HistoryKellswater Flute Band, Ballymena, Co. Antrim Designed by Andrew McKeegan





Kellswater Flute Band was founded in 1947, four miles South of Ballymena in the town land of Tullynamullan. The band takes its name not from the area but from the river Kellswater, immortalised in the song ‘Bonnie Kellswater’, the river and the bridge featuring on the band crest.

Rising above Glenwherry and meandering through the countryside, via Tullynamullen, to join the river Maine, ‘Kellswater’ was an ideal name for the band, the locals and ex pats. still today regarding themselves as ‘Kellswater folk’, in true Ulster Scots tradition.

Two years after the end of the Second World War, finances required to purchase instruments would have seemed a problem as times were hard, but with the support of the community generally and particular individuals, sacrifices were made, many fund raising events organised, and the purchase of Crown AZ flutes and Guards Pattern brass shelled rope drums followed.


In these early years Kellswater was a melody flute band under their first conductor, Mr A. Pedlow and their first drum corps instructor was Mr W Hoffin. The baton then changed hands, the conductor being Mr W. Mc Neill. The first of many successes on the contest platform soon followed, when in 1952 the band secured first place in Portadown performing ‘Everbright’ by W.B. Blythe in the melody flute section. The band then progressed to part music and around a year later Mr W.McNeill resigned as the band’s second conductor due to work commitments.

Mr S. Barclay then became conductor for a short period of time prior to Mr J.Mathewson taking over the baton.  Under ‘Big Jimmy’ as he became affectionately known, much success at contests in the Ulster Hall Belfast and in Scotland was achieved between 1967 and 1985. Boehm system flutes being purchased in 1969 from Hunter Moore Flute Band in Newry





Under his guidance the band collected a total of 18 awards in Flute Band League Own Choice, North of Ireland Bands Association and Scottish Amateur Flute Band Association competitions.  After around thirty nine years of dedicated service as conductor, Mr. Mathewson retired due to ill health, and sadly passed away soon afterwards, ever to be remembered in the annals of Kellswater history.

Mr. U. Faulkner became conductor in 1992, a peripatetic tutor and top ex-army piccolo player, with his enthusiasm plus a hard working committee and ladies committee, membership of the band increased steadily.

New uniforms purchased in 1992 and a complete set of concert flutes in 1994 have helped the band to develop further. With a vibrant youth programme, numerous players study for high level grades and are involved in musical activities in schools, churches and festivals, contributing to the cultural mix in the Ballymena and Antrim areas. Some have taken up music as a profession!

Under Mr. U. Faulkner, success returned with 5 awards achieved on the contest platform and Best Band on Parade secured on various occasions at the Ballymena 12th July demonstration.

In 1997 the band celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary with a Dinner Dance and presentation to three founder members and the release of their first CD “Fifty Years on the March” selling over 700 copies of the recording.


Taking part in parades locally, and further a field in Scarva, Londonderry and Scotland , the band has never forgotten its roots as a marching band, leading Youth Organisations, Loyal Orders, and the British Legion on numerous occasions.

As a family band, the committee has been heavily involved, in the social aspect of the band organising ten pin bowling, barbecues, karting, theatre visits, day trips and two excursions to Alton Towers theme park in England, in 1997 and 2002.


During the past eleven years at Christmas, Kellswater Flute band has performed at the local shopping centre in aid of various charities. Over £5000 has been donated by the generous Ballymena public to worthy causes. Combat Cancer, Meningitis Research, Radio Cracker (aid for the 3rd world), School Aid Romania, Action Cancer, Chernobyl Children Appeal (NI), Multiple Sclerosis, Macmillan Cancer Support and The Alzheimer’s Society have all benefited from what has now become a traditional venture for the band.

On the 1st of July 2002, the band’s second CD was released, entitled “Step in Style” and comprising fifteen new marches, the recording has been extremely popular locally and tracks featured on Ballymena’s charity radio station “Radio Cracker” have boosted sales.  Many of the copies having been distributed further field in Scotland, England, South Africa, U.S.A., Canada and Australia.

In September 2003 Mr U. Faulkner stood down as conductor after eleven years of dedicated service both on parade and on the contest platform, the band accepted his resignation due to work commitments with great reluctance.

The band’s sixth conductor was Mr G. Houston FLCM. LRSM. LLCM, who took up the post on 9th Sept 2003.

Professionally he has held the position of Principal Flute with the Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment, and has taught music at the highest level. This experience combined with his hard working ethos and organisational skills proved extremely successful, guiding the band to the Grade 3 Irish Championship in October 2003, Grade 2 Flute Band Association Championship in February 2006, Grade 1 Scottish Flute Championship in April 2006, Grade 2 Northern Ireland Bands Association Championship in October 2007 and Grade 1 Flute Band Association Irish Championship in February 2009.

The band's third CD, 'Gibraltar' was released on 12th August 2008 to celebrate the band's visit to Gibraltar, the finale of their 60th anniversary celebrations.

Kellswater’s current conductor is Mrs C. Watson who has been involved in flute banding for over thirty years and throughout her career has conducted senior bands to numerous victories in prestigious competitions. Taking up the post in Jan 2010 the band, under her guidance, immediately retained the Grade 1 Flute Band Association Irish Championship, and in Oct 2010 reached the pinnacle of flute band competitions becoming the Northern Ireland Bands Association Grade1 World Champions! With this award, Kellswater has been successful across all concert sections in Northern Ireland and Scotland.



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Last modified: 06-01-2012