Kellswater Flute Band was founded in 1947, four miles South of Ballymena in the townland of Tullynamullan. The formation of the Band was first discussed by Thomas McDonald and his future Father-in-Law Thomas Irons when returning from a Royal Black Preceptory meeting in Ballylurgan.
Soon after this discussion, locals arranged to meet in Kellswater Orange Hall and Kellswater Flute Band was formed. The new Band took its name from the Kellswater River, made famous by the song ‘Bonnie Kellswater’, the river and bridge later featuring on the Band crest.
With support of the community and prominent individuals, numerous fundraising events were organised enabling the Band to purchase Crown AZ flutes and Guards Pattern brass shelled drums from Essey Music Supplies in Belfast.
In the early years Kellswater was a melody flute band, their first conductor was Mr Archie Pedlow and their first drum corps instructor was Mr William (Billy) Hoffin.
In 1951 the baton changed hands to Mr William (Billy) Mc Neill. The first of many successes on the contest platform soon followed when in 1952 Kellswater gained first place in Portadown performing ‘Everbright’ by W.B. Blythe in the melody flute section, soon after Mr. McNeill resigned as conductor due to work commitments.
The Band progressed to part music and Mr Sammy Barclay became conductor for a short period of time prior to Mr James Mathewson taking over the baton in 1953. Under ‘Big Jimmy’, much success at contests in the Ulster Hall Belfast and in Scotland was achieved between 1967 and 1985. During this time, Boehm system flutes were purchased in 1969 from Hunter Moore Flute Band in Newry.
Under his guidance the Band collected a total of 19 awards in Flute Band League Own Choice, North of Ireland Bands Association and Scottish Amateur Flute Band Association competitions. After thirty nine years of dedicated service as conductor, Mr. Mathewson retired due to ill health, and sadly passed away soon afterwards.
Mr. Uel 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 helped the Band to progress further.
Under Mr. 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 their 50th Anniversary with a Dinner Dance and presentation to three founder members, Thomas McDonald, William Cupples and Jackie McKee. Their first CD, “Fifty Years on the March” was also released selling over 700 copies of the recording.
Taking part in parades locally and further afield, Kellswater has never forgotten its roots as a marching Band in the community, leading Youth Organisations, Loyal Orders, and the British Legion on numerous occasions
On the 1st of July 2002, the Band’s second CD was released, entitled “Step in Style” and comprising fifteen new marches, the recording being extremely popular locally and abroad with copies distributed to Scotland, England, South Africa, U.S.A., Canada and Australia.
In September 2003 Mr. Faulkner stood down as conductor after eleven years of dedicated service both on parade and on the contest platform. In 2003 the Band’s website was designed and launched by Andy McKeegan with the address, www.kellswaterfluteband.com
Kellswater’s sixth conductor was Mr Glen Houston FLCM. LRSM. LLCM, taking up the post on 9th Sept 2003. Professionally he held the position of Principal Flute with the Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment. This experience combined with his hard working ethos and organisational skills proved extremely successful guiding Kellswater to First Place in;
Grade 3 North of Ireland Bands Association Irish Championship 2003
Grade 3 Flute Band Association of Northern Ireland Contest 2004
Grade 3 North of Ireland Bands Association Irish Championship 2004
Grade 2 Flute Band Association of Northern Ireland Contest 2006
Grade 1 Scottish Amateur Flute Band Association Championship 2006
Grade 2 Flute Band Association of Northern Ireland Contest 2007
Grade 2 North of Ireland Bands Association Irish Championship 2007
Grade 2 Flute Band Association of Northern Ireland Contest 2008
Grade 1 Flute Band Association of Northern Ireland Contest 2009.
The Band’s third CD, ‘Gibraltar’ was released on 12th August 2008 to celebrate their visit to “The Rock”, the finale of their 60th Anniversary celebrations.
With a vibrant youth programme, players studying for high level grades and becoming involved in musical activities in schools, churches and festivals, a number of young members took up music as a profession during this period.
Kellswater members have had admirable successes in prestigious Northern Ireland soloist competitions, although interestingly not all on flute or percussion;
NI Young Musician of the Year 2002, winner Darren Scroggie, (classical guitar)
NI Young Flute Player of the Year 2004, runner up Claire McDonald
NI Young Musician of the Year 2009, winner Stephen Rankin, (flute)
NI Young Musician of the Year 2010, winner, Craig Lutton, (timpani)
NI Young Musician of the Year 2011, most promising musician Rachel Lutton, (violin)
Kellswater’s seventh conductor was Mrs Carolyn Watson, who, being involved in the flute banding movement for many years, led various 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 in February 2010 and in October 2010, Kellswater reached the pinnacle of flute band competitions becoming the North of Ireland Bands Association Grade 1 World Champions. With this award, Kellswater became successful across all competition sections in both Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Over a number of years Kellswater Band have fundraised for various charities, performing at the Tower Centre and Fairhill Centre Ballymena. Over £5500 being donated to worthy causes to date such as, 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, The Alzheimer’s Society and Skye’s American Dream.
In March 2011 Kellswater won the Best International Band Award at the Limerick Festival and in November took part in the Lord Mayor’s show in London joining the cream of civilian and military bands on parade. In 2012 the Band featured on BBC TV’s Ulster Scots programme “Santer” performing Lillibullero accompanied by lambeg drum and fife in the final programme of the series and also featuring on “Music at Brownlow House” and “The Band” productions.
Kellswater travelled to Crete in June 2013 where they showcased the concert side of the Band, performing at a number of venues on the Island and featuring on Cretan television news. In September 2013, the Band’s first Social Media upload was posted on Facebook.
Victoria Watson became Kellswater’s eighth conductor in December 2016, a talented flautist and member of the award winning Ballygowan Flute Band, during her eighteen months tenure she enthusiastically prepared the Band for many concerts and parades. The highlights being performances in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, with the Arran School of Irish Dancing and The Belfast Tattoo, massed with Cahard Flute Band and Coleraine Fife & Drum. The Gibraltar CD was rebranded for the trip to Gran Canaria as the “70th Anniversary Tour”, 2017 concluded with the Band’s 70th Anniversary Dinner in the Ross Park Hotel.
In September 2018 Andrew Douglas became the ninth conductor of Kellswater Flute Band, coming from a renowned flute banding family he studied at The Royal Scottish Conservatoire in Glasgow and now performs with prestigious orchestras, ensembles and flute choirs professionally. Under his musical directorship the Band returned to the contest platform after an absence of six years, winning the Grade 2 Entertainment Contest in June 2019, releasing their “In Concert” CD in November 2019 and gaining first place at the FBA Grade 2 Contest in February 2020.
In March 2020 normal Band rehearsals were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, rehearsals then moved online. A number of virtual recordings were produced and posted on social media under the guidance of Stephen Rankin, the most popular of these reaching over 70,000 views.