This is the history of the band told through various transcripts from newpaper clippings, historic photographs, extracts of band records, documents and other memorabilia.  The band has been in existence in some form for well over a century and has maintained strong links with the local community, having had a close involvement in the cultural activities of the Comber area throughout that time.  It first began as a flute band with its origins in the local Boy's Brigade Company, before later becoming a brass band in 1949.

During its history the band had several changes in name which are listed below with the relevant years.  As an organisation, it is currently a charity registered as "Comber Brass", with the senior band performing and contesting as the 'Comber Silver Band' and the junior band performing and contesting as the 'Comber Brass Youth Band'.

"2nd Comber Boys Brigade Flute Band"

  (1900 - 1911)

"2nd Comber Old Boys Flute Band"

(1912 - 1919)

"Comber Amateur Flute Band"

(1920 - 1948)

"Comber Amateur Silver Band"

( 1949 – 1974)

"Comber Silver Band"

(1975 - 1999)

"Comber Brass"

  (1999 - today)

The band is grateful to all those who have contributed in compiling this history, and acknowledgements are given where appropriate. 

List of newspaper transcripts

Above: a photograph of the 50th Belfast (2nd Comber) Boy's Brigade Flute Band was taken circa 1910 - Back Row:  John Cannavan, Thomas Oliver, William O'Prey, Robert Maitland, James McCrea, David Bridgett, Robert Ireland, G. Glover, George Mullan.  Standing:  David Brown, Alex Glover, William Ireland, John Crilly, Alex McIlveen, John Irvine, Alex McFadden.  Seated:  S. B. McGeag, George Whiteman, E. Campbell, S. McCloud, H. Kelly, James McFadden, A. Bailie, David Thompson, R. Crawford.  In front:  Fred McMorran, John Bennett, H. Thompson. (reproduced courtesy of the Comber Historical Society)

Above: a hat band worn by members of the '2nd Comber Old Boys Flute Band', dating from circa 1915 (in possession of Comber Brass).

Above: the band register which records the members and the dues paid in each year from 1914 to 2013.  Also shown on the right is the inside first page of the register listing the members as at June 1914 with a note of those who were 'on active service' and also 'new members since then who have joined the Colours'.  The names against which * has been added in the photo, also appear on the War Memorial erected in Comber Square in 1923 (see below), dedicated to the memory of the men belonging to Comber and District who gave their lives for their King and County in the Great War 1914-1918. (original register in possession of Comber Brass)

Above: copied from the commemorative programme to mark the unveiling and dedication of the Comber War Memorial on 14th April 1923 at which the Comber Amateur Flute Band provided music (reproduced courtesy of Tom Jellie).

Above: the 'Comber Amateur Flute Band Boehm Flute Record' dating from 1923 (in possession of Comber Brass)

Duke and Duchess Go Home - 1924

(a reference to the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth)

'Belfast Telegraph' 28 June 1924

As the Royal train approached Comber Station there were very enthusiastic scenes.  Immediately the Royal train stopped their Royal Highnesses alighted and their reception was perhaps one of warmest and most whole-hearted that they have received since coming to Ulster. Some time elapsed before Lord Londonderry could have an opportunity of carrying out a series of presentations of prominent citizens of the town, as the result of the vociferous cheering which was maintained for almost five minutes.  When comparative peace had been restored Lord Londonderry presented Mrs. Thomas Andrews to their Royal Highnesses.  With this well-known Lady the Duke chatted for a few minutes.  Mrs. Andrews presented a beautiful bouquet of white roses intermingled with fern to her Royal Highness.

The Right Hon. J. M. Andrews (Minister of Labour) was next presented.  After him came Dr Robert Henry, who presented the Duke with an excellent specimen of Irish blackthorn.  The blackthorn which is mounted with a gold crown and six gold stars representing the Six Counties was greatly admired by the Duke.  It bore the following inscription: "His Royal Highness the Duke of York from the inhabitants of Comber, July, 1924."

Lord Justice Andrews was the next to be presented, and the following were also honoured—Mrs. T. J. Andrews, Mrs. John Andrews, senior, and Miss Stone.

As the Royal pair entered the saloon the Comber Amateur Flute Band played “Rule Britannia'', and it was some minutes before the Royal train left the station, their Royal Highnesses standing in the carriage and waving to the huge crowds which assembled on both sides of the rail.  Their departure was the signal for a fresh outburst of cheering, which was continued until the train vanished from sight.

Above: a photograph of Comber Amateur Flute Band which was taken circa mid 1920s (reproduced courtesy of the Comber Historical Society)

Forthcoming Bazaar - Grand Concert - 1925

'North Down Herald & Co. Down Independent' - 14 March 1925

The above concert was held in the Thomas Andrews, Jun., Memorial Hall on Thursay evening, 5th inst., commencing at 7.30.  Chairman, Robert Henry, Esq., M.D., J.P.  There was a very large attendance; this large hall being well filled.  The Chairman remarked that he was greatly pleased to see such a large audience, giving them such great support on this occasion.

There was a varied and musical programme arranged as follows :- Part 1.  Selection by the Comber Flute Band: "Old Comrades." march; "Colleen Bawn." selection: "When Clouds Vanished." arranged by Mr James Paxton.  This band was under the baton of Mr Jas. Paxton, who has been their teacher for a good many years, and the pieces were beautifully rendered, and the performance reflects great credit on both band and conductor.

Referring to the Comber Amateur Flute Band, this band has been in existence for a good many years and were fortunate in having the very valuable service of Mr James Paxton, who is well known in Belfast and the North of Ireland as a first class teacher.  He had been their conductor practically since its organisation, and he has spared no time nor expense in bringing it to the high standard which it has attained.  With the able assistance of Mr John Cannavan, who is practically the oldest member of the band at the present time, and who has to a large extent been the means of keeping the members together during the past years.  He (Mr Cannavan) has always taken a deep interest in the band, and the band members hope he will still remain with them for years to come.  About two years ago they got a new set of instruments to cope with the high standard of music to which bands have attained at present; and it was laborious work for the committee too, organising a bazaar and other functions to raise the money to buy these instruments, which they were fortunate in effecting.  The band has been in a good number of competitions during the past several years.  The following are a few of the prizes which they have won in the Intermediate grade: - 1st prize, Bellevue, Belfast, 1921; 2nd prize, Championship of Ireland, 1921; 1st prize, McConnell Cup, 1921; 2nd prize, Windsor Park, Belfasrt, 1922; also various other prizes.

At the conclusion of the proceedings, Dr Robert Henry, J.P., moved a vote of thanks for the artists for giving them such a good programme.  The meeting closed by singing "God Save the King."

Above: pages from a pocket book dating from 1928-29 and containing records relating to the Comber Amateur Flute Band.   L-R:  payment of membership dues; note of flutes returned / entrance fees paid by members; and items of general band expenditure (in possession of Comber Brass).

Above: a legal agreement dated 1929 between the Trustees and Committee of the Comber Amateur Flute Band and its members, persuant to the borrowing and return of the new flutes that had been recently purchased.

Below: extract from the record of members and 'borrowed' flutes. (in possession of Comber Brass)

Encouraging New Players -1932

'North Down Herald and County Down Independent' -  18 Jun 1932

A solo contest was held last week under the auspices of Comber Amateur Flute Band, in the bandroom.

Mr. Robert Maitland, chairman of the band, said he was pleased to welcome Mr. Charles Rollins, who kindly agreed to act as judge for their competition, which was inaugerated to encourage the younger members to take a deeper interest in band work.

Mr. James Paxton, conductor of the band, had charge of the earliest arrangements and specially arranged the test piece, "The Old Rustic Bridge."   After some good playing on the part of the members, the following awards were made; 1. Mr. James Kirk, medal presented by Mrs. Thompson; 2. Mr. David Thompson, medal, presented by Mr. James Paxton; 3. Mr. Robert Redpath, medal, presented by the band.  The competitors were complimented by Mr. Rollins, who presented the medals to the winners.

The committee of the band, who were present, were Messrs. R Maitland (chairman), Frank McKibben (secretary), David Thompson (treasurer), William McKeown (assistant secretary) William Barry, William O'Prey, James Miskelly, Matthew Wilson, R Baxter, H Todd and James Rodney. 

Above: a photograph of the Comber Amateur Flute Band which was taken circa 1930 (reproduced courtesy of the Comber Historical Society)

Annual Reunion and Dance - 1932

 'North Down Herald and County Down Independent' - 26 Nov 1932

The annual reunion and dance of Comber Amateurs Flute Band was held in the Orange Hall on Friday evening.  Mrs. S. Wilson's Melody Dance Band supplied the music and Mr. R. McIveen was M.C.  During the evening songs were contributed by Miss S. Wilson and Mr. W. Galway,  violin solos by Mr. Hollinger. and mandolin solos by Mr. R. Rodgers.   Mrs. S. Kirk, Mrs. H. Todd, Mrs. R. Rodgers, jun., Mrs. J. O'Prey,  Miss S. Wilson. and Miss Olive Maitland presided over the tea tables.

Above: an ink pad stamp used by the Comber Amateur Flute Band for running a weekly football sweep.  The earliest year on the stamp date wheel is 1928.  (in possession of Comber Brass)

AGM Comber Flute Band - 1938

'Herald and County Down Independent' - 29 Jan 1938

The annual meeting of Comber Amateur (Prize) Flute Band was held last Friday evening, Mr. Robert Maitland (chairman) presiding.  The secretary (Mr. H Todd) read a very satisfactory report.  Mr. D Thompson (hon. treasurer) presented his financial statement showing a substantial credit balance, and on the motion of the chairman, seconded by Mr. W. O’Prey, both reports were adopted.  The following office bearers were appointed for the year: - Chairman, Mr Robert Maitland; treasurer, Mr. D Thompson; secretary, Mr. H Todd; assistant secretary, Mr. R. Cooke; committee – Messrs. Jim Boyd, H. Patton and W. O’Prey; bandmaster, Mr. James Rodney; conductor, Mr F. Macdonald.  Afterwards all the members were entertained to supper, Mr R. Maitland presiding, when a musical programme was contributed by Messrs. Harold Kirk, S. Baxter, W. O’Prey, James Kirk, J. Howden, H. Todd, F. Glover, H. Kirk, J. Boyd, John McBriar, W. McKeown, H. Maitland, R. Crawford: Messrs. D. Morgan, H. Henderson, Tom Boyd; Messrs. D. Thompson, S. Rodney, D. McKibben, S. Baxter.

Above: a tenancy Agreement prepared in 1939 in relation to the hut formerly occupied by the Royal British Legion for intended use by the Comber Amateur Flute Band. The agreement was never actually signed as this was considered unnecessary by the landlord, but it usefully allows the location of the hut to be confirmed from other land records.

Above: a letter dated 1939 in respect of the Royal British Legion Hut (formerly the Recreational Rooms) and its tenancy by the Comber Amateur Flute Band for the sum of £15 per annum, equivalent to about £770 adjusted for inflation at Nov 2022 prices (original in possession of Comber Brass).  Also shown on an extract of the OSNI Historical Fifth Edition Map (1919-1963) is the location of the RBL hut, now redeveloped as the Albion Court residential area, and the location of the new hall built around 1965 by the members of Comber Amateur Silver Band at Laurel Bank, Comber.

Above: a selection of 'Member's Declarations' dating from 1948, signed by members of Comber Amateur Silver Band upon receipt of one of the new brass instruments that had been recently purchased (in possession of  Comber Brass)

Above: a selection of old mouthpieces and extension tubes (often used when marching) which probably date from when the first set of brass instruments was purchased by Comber Amateur Silver Band in 1948/49.  (in possession of Comber Brass).

New Uniform Comber Silver Band - 1950

'The Newtownards Chronicle' - 1 July 1950

An interesting ceremony took place in the Andrews Memorial Hall on Friday evening last, when the handsome new uniform of the Comber Amateur Silver Band arrived and was received by the members.  The proceedings opened with "O God Our Help" played by the band, under its conductor Mr Fred Gourley.  There followed an impressive act of dedication conducted by the Rev J E Jones BA.  Subsequently Mr Jones congratulated the band on having obtained such handsome dress.  He recalled with pleasure the long association which the band had with the BB in Comber.  Very happy relations had continued.  He congratulated the conductor of the band on their recent performance in competitions, and said that after such a recent change over to silver it was a most creditable achievement.  They looked grand in their new uniform, but it did not require new uniforms to make them a good band - they had proved that already.

The ladies' committee which had rendered invaluable service on the financial side had done a splendid job of work.  Amidst applause Miss Betty Thompson then handed a cheque to Mr D Thompson, treasurer of the band, which he suitably acknowledged.  By special request the band then gave an excellent rendering of the competition test piece.  After Rev J G Davies had asked the blessing a delightful supper was served by the ladies' committee and enjoyed by all present.  The best thanks of all present were accorded to the ladies.

Rev J G Davies added further to the congratulations.  He could think of no finer interest for young people.  He was sure the band would make a name for itself.  At the request of Mr Jas. Kirk a silent tribute was paid to all members of the band who had passed on.  An interesting and entertaining contribution was made by Mr David Caughey, who had taken great interest in the band's foundation almost fifty years ago.  Mr Fred Gourley, the band conductor, spoke of their recent success and thanked all the members for their co-operation.  He appealed for the loyal support of all.  The handsome uniform is the work of Mr Wm Herron, Dromore, who received general congratulations.  An interesting musical programme concluded a very happy evening.

Above: a photograph of the register of band members and dues paid in 1949, the year in which the band changed to playing brass instruments.  The register shows that money was collected weekly, with members usually paying a sixpence (2 1/2 p) towards their annual fee of £1-6s-0d (equivalent to about £36 today adjusted for inflation).  The register also records that the band had stopped collecting dues from 1941 to 1947, presumably because of wartime.

Above: extract from the Judges' Remarks for Comber Amateur Silver Band from the Championship of Ireland Band Contest in 1950, the first year after the band had changed from flute to brass instruments (reproduced courtesy of Michael Alcorn at

Above: a photograph of Comber Amateur Silver Band taken before a parade in 1952 a few days after winning the Junior 1st Grade Brass Championship.  Back row:  Alfred Young, Ronald O'Prey, Eric McBratney, Edward Dickson, David Browne, Martin Sloane, David Thompson, D Heskins.  Standing:  Ted Young, David Ritchie, James Kirk, Robert Cooke, James Quinn, George Crichton, Jack Adair, Ian Roberts, James Cooke, Robert Beers.  Seated:  James Hamilton, John Mills, David McKibben, Robert Dornan, Fred Gourley (Conductor), Hamilton Mills, William O'Prey, Fred Glover, William McClune.  Missing from the photograph:  Samuel Burgess (reproduced from the 'Comber Silver Band 50th Anniversary Concert' programme, courtesy of Tom Jellie.) 

History of Comber Amateur Silver Band

 'Newtownards Chronicle' - 21 February 1953

Few bands have the unique record of having had four titles, but this is the case with the present Comber Amateur Silver Band, which has previously been known as the Comber Amateur Flute Band, 2nd Comber Old Boys' Flute Band, and initially 2nd Comber Boys' Brigade Flute Band.  Since its inception over half a century ago the band has built up a history of which it can be well proud, and the present combination continues to maintain the fine tradition which its predecessors established.It is a tribute to the faithful support and keenness of the members that the band has had only four conductors throughout these years.  The first man to hold office was Mr John Frazer and he was followed by Mr Charles Massey and Mr James Paxton. The present conductor is Mr Fred Gourley of Ballygowan.  It was in Mr Paxton's time that the band decided to introduce part music after carrying on with first flutes only since the formation.

The band was formed by the members of the Boys' Brigade Company connected with 2nd Comber Presbyterian Church in the year 1900, largely through the efforts of Mr David Caughey, who now resides at Ballyhenry, Comber, and who was then an officer in the company.  A "Chronicle" reporter called at the band practice last week and by having a chat with some of the officials and one or two old members, many interesting facts have come to light.  First of all let's start off by giving a brief history of the band.

Mr John O'Prey, one of the earliest members, who still takes an active interest in the band and is a regular attender at practices, well remembers the time when this step was taken.  A few of the officials of the Boys' Brigade and band members had assembled in the home of Mr McCrea (now in Canada) to discuss the matter, when the news came of the death of King Edward VII.  They moved on to the home of Mr Paxton and it was decided to purchase part flutes.

This decision marked a great advancement for the band and in 1922 a new set of Bohem flutes was procured at a cost of approximately £500.  Ten years previously the title of the band had changed to the 2nd Comber Old Boys Flute Band and in 1920 it became the Comber Amateurs.  During this period the activities of the band were varied and many and in 1921 a first prize was secured at Bellevue contest.

It carried on as a flute band until 1949 when a very important step was taken which changed the position of the band completely.  The flutes which had stirred the air on countless occasions were put aside for the last time. They were replaced by the shining instruments of the new silver band and thus began a new era in the history of the band.  New uniforms too were purchased and they, along with the instruments, cost something in the region of £1,200.

The obvious question here is - where did they ever get all the money?  For the answer we turn to the magnificent work done by the ladies' committee.  To these fourteen ladies the band owes a debt of gratitude which they can never hope to repay and it was largely through their wonderful efforts that the money for the instruments and uniforms was raised.  Here are the fourteen names: - Mrs F Glover, Mrs D Thompson, Mrs H Thompson, Mrs L Brown, Mrs J Dickson, Mrs D Ritchie, Mrs A Patton, Mrs W O'Prey, Mrs D McKibbin, Mrs R Beers, Miss B Thompson, Miss L Jellie, Miss M Kirk and Mrs J Young.

During the past 53 years the band has been in constant demand and it is refreshing to know that the present silver band is maintaining the high traditions set by its predecessors.  The very first time the band went on parade was on an Easter Monday when they marched to Scrabo Hill for a picnic.  The members were entertained by Mrs McAlpine of Mount Alexander, and this family has always taken an intense interest in the band's welfare.  The first "Twelfth Day" demonstration attended was at Belfast in 1907 and the band has the proud record of never having since missed a 12th of July parade.

There is a humorous story connected with one of these outings and perhaps it can best be entitled "The Day Wee Harry got Lost".  It was told to the "Chronicle" reporter by Mr O'Prey and Mr John Cannavan, another old stalwart.  The band was accompanying a lodge to the demonstration at Cloughfern in 1912 and as was then the custom they were under the supervision of a police constable - in this case he happened to be a Roman Catholic and was voted as one of the best "sports" one could wish for.  Wee Harry Thompson was playing the triangle on that particular day and he was indeed a very proud boy.  Mr Cannavan was in charge of the band and he suddenly realised that Wee Harry was missing from the ranks.  The time came to prepare for the homeward journey and John was in a terrible pickle.  The constable saw his plight and inquired as to the cause and when he learned that Wee Harry was lost he readily set himself to the task of finding him  He smiled at Mr Cannavan and assured him that he would find the "lost sheep".  The band marched through the entrance of the field and there was still no sign of Wee Harry, but when half way to Belfast the constable brought the welcome news that the boy had found more comfortable means of travel and was up in front of a car - "riding like a lord!"

One of the proudest moments for the band was when the late King George VI visited Mount Stewart when he was then the Duke of York.  On returning through Comber station the band played for him on the station platform.  It was the band, too, that led the famous Conservative Prime Minister, Bonar Law, into Comber.  After the First World War their services were in great demand and at one of the many memorial services which marked the unveiling of the memorial tablet in Comber Square, the band was warmly complimented by the late Lord Londonderry.

The O'Preys and the Thompsons are two of the families which have been associated with the band since its inauguration and both families are still represented.  The late Mr William O'Prey, one of the former enthusiasts, has two sons carrying on the family tradition - William and Ronnie, and Mr David Thompson is now regarded as the longest serving member.  Mr Harry Thompson is still well to the fore and continues his membership of the band.  This old photograph will undoubtedly arouse many memories and help to keep alive the traditions established by the old musical stalwarts of bygone years.

Above: a photograph of Comber Amateur Silver Band, the winners of the President's Cup, Ulster Cup and the McConnell Cup, 1953-54.  Back Row:  W Wilson, Ronald O'Prey, S Burgess, G C Creighton, M Sloan, D H Browne, J E Young, A F Young.  3rd Row :   R Beers, W J Cooke, I Roberts, J E Quinn, J A Adair, W Shields, D Orr, J Kirk, W Donnan, D Ritchie.  2nd Row:  W S McClure, J Mills, W J O'Prey, E J Crozier (Conductor), D Shields (President), D Thompson, D G R McKibbin, F Glover, J Hamilton.  Front Row:  R G Dornan, J Cooke (in possession of Comber Brass)

AGM & Social Evening - 1953

'The Newtownards Chronicle' - 5 December 1953

"On Friday evening of last week Comber Amateur Silver Band held their annual general meeting and social evening to celebrate their recent victory in the Junior First Grade Silver Band Championship of Ireland.  About 70 members and friends gathered in the bandroom and were entertained to tea by the ladies of the band, and these ladies must be congratulated for the splendid manner in which they carried out their duties.

A lovely cake bearing the inscription "Congratulations, Junior Champions" was cut by Mr E Crozier, the conductor, and Mrs Browne of the Ladies Committee, and a toast was drank to Mr E Crozier, to whom every member of the band were unanimous in their praise of this fine conductor and gentleman.  He deserves every credit for the vast improvement in the band.  Afterwards Messrs James Kirk and Ronnie O'Prey took command, and with W McClure supplying the music, a grand time was had by all.  Songs were rendered by Mrs John Young, Mrs R Glover and Mr Sam Burgess.

Prizes were won by Mr and Mrs John Mills (musical mats), Mr George Crichton and Mrs McCaughey (spot dance), and Mr Robert Smiley (passing the parcel).  Mr Fred Glover, chairman of the band, paid tribute to one of the band's most faithful servants, Mr David Thompson, who had carried on as treasurer for 20 years and was still in office.  Mr Thompson was presented with a Parker Pen Set.  Mr James Kirk thanked the chairman for all his kindness to the band.

Mr David Shields, president of the band, conducted the election of officers, which resulted as follows: - chairman, Mr Fred Glover; vice-chairman, Mr Wm McClure; treasurer, Mr David Thompson; assistant treasurer, Mr James Kirk; secretary, Mr David McKibben; assistant secretary, Mr Ronnie O'Prey; committee - Messrs J Quinn, D Browne, J Mills, A Young, E McBratney; band master, D Browne; auditors, E McBratney, W Shields; hall committee - F Glover, D McKibben, W McClure; librarians, Messrs R and W O'Prey; assistant conductor, R O'Prey; representatives of Brass Band League - D Thompson, D McKibben, D Ritchie.

During the meeting the secretary expressed his sympathy at the loss of an esteemed and respected member, Mr H Thompson, who died during the year.  Mr Thompson, a life member of the band, was always very ready to help the band in any way.  Mr E Crozier thanked the ladies for being so kind to him, his wife and his friends, and said that the ladies were those responsible for the success of any band, without their help no band could really function successfully.  It was up to them to see that their husbands or sons or fiancés attended the band regularly, as he could only do his job successfully if they came to the bandroom."

Above: extract from the Judges' Remarks for Comber Amateur Silver Band from the Championship of Ireland Band Contest in 1953 -winners of the Junior First Grade Brass (reproduced courtesy of Michael Alcorn at

NIBA Championships  - McConnell Cup - 1954

'The Newtownards Chronicle' - 26 June 1954

 "The Comber Temperance Flute and Comber Silver Bands again brought honour to the town last weekend by being successful at the open-air championships of the North of Ireland Bands' Association held at Ramore Head, Portrush.  In the flute bands (third grade) Comber Temperance with 189 points was awarded first prize and the Windsor Cup, while in the Brass (second grade) section Comber Silver also with 189 points gained 1st and the McConnell Cup.

This is the second year that Comber Silver has been successful in band contests, and much credit is due to their conductor, Mr E Crozier, who spares no effort in the training of the band.  Mr W Dunwoody, who conducts the flute band, is also to be congratulated for the high standard reached by the band."

Above: a photograph of Comber Amateur Silver Band which was taken circa mid 1950's (in possession of Comber Brass)

Above:  correspondance received by the Comber Amateur Silver Band - these examples dated 1955 are from the Star of the North L.O.L. No. 1053 and from the Ladies Committee of the band (in possession of Comber Brass).

Above: photographs taken in the mid 1950's of Comber Amateur Silver Band parading through Comber town (reproduced courtesy of Beverly Heaney)

Above: photograph taken circa 1955 of band members (L-R) Teddy Young, Robert Dornan and Tom Heaney (reproduced courtesy of Beverly Heaney)

Above: a recent photograph of the site at Laurel Bank, Comber where members of the band built their new band hall and began rehearsing in from around 1965.  The building has since been modernised and is now owned by the Roskyle Limited construction company.

Above: a photograph of Comber Silver Band, winners of the Intermediate Section in the contest of 1967.  Standing: John Boyce, Robert Steenson, Albert McCaughey, Wilfred Martyn, James Kirk, Hamilton Mills, John Mills, William McVeigh.  Seated:  Ronald O'Prey, Samuel Burgess, Thomas Jellie, David Browne, Ralph Mills, Roy Morrow (Conductor), David Jellie, Ian Roberts, Russell McCaughey, Samuel McCaughey.  Missing from the photograph: William O'Prey, George Crichton, Ted Toung, Tom Hearney (reproduced from the 'Comber Silver Band 50th Anniversary Concert' programme courtesy of Tom Jellie). 

The first female members join the band - 1967

The band's membership register (see below) reveals that first female members in its history joined the Comber Amateur Silver Band in 1967 when Iris Martyn began paying dues in August that year, followed 2 months later in September by Adele McCaughey, then aged 11 years.  Adel's father and brothers were also members of the band in that year (see above).

Above left;  photo from the Belfast Telegraph published 19 November 1970 under the caption 'Exchanging Blows' - "They may be rivals but that doesn't mean they can't get together for a blow before the sound and fury of the competition begins.  Tenor horn player Vera Brookes (21) is the only girl in the Reid Memorial Silver Band, Belfast.  Adele McCaughey (14) plays cornet in the Comber Amateur Silver Band.  They were taking part in the Band's Association championships in the Ulster Hall."

Above right; photo from Belfast Telegraph published 15 November 1971 - " Mr Albert McCaughey, Lindley Drive, Comber has a very musical family.  Daughter Adele (15) and son Russel (16) join him in the Comber Amateur Silver Band.  They took part in the 54th Championship of Ireland Bands' contest in the Ulster Hall.  Mr McCaughey has more musicians at home for his other three sons are also members of the Comber Silver Band."

Story of Comber Silver Band - 1981

'The Castlereagh Courier' - 9 July 1981

(from the ‘Follow the Bands’ column written by Alex Dempster)

"At the turn of the present century officers of the 50th Belfast (Comber) Company of the Boys Brigade decided to form a Band in the Company.  A number of flutes were bought with half-snare drums and a bass drum and the newly-formed band got down to practice at Second Comber Presbyterian Church Hall.  Many changes have occurred since those early beginnings — even within the Boys Brigade Company itself for today it is known as 2nd Comber Company and the band has also passed through three phases in its colourful history until now, like many others, it has become Comber Silver Band.

The original members, when it came time to pass out of the Boys Brigade, decided the name of the band should be changed to Comber Old Boys Flute Band and this arrangement existed for only a few years.  A decision was taken to reform the band independent of the Boys Brigade and so Comber Amateur Flute Band appeared on parade for the first time in 1908.  This most successful outfit which for years was the pride of Comber continued strongly through two world wars though many of its members saw service in the armed forces in both.  Practices were held in the British Legion Hall in Castle Lane and between the Wars these premises were purchased by the band.

Banding at times can be precarious as well as exhilarating, all bands have bad times and good, and Comber , was no different from others.  But in 1949 during a lean spell when membership was on the wane, a decision was taken by the committee to turn to brass, thinking that the recent craze for brass bands would create a new interest.  The decision proved to be right for 2nd Comber Boys Brigade had just decided to form a Silver Band within the Company and as a link still existed between the two organisations a flow of membership playing the same type of instruments was assured for the senior outfit.  It is interesting to note that one summer, Comber Amateur Flute Band was carrying out local engagements and twelve months hence the same membership were parading in the same engagements as Comber Silver Band.

In 1962 because of a rebuilding programme which would take in the site on which the British Legion Hall stood the Comber band decided to build its own hall at Laurel Bank.  With the help of a few friends the members constructed the building by themselves and today it is one of the finest halls in the country.

As in all small towns or villages, connections stand out when past membership is spoken of in connection with Comber Band e.g. Kirks; Harold, James, Gilmore and William;  Quinns; William, James Robert and George;  O’Preys; John, William, William Jun. and Ronald; Boyds;  James, David and Tom;  McKibbins; William, Frank and David;  Thompsons; Harry, David and Scott;  Maitlands; Robert and James;  Wilsons; Matthew and Samuel.  This remarkable line-up of families as far as I know were serving at the one time.  Fancy picking an argument amongst that lot!

Just as these family names were present in the Flute Band membership similar patterns appear in the present Silver Band line-up e.g:  Mills; John, Hamilton, Tom, Raymond and Ralph;  McCaugheys;  Albert, Samuel, Russell and Adele;  Brownes; David and Raymond;  Youngs; Alfred and Ted;  Martyn; Wilfred and Iris and Iris’s husband, Ken Brown;  Mercer ; Robert and Stephen.

Over recent years these names have given great service to the band and have helped to keep up the family tradition.  The longest serving member at present is James Kirk who recently completed 50 years service and is still going strong on the trombone.  Two senior citizen life members who still are most active in mind and body are Mr. James Hamilton and Mr. David McKibben.  Each of these still take more than an active interest in all banding around the district.

As a Flute Band and a Silver Band Comber's contesting appearances have been pretty consistent with a measure of success.  In recent years Comber Silver has ventured across the water and competed at Bellevue, Manchester at the Spring Brass Festival.  Although a high proportion of youngsters around Comber are actively playing brass instruments in school bands and at the School of Music, Ballynahinch, the expected spill over to the senior team band is almost non-existent which is rather disappointing and indeed hard to explain.  The present committee however would welcome any who wish to join the band from either of the aforementioned quarters and a welcome is also extended to any former members of the band who should be keen about re-joining the ranks.

I wish the membership of Comber Silver and its present conductor every success for the future and may the name of Comber Silver Band be still as prominent to its townspeople at the turn of the next century as it was in this one."

Above: photographs taken in 1971 of Beverly Heaney (left) & Adele McCaughey (right) together with members of Comber Amateur Silver Band (reproduced courtesy of Beverly Heaney)

Above: photographs taken in the early 1970's of Comber Amateur Silver Band wearing their yellow uniforms that had been acquired from the 1st Old Boys Silver Band (reproduced courtesy of Beverly Heaney)

Above:  North of Ireland Bands Association Annual Championships of Ireland contest certificates 1988-1994 (in possession of Comber Brass)

Comber Silver Band tribute - 1998

'The Newtownards Chronicle' - 15 January 1998

"Comber Silver Band has paid tribute to one of its longest serving members, who passed away recently, by playing at his funeral service in Second Comber Presbyterian Church.  George Crichton died on Friday 2nd January after several months of illness and the band was privileged to play at his funeral service last Thesday, 6th January.  George, who had also been involved in bowling in 2nd Comber Church and in the Boys' Brigade, loyally served the band for forty five years, devoting much time and effort to every aspect of the band's welfare.  He held the office of treasurer for many years, ensuring the band enjoyed a healthy financial position and held other offices over a number of years.  When the band built the Laureldale Hall, George was the backbone of much of the hard work involved.

Evidently, the band was a very important part of George's life as, despite failing health in recent months, he maintained his love of music and interest in the band, continuing to share the fellowship of his fellow members when he could no longer play.  A spokesperson for the band, which shortly before his death presented George and other long serving members with commemorative clocks, said: "George was one of life's gentlemen with a sense of humour which was very much appreciated.  Typical of him, he never lost this quality throughout his illness."

Above left: - "Shortly before his death, George Crichton received a commemorative clock, marking his 45 years service to Comber Silver Band, from Band Chairman Hamilton Mills (left)"   Above right - "A special occasion was marked in the history of Comber Silver Band when the band presented commemorative clocks in recognition of service of Ronnie O'Prey (52 years), John Mills (59 years) and Sam Burgess (55 years).  The band was formed nearly 100 years ago as 2nd Comber Presbyterian Flute Band and changed in 1949 to a brass band.  Presentiong the clocks are Tom Jellie, vice-chairman and Hamilton Mills, chairman."  (original newspaper clippings reproduced courtesy of Tom Jellie)

Above: members of Comber Silver Band from the late 1990's   (Left) L-R Stephen Kennedy and Robert Davidson   (Right) L-R John Mills, Ronnie O'Prey, Ian Roberts and George Crichton (reproduced from original newspaper clippings countesy of Tom Jellie)

Silver Band Concert a wonderful success - 1998

'The Newtownards Chronicle' - 1 October 1998

"All the hard work was done. Handfuls of hair pulled from worried heads littered the floor. Final tuning was complete.  All that remained was to get on the stage and entertain the more than 200 people who sat expectantly in the Andrews Memorial Hall on the evening of September 18.  At the appointed hour, Comber Silver opened the show with the march, 'Ravenswood' by W Rumen.  This piece was played better than the band had ever played it.  OK, the nerves have now settled and the rest of the show can be enjoyed.

The audience were next treated to 'Pastime with Good Company' and 'She Moved through the Fair' by Ulster Brass. These pieces were enjoyed by all and the quintet demonstrated their full musical talents.  The quintet consists of the principal brass players of the Ulster Orchestra — Paul Young, trumpet; Hugh Carslaw, trumpet; Derek Parkins, horn; Steve Barnett, trombone; and Ewan Easton, tuba.  Ewan is the conductor of Comber Silver Band and his enthusiasm and energy are in inspiration to all around him.  The Laureldale Brass Ensemble were next to perform.  This ensemble was formed just over a year ago and their progress has been remarkable with four of their players moving up to the senior band already.  The ensemble played Jaunty Blues', 'Petite Valse', and 'Calypso Joe'.  Now that all the groups taking part had performed the players all settled down and enjoyed what was a remarkable evening of entertainment.

It was a great thrill for the Junior Ensemble when they were joined by Ulster Brass for a rousing rendition of ‘Star Wars’ by John Williams.  All would agree that this sounded superb.  The penultimate item was performed by Ewan Easton on tuba playing Rimsky Korsakov's 'Flight of the Bumble Bee'.  The playing of this extremely difficult piece was magnificent and Ewan was given a rousing reception for his efforts.  The final item saw Ulster Brass combine with Comber Silver to perform P. Graham's 'Northern, Landscapes', a composition of four movements with differing styles and tempos.  This was the most difficult piece of music for Comber Silver but all went well and the feeling of the band members was one of great satisfaction in playing with players of the calibre of those in Ulster Brass.  Finally a big thanks to all those who made the evening such a success.  To those who sponsored the event so generously and to those who bought tickets and attended.  You all made this a night to remember."

Above left:"Ewan Easton with young people from Laureldale Brass Ensemble" and above right: "Suzi, David and Ben Ashcroft and Alan Spratt from Comber Silver Band and Laureldale Brass Ensemble."

Above left:  "Graham Bradley, Matthew Campbell, Ben Gourley and Carl Ross entertaining the crowds in the Andrews Memorial Hall Comber" and above right: "The youngest member of Laureldale Brass Ensemble, Rebecca Adams, with Ewan Easton, Comber Silver Band's musical director." (reproduced from original newspaper clippings courtesy of Tom Jellie)

Silver Band to premiere Comber Suite - 1999

'The Newtownards Chronicle' - 27 May 1999

"The band will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with a celebration concert this Saturday, May 29, at 7.45 pm, in Comber Leisure Centre. The concert will feature Comber Silver Band who will give the first public performance of The Comber Suite, a beautiful piece specially commissioned by the band and composed by Darrol Barry.  The Suite has three movements each reflecting the mood and atmosphere of Comber and surrounding area.

The first movement is entitled Andrews' Fanfare and is a tribute to Thomas Andrews Jnr who was managing director and head of the draughting department of Harland & Wolff.  He was in charge of building the RMS Titanic The movement is a tribute to his untiring efforts to help fellow passengers into the lifeboats before he finally went down with the ship.  The second movement. Strangford Reflections. portrays the beauty and tranquillity of Strangford Lough.  Beautiful harmonies abound and combine with some wonderful solo work in the various sections of the band.  The final movement is called the Scrabo Jig and is a sharp contrast to the previous movement. It will surely set the feet tapping and is a joy to play as well as listen to.  Laureldale Brass Ensemble, the junior wing of the band will display their terrific talents under the baton of musical director, Ewan Easton.

Not to be missed will be Tuba Tapestry featuring Ewan Easton and Stephen Barnett, both principal players with the Ulster Orchestra. This promises to be a wonderful evening of music so come along and enjoy the fun. Tickets cost £6 for adults and £4 concession and are available from any band member or by phoning Comber 878660 or Belfast 878549.  Due to demand it is advisable to get your ticket in advance although a few tickets may be available at the door on Saturday night."

(reproduced from the original newspaper clipping courtesy of Tom Jellie)

50 Years of Music ~ and still blowing strong - 1999

50th Anniversary Concert' programme - 29 May 1999

Ronnie O’Prey (Cornet) joined the band in 1945, playing the side drum while the band was still a flute band, using a comparatively rare full set of Boosey and Hawkes Boehm system flutes.  At the change to silver in 1949 he was handed a cornet from a full set of Besson instruments which were bought from Myers and Harrison for £750 and arrived, without cases, in two enormous crates all packed in straw and wrapped up in tissue paper, accompanied by two live rats! The set of flutes was sold to Parkmount in Portadown for £650, so it cost ‘only £100’ (when money was money) to change from flutes to silver.  Over the years he has always played the cornet. and has had only three instruments in the fifty years; the original Besson, a Boosey Imperial and now a Sovereign. Ronnie says that in the earlier days many of the players couldn't play very well; the standard has gone up considerably.  The numbers at times went down, and it took special efforts by a small number of dedicated members to keep it going. Ronnie said at that time ‘there’ll be a band here while I’m alive — even if I have to come down on my own’. He says the band is playing really well now.  ‘Ewan has introduced a new style’.  And the thirty youngsters — he never thought he’s see that. Ronnie still practices every night — as a younger player he practiced every morning early, every lunchtime and every night.  His advice to the junior members in the Laureldale Ensemble is that the more practice they get the more fun they will get out of it — you don't get anything without working. He would also say of playing music ‘if you don’t have a feeling for it, don’t do it’.  Competitions don’t mean a thing to him in the sense of results or places — it’s important just to make the best music you can and enjoy it. A favourite piece of music would be the Overture Nabucco, but, he says, ‘Ewan never plays it!’

John Boyce (Percussion)  John moved from Comber Temperance Flute Band to Comber Silver when he was about 15.  As a side-drummer he became a member of a 4-strong team of side drummers including Billy Mcveigh, Maurice Jellie and James. Galway -‘at that time it was unusual for a brass band to have so many side-drummers.  The bass drummer then was Bobby Steenson.  A couple of years after he joined, the band stopped parading, and though percussion was only required from time to time, he continued to play when needed.  The drum kit (and other percussion) became a more familiar feature after this.

When John joined Comber Silver, the Laureldale Hall was being built and he recalls helping to concrete the front area where the cars park.  The conductor was Roy Morrow and under his baton the Band won the Intermediate section, playing English Folk Songs.

John reckons that 30 years ago nobody would have thought of 25 or 30 juniors and a-senior band of nearly 30.  The band is ‘playing four times better now”, and he is glad to see so many young players:  "for a while it was all electric guitars and keyboards, but through the tuition and opportunities in schools now children are being encouraged to take up instruments."  To them he says "Stick at it, listen to Ewan and take his advice."

Ian Roberts (Tenor Horn) joined the band in the same year that the County Down trains stopped running, which was the year after the band changed to silver.  Over the last 49 years he has played cornet, baritone, euphonium and tenor horn.  He had an old battered tenor horn' and thought the world of it' and says the horn is still his favourite instrument. Ian says that nowadays the band is playing music which would have been impossible for it thirty years ago - 'there's no question, the band has advanced - it's playing like professionals!'  He noticed this particularly when returning to the band after a gap of some years.  Warm memories include playing ‘In Switzerland’ in the Ulster Hall (not far from the Wasshington Bar!) and is especially fond of Gilbert and Sullivan’s lolanthe.  He remembers, too, coming in on the bus from the country to help build the Laureldale band hall.  Members of the band had various different skills and they built it themselves in the evenings and weekends. To the younger players he says ‘keep at the practice with enthusiasm, and who knows where some of you will end up’.

Tom Jellie (Bb flat Bass) was handed a cornet at the age of ten or eleven and has since then played the baritone (still his favourite), tenor horn and most recently Bb flat bass. He will also confess to playing the trombone ‘at home’! (You are left to work out how many years he has been in the band).  For a few years he was diverted away from the band by an interest he shares with Ewan and one or two others in the band — motorcycling, and is still an enthusiast.  Tom has wide knowledge and interest in the brass band literature and in all the instruments in the band. He feels the baritone is ‘just right’ for him and has made a number of unsuccessful attempts to escape from the “bottom end’ but these have so far proved fruitless, largely because of the great sound he is capable of making on the Bb flat!

Above: photo of Comber Silver Band taken in the summer of 1999  Back Row (L-R): Laura Farling, Kathryn Connolly, Daniel Campbell, Claire Conway, Sophie Ashcroft, George Henderson,  Wesley Thompson,  Alan Curry, George Clegg  Middle Row (L-R):   Emma Adams, Kevin Conway, Michael Alcorn, Ian Roberts, Sam Burgess, Michael Cunningham, Eric McKnight, Ken Browne, Pamela Snell, Ronnie O'Prey, Harry Rainey, Front Row (L-R):  Tom Jellie, Suzi Ashcroft, Robert Frost, Lawrence Baalham, Ewan Easton, John Adams, Maurice Ballham, Russell Lee, Desmond Sykes  (original in possession of Comber Brass)

Above: photo of Laureldale Brass Ensemble which was taken in the summer of 1999  Back Row (L-R): Ben Ashcroft, Reuben Barry, David Gabbey, Carl Ross, Judith Thompson, Amy Easton, Claire Caldwell, Richard Hamilton, Gareth Glegg, Pamela Snell   Middle Row (L-R):  Sue Easton, Emma Adams, Graham Bradley, Daniel Gabbey, Lance Hamilton, Laura Farling, Sophie Ashcroft, Jamie Adams, Victoria Welsh, Daniel Graham, Ben Gourley, Gareth Maguire, Kathryn Connolly, Nichola Patterson  Front Row (L-R):  Rebecca Adams, Suzi Ashcroft, John Houston, Alan Spratt, John Adams, Ewan Easton, Maurice Baalham, Daniel Campbell, Matthew Campbell, David Ashcroft (reproduced courtesy of Judith Thompson)

Above:  The Youth Hall of St Mary's Parish Church, Comber where the band have been rehearsing since 2018, having vacated their former hall at Laurel Bank, Comber. 

Above: Comber Silver band under the bation of conductopr Wesley Thompson performing in the Whitla Hall, Queen’s University Belfast on 28 November 2018 at the BBL Festival of Brass Competition (photograph reproduced courtesy of Gordon Gray). 

Earlies Festival hits the high notes - 2019

'The Newtownards Chronicle' - 27 June 2019

Comber Silver Band also hit a high note last weekend as they celebrated their 70th anniversary with a musical performance.  The band which originally started as a flute band in 1902 before converting to brass in 1949, were joined by a number of special guests to celebrate their monumental birthday at their 'Music in the Park' event.  They played together in an open air styled concert held at the Lower Crescent in Comber to mark the occasion as well as the Comber Earlies Festival and were joined by a good crowd.

Over 100 musicians participated during the afternoon from Ballygowan Flute Band, Comber Silver Band and The Band of the Royal Irish Regiment with the Pipes and Drums.  The afternoon, which was well attended closed with the massed bands playing Highland Cathedral and Killaloo.  Band members meet weekly to practice for concerts, contests, church services and a range other engagements including Christmas celebrations and Remembrance day services.  The band have also supported numerous local charities with their engagements.

The band is conducted by Wesley Thompson, a well accomplished musician with almost 50 years' experience as a euphonium player, playing mostly with the 1st Old Boys' Band.  Wesley has conducted a number of brass bands but has had most success with Comber Silver Band, where he has been conductor since 2010.  In that time the Band has grown in membership and has had considerable considerable success in 3rd section contests.  In addition, he works with a number of school brass bands and ensembles.  In January 2016, Wesley was appointed as Associate Conductor with Downshire Brass.  The members of Comber Silver Band gave their thanks to Comber Regeneration Partnership for their assistance in preparation for the event.  Mr Smith paid tribute to the organisers.  He said: "We were delighted to support Comber Silver Band in organising this tremendous concert and it was great to see such large crowds to appreciate the music.  "A big thank you to the three bands, the Royal Irish Regiment recruitment display team and Comber Army Cadets for their participation" He added: "Lower Crescent was a great venue and we will be certainly using this space again for future concerts after this success."

More festivities took place over the course of the week, with a variety of Ladies Fringe Festival events occurring in the lead up to the main Comber Earlies Food Festival. The food festival event will take place in Comber Square and St Mary's Church car park this Saturday, June 29. "Having come up with original idea in 2013 I am delighted that the festival goes from strength to strength," Mr Smith said. "This free family event features music, children's entertainment and of course artisan food, all with a Comber potato theme including cookery demonstrations from celebrity chef James Tanner. Fingers crossed for a repeat of last weekend's good weather." He concluded: "The Earlies Fringe Festival is run and managed entirely by volunteers from the community for the community.  I pay tribute to all the members of Comber Regeneration who give up their time to make this festival such a success, thank you."  The festival finishes this Sunday afternoon with a Churches together service in Comber Square at 3.30pm. 

Above: photograph taken at the 70th Anniversary 'Music in the Park' concert on 23rd June 2019. Back Row (L-R):  Councillor Philip Smith, 1?, Stuart Adair, James McClure, Ken Browne, Mark Lindsay, Shaun Finlay, Alderman Deborah Girvan  Front Row (L-R): 2?,3?, Wesley Thompson (Musical Director), 4?, Ryan Wilkin, Lawrence Baalham, Lucy Adams, Jane Smyth, Karen Gardener, Laura salt, Judith Thompson, Kirk Lindsay, Jackie Boyce, Gordon Gray (originally published in 'The Newtownards Chronicle' and copy obtained by Comber Brass.)

Successful Brass Workshop - 2022

'The Newtownards Chronicle' - 26 May 2022

Last Saturday afternoon, May 21, Comber Brass band held their ‘Youth Brass Workshop’ in the Youth Hall of St Mary’s Parish Church, Comber.  More than 30 students attended the event, ranging in age from eight to 15 years old.  Supported by a grant awarded by the Ards and North Down Borough Council, the youth band was conducted and led by Dr Jonathan Corry, assisted by local music tutors Wesley Thompson, Robin Clinton, Phil Tinney and Louise Lynch.

At the conclusion of the afternoon rehearsals, the students were joined by the tutors and several members of the Comber Brass band to give a short concert for the large number of parents and family members who had gathered to see them perform.  The workshop was organised by Comber Brass as part of their initiative to establish a youth band for young brass and percussion musicians, and the large number of students attending demonstrated the wide support from local parents, who were clearly delighted for the opportunity for their children to have taken part and to hear them perform together.  A lot of comments were received about how much the students had enjoyed their afternoon of playing together and making new friends.

Also lending their support to the event was local councillor, alderman Deborah Girvan, who extended her congratulations and appreciation to Comber Brass for their work in promoting the music arts and culture in the Ards and North Down borough, and in particular with the young people of the area.

Above: back row (L-R), Ards and North Down alderman Deborah Girvan; Lawrence Baalham chairperson, Comber Brass; Judith Thompson,committee, Comber Brass; Wesley Thompson Musical Director, Comber Brass; and Dr Jonathan Corry, freelance trumpet player, adjudicator, and conductor, along with students Isaac, Isabella, Dylan, Harry and Ethan who attended the workshop.

Comber Brass Band entertain at Garden Party - 2022

'The Newtownards Chronicle' - 14 July 2022

Members of Comber Brass Band were honoured to be invited to play at the first annual garden party to be held at Hillsborough Castle since the beginning of the Covid pandemic.

The Princess Royal Princess Anne was guest of honour at the garden party, hosted by the then Secretary of State Brandon Lewis. Several hundred guests attended the event, many of whom were community and public sector workers from across Northern Ireland being honoured for their contributions to society.

Above left:  "The Princess Royal meets the band conductor, Stuart Adair"  and above right:  "The band plays 'Run' by Snow Partol for the guests."

Youth Band Competition Success - 2023

'The Newtownards Chronicle' 16th February 2023

Historic Royal Performance - 2023

'The Newtownards Chronicle' 1st June 2023

Bridging the Generation Gap - 2023

'The Newtownards Chronicle' 7th June 2023

Friends & Family Concert  - 2024

'The Newtownards Chronicle' 29th February 2024