sound disrespectful as it's not meant to be.  It was an easy way to describe a superb tune.

I have listened to hundreds of Loyalist tunes and three will always stick in my mind.  St Louis Blues by the Black Skull, Highland Cathedral by the Cambuslang Britannia and Black Beauty by the Imperial Blues.  There are now four, with Lament to the Fallen.  You could close your eyes and picture the band walking down Whitehall to the Cenotaph playing this tune on Remembrance Sunday.

Robbie Gallimore.

The Twelfth would like to thank Robbie for his review of the Sons of Ulsterís excellent CD, Up the Shankill. He has also reviewed the Pride of the Ravenís CD, A Touch of Class.  To read this review, click here.  

Robbie is also web-master of the Flute Band News. In an effort to promote Ulsterís marching band culture, Glenwood Publications Ė the publishers of The Twelfth Ė are happy to recommend Up the Shankill.  

For a copy of Up the Shankill, send a cheque/Postal Order (made payable to Glenwood Publications) for £11.00 (including p & p) to:

  Glenwood Publications
First Floor
316 Shankill Road
BT13 3AB.

Due to high bank charges on non-UK cheques, readers in …ire and the rest of Europe should send Ä20.00 in well-concealed cash only. North American readers should send US$22.00 in well-concealed cash only. 

E-mail orders@the-twelfth.org.uk when you have placed your order. We will then e-mail you back when your order has been received and dispatched. 


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