It was another landmark day for the members of Hamilton Flute Band on Saturday, with three members receiving 50 Year Medals in recognition to their services to banding in Northern Ireland.
The presentation was made by the Flute Band Association for Northern Ireland and took place at the annual distribution of prizes at the 45 Club on Park Avenue, as a follow up to the Association’s recent contest, which took place in Lisburn on February 28. The Hamiltons are in the top grade of the contest, known as the Championship Grade, and came just short of the prizes in fourth place, against very stiff opposition.
Receiving 50-year medals were Robert McGonigle, and brothers Winston and Raymond Robinson.
“It was an absolute honour to be recognised,” said Mr McGonigle.
“I started at the age of 11 in the old ‘No Surrender Flute band’, of which my brother was secretary. That was back in 1961 and I was in that band until it disbanded in 1971 due to the Troubles. Rehearsals were in Barrack Street, so it became a non-starter getting to rehearsals,” he said.
“I joined the Hamilton Band in 1972 and have been there since. The Hamilton Flute Band is a renowned contesting band and is known for its concert work as well as for being a marching band.
“Both Raymond and Winston would have been in Hamilton Flute band before I joined, and they had been in the band for a number of years before they both left for employment reasons,” said Robert.
Both the brothers had difficulty maintaining contact with The Hamiltons due to the travelling involved and ultimately joined Coleraine Fife and Drum.
“While Raymond was always a playing member of Coleraine Fife and Drum, Winston went on to become conductor and arrangement conductor for quite a number of years, but both of them kept association with the Hamiltons throughout this period and even returned to take part in rehearsals from time to time,” Robert recalled.
For his own part, Robert quickly established himself as a competent flute player and his organisational skills also became very apparent. He has held every office within the Hamiltons, but his greatest achievements have been during his time served as secretary. Indeed, he is known as ‘Mr Organiser’ and has been responsible for organising many prestigious engagements. These include handling the logistics for two appearances at the London Lord Mayor Show in 1993 and again in 2003, the former of which he lists as one of the all-time highlights of his time with The Hamiltons.
Other highlights include trips to The Somme in France and a concert in the European Parliament in Brussels, taking part in the Victory in Europe (VE) celebrations in Carrickfergus and more recently, taking part in the new ‘Relief of Derry Symphony’ arrangement with the Churchill and William King Memorial bands as well as the 2014 Walled City Tattoo. He was also behind one of the first charted jet flights, with 112 people on board, to fly into City of Derry Airport, back in the days when the airport as little more than a portable cabin.
Reflecting on the presentation on Saturday, he said: “It was a great night. It was an honour, no doubt about it.”