The 1st Old Boys Silver Band was formed in Belfast in 1946.
As its name suggests, the band was created amongst the former members of the 1st Old Boys Brigade Company. The 1st Boys Brigade had been the first BB Company in Ireland, dating from 1886, and was formed at St Mary Magdalene Church (Church of Ireland), Donegall Pass, Belfast. A few ex-members of the company are still associated with the band as players/vice-presidents.
The band on its creation, acquired instruments and music from a previous band, known as the IOR (Independent Order of Rechabites) Band. During its existence, the band has regularly competed in contests, both here at home, on the mainland, and also in Europe. The 1st Old Boys have won the Senior Brass Section to date, on fifteen occasions. Other notable successes include a second place in the development section of the 2012 European Brass Band Championships held in Rotterdam, and a second place in the UK Grand Shield competition (Manchester Belle Vue, 1965).
The band draws its members from all sections of the community in Northern Ireland. Many members live and work in Belfast, whilst some make a round trip of over 100 miles to attend rehearsals two nights a week. Everyone gives of their time freely, as the band is a 'subscription' band, other expenses being raised through concerts and fund raising activities organised and promoted by the band themselves.
Stephen Cairns is the current Musical Director, and has lead the band to great success in many competitions from 2003 to present day. The band has also enjoyed working with a number of visiting professional conductors, including Richard Evans, Geoffrey Brand, Graham O'Connor, John Berryman, Frank Renton and Mike Fowles, who lead the band to victory in the 2010 NIBA Championships.
1st OLD BOYS YOUTH BAND
In 2009 the band created a youth programme to both widen the appeal of the "Old Boys" organisation, and provide the band with a talent pool for future years. The 1st Old Boys Youth Band was created only a few years ago, after Mark and Jacklin Bingham heard the Rochdale Borough Youth Band perform at the famous Brass in Concert Championships.
An Open Night was planned, where children of all ages were invited to hear the 1st Old Boys senior band play and indeed many of the children sat amongst the band to have a go! It was a massive success and the Youth Band was formed. In terms of contests, the band has enjoyed unprecedented success, with multiple wins in all local competitions. In 2014, the band qualified to represent Northern Ireland at the European Championships in Perth, Scotland. 1st Old Boys Youth Band made history, by being the first youth band to play in the newly formed Youth Band Section of the Euros, gaining a very credible 4th place. They are also the NIBA Irish Youth Brass Band Champions.
The Youth Band currently has around 40 members, with a further 10 being involved in a training band also. Most of these members being of primary school age, with the age category for the band allowing them to take part up until their 18th birthday. The Senior band has already seen the benefit of this youth programme, with a number of members having recently made the progression between the bands.
With newly appointed conductor, ex-Old Boy and band VP Wesley Thompson, the Youth Band continued their winning ways, successfully defending their Irish Championship Section Two title, with a great win in Dublin.
One of the most notable happenings in the Old Boys bandroom of late has saw the introduction of sixteen year old Louise Bell as new Principal Cornet.
In her maiden outing as principal, Louise helped the band gain first place at the 2019 Brass in Concert Entertainments contest in Fivemiletown. In their next local contest, the band gained another win, and made it four wins in a row at the 2019 BBL Spring Festival in Strabane.
The Old Boys have also been on their travels, having not long returned from yet another very successful trip to the European Brass Band Championships in Montreux, Switzerland. In an always exciting contest, giving a bold and daring performance, the band represented Northern Ireland with great pride, securing another podium finish in Europe, finishing in third place. This, together with recent contest victories saw the band climb to fiftieth place in the rankings, a highest ever position in the history of the band. These recent events mark the start of what can be described as a new era for the band, with some exceptional young players being placed in key positions around the ensemble, building for the future, and hoping for even greater success in the years to come.