ARTHUR Scarlett was perhaps the best-known bandsman in Portadown, and well-known throughout Ireland not only as a wonderful cornet player but as a jovial, magnetic personality.
He died peacefully a fortnight ago at the Southern Area Hospice in Newry, having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2011. He was 70 and lived with his partner of 23 years, Teresa, at their Carrickblacker Road home.
Mr Scarlett was a member of St Mark’s Silver Band since it was reformed in 1957, and was the last member of that era still with the famous red-uniformed ensemble.
He adored the band, revelled in the fact that it became better as the years rolled by, and was a superb cornet player. He rarely missed a parade or date with the band, and was best known as playing the Last Post at the town’s War Memorial every Remembrance Sunday, between the years of 1980 and 2000 until he decided - with typical humour - that “younger lungs” were called for, and passed the mantle over to fellow bandsman Mark Mullen. He did, however, continue to play the haunting refrain on every 11th November at 11am when the date did not fall on a Sunday.
Arthur was also a member of the ‘Friendship Band’, an ensemble formed by silver bands’ members throughout Ireland - from all communities. They performed at festivals and special occasions from Belfast to Limerick, from Dublin to Galway, as well as travelling to European venues like Holland, France and Poland.
They were a special attraction at New York’s St Patrick’s Day in 1998, but he didn’t much like The Big Apple, finding it brash and, with its skyscrapers, claustrophobic. The Friendship Band also regularly welcomed cruise ships into Belfast Harbour.
Arthur Scarlett was born on June 8, 1941, in the Carleton Home, Church Street - which closed 40 years ago - to Arthur senior (a legendary member of St Mark’s Silver) and Winifred, both deceased.
They lived at Deer Park, off Charles Street, and he attended the Hart Memorial Primary School and then Portadown Technical School. His first job was as an apprentice with the UTA (Ulster Transport Authority) bus service, but he didn’t much fancy it and moved into the upholstery trade. He trained with his father and later had his own furniture retail stores at Mill Avenue and then the old Sommerson’s Picture House in Bridge Street. He was later joined by brother Niall at Windsor Avenue, Killicomaine Road.
Arthur married Winifred Freeburn, and they had a son and daughter Jane and Paul. There are three grandsons, David Christopher and Adam. He is also survived by brother Niall and sisters Betty and Kathleen. Arthur and Winifred’s marriage broke up, and some time later, he and Teresa met and set up home at Carrickblacker Road.
His enthusiasm for everything he did was infectious, and he followed a number of sports, especially cricket at which he played for Portadown and Laurelvale. He had a perfect temperament as a bowler, and his occasional ‘slow ball’ foxed the best of batsmen and sent quite a few, more than a little annoyed, back to the pavilion over the years.
He also enjoyed playing bowls (along with Teresa) at Gilford Royal British Legion and was a talented darts player, with his penchant for slowing the game down a real addition to his armoury.
Arthur Scarlett’s funeral service at a packed St Mark’s Church of Ireland summed up his joy of life. Not for him the sombre and the serious, with St Mark’s Band - plus others from various bands throughout Northern Ireland - turning up in uniform to pay their tribute.
They played his personal favourites - Memory, Can’t Help Falling in Love, One Moment In Time, The Londonderry Air and Hallelujah. The congregational hymns were the more traditional Abide With Me and The Lord’s My Shepherd, and the Rector - Canon Jim Campbell - paid a heartfelt tribute to a man he respected, especially while they exchanged views, during Arthur’s terminal illness.
The coffin was borne from the church by his fellow bandsmen, and burial was at Kernan Cemetery.