Billy Austin, former advertising manager of the Portadown Times, has come up with a real gem for the ‘Old Portadown’ page this week. It’s a throw-back to 1967 when Billy (famed for his watercolours, especially on his wonderful Facebook page) often tried his hand at photography, in those monochrome days.
In the days of Times snappers Harold Ford and Harry Robinson, Billy (against union rules!) would often wander off with the cameramen and try his hand at assisting them on big days like the July parades. And his efforts that particular year captured a history of the bands that marched out during the holiday period.
The pictures include bands like Edgarstown and Pride of the Birches, as well as St Mark’s Silver, all of which are still thriving on-the-march. But those no longer with us, so to speak, include Thomas Street Old Boys (1st Portadown) Silver Band and Parkmount Flute, both truly tuneful ensembles are missed in musical circles.
St Mark’s still plays an especially useful part in the civic life of the town, nowadays maintaining a real quality of sound, especially in the realms of contest. Our picture shows Harry Blair leading the members of 1967 past the iconic shop of Walter Mason in Edenderry, Walter having been a shrewd businessman – part of the very fabric of Edenderry and a Portadown Borough Councillor into the bargain.
Indeed, two other bands had local council connotations. The defunct Parkmount Flute Band was led by Cecil Atkinson, one of the ‘originals’ of 1973. And the Birches was led by Noel McClelland who recently retired after a long and distinguished career as a senior officer with the council.
The demise of Thomas Street was also a great loss to the town. The picture shows one of Billy Austin’s fellow watercolour artists Joe Hynes (who did a wonderful sketches series for the Times), clanging hard on the cymbals. On the left of the picture is George McClelland on tenor horn, and the band also included Malcolm Wright (a senior, European football referee – he once booked the famed Johan Cruyff) and many others.
The pictures have never before been published in print and we thank Billy for letting us use them for the first time.