I have fond memories of being in a band. Participating was a thrill. I was so proud of myself walking to the field. Although at such a young age that distance was just too much. I managed to walk from Tiger’s Bay to the Dublin Road where I was then allowed into the car. I have to admit my thighs stung like hell! It’s a girl thing – what I wouldn’t give to have been allowed to wear trousers on those parades!
The field was magical to me. The colour, the music, the fun. I loved the “picnic” we had. The Lodge would provide us with a paper bag full of sandwiches, drink and a homemade bun. I’m sure the wives of those men in the Orange Order would have been up all night making them!
I am absolutely thrilled to share with you an interview with Charmaine Moore. I have known Charmaine from the first day I joined the band. She is such an accomplished accordion player and has won many a competition for her playing. She talked to me about why she joined the band, her memories and the future of band parading. I hope you enjoy.
When and why did you join a band?
I joined the band at the age of 10, in 1974. This has lead to four decades and one of the biggest parts of my life.
The reason I joined the band was, like many families of its time, it was a great tradition for mother to buy us new outfits and go to bed early on the 11th night in order to make the early trip into town to watch the parade and join in all the festivities! I have very happy memories of those times and just loved the bands from day one. I mainly loved the music. Then there was the uniforms and the atmosphere! I desperately wanted to be a part of it and tortured my dad to help me join a band. My Dad worked in Northern Ireland Railways at York Road and had friends within work who helped connect me to the Blue Star Accordion York Street and that’s where my band journey began.
Participating in the band meant learning the accordion (I took if very seriously and practiced endlessly at home…..I must have driven Mother mad many times!). It was also great to make new friends with a similar interest and I loved the marching. I took great pride in my appearance and the playing.
Can you share some of your memories of the band?
I have many years of positive memories and just a couple of negatives. The negatives would be when the band was attacked on parade with bricks, bottles and even being spat on. This was sad to me as I remember when Catholics would attend the parades to watch and the atmosphere was light-hearted and fun. When completing particular parades, it was very tense and the protesting was intimidating, leading to the band being flanked by police landrovers to protect us.
What is the future for band parades and what are your thoughts on the Parades Commission?
Sadly, I do think the tradition, culture and identity is being eroded. Bands are mostly forced to participate in indoor competitions and what used to be large parades have dwindled…..for example Tour of the North and Whiterock. This is probably mainly due to restrictions on routes. It’s forcing the band scene indoors or confining them to Protestant areas. The problem being that many areas are broken up now by different religions and it makes a complete route merely impossible without passing somewhere contentious.
I feel the Parades Commission try to appease Republicans…..rewarding bad behaviour (rioting). A route that was traditional is now seen as contentious and due to rioting I feel the Parades Commission take the easy option of banning parades. No matter what talking has happened and what compromises made from the band scene it’s never enough and their good behaviour is not rewarded.
Do you think there are enough women joining bands?
I do not think there are enough women joining bands and that has lead to the demise of many accordion bands which during the years contained mostly women. I believe the demise is partly because flute bands (who are mainly men) started accepting in female flag carriers and this in turn steered women away from actually learning an instrument as a way to join a band.
Many accordion bands, especially in Belfast have folded up due to lack of membership and also lack of support. Many of our colleagues in flute bands years ago supported accordion bands in their area but now behave like they’re second class citizens and look past them to see who the next flute band is. This is very sad but seems to be a sign of the times.
I spent 4 decades between 2 accordion bands both marching bands but with one I had the opportunity to progress in competitions around the country. We were very successful and remain some of the best times in my band career.
The opportunity to learn other music apart from Orange music appealed to me, it was a challenge. They are some of the best years of my life and I wouldn’t trade that experience. Sadly, particularly the Belfast parade has changed beyond recognition. There used to be a mixture of bands, flute, accordion, brass, silver and pipe. Now the Belfast walk consists of 99.9% flute bands. I now travel to the country parades to enjoy the mixture of different type bands.