The members were deeply shocked and saddened by the death of their esteemed President, Mr Sam Burgess, who passed away on the 6th. May 2018.
Sam joined the Band as a schoolboy around 1940 at a time when the Band was still a Flute Band. He recalled the changeover to Brass in 1949 and remembers unloading the new instruments at that time. He laughingly mentioned that the crates contained a few rats as well as the brass instruments.
He also told me how one twelfth he was parading with a flute and the following year he marched playing a cornet which he had taught himself to play in quite a short time. Many other Bandsmen had done likewise.
Over the years Sam became very proficient on the cornet and for a long time he, and the late Ronnie O’Prey, formed the backbone of the top section. Both of these gentlemen helped out Newtownards Band frequently in both the 60’s and 70’s and it was there that I first came in contact with Sam. I can vouch for the fact that not only was he a player to be respected, but if it had not been for him and indeed Ronnie, the Comber Silver Band may have folded in these times.
However it was not only as a player that Sam gave his many talents to the Band. He experienced all committee posts at various times and played a big part in organising the building of their own band hall. In later years when large capital was needed for new instruments, he was involved in negotiating the sale of this hall and setting up a contract with the purchasers for free use of the hall one night of the week plus a small room for storing band equipment - an arrangement which existed till very recently when the hall was resold.
When I joined the band in 1990 Sam was still a leading front row cornet. Shortly after he moved to the back row to help out the second cornets. Later still he transferred to the tenor horn and sat beside me in my Section. I was impressed not only by his musicianship but his commitment and dedication. He seldom missed a rehearsal or band engagement and would always put band interest above personal needs. I noticed too he always made a point of getting to know a new recruit and putting them immediately at ease.
About 6 or 7 years ago, Sam retired as a playing member. The reason was not that his health prevented this, but it was simply to enable him to devote all his time to his beloved Agnes who needed a lot of help and care at this time. This action, in itself, is so typical of a man for whom I have the utmost respect.
Several years ago, the Band honoured this life-time dedication by electing him as their President, making a presentation at a special Dinner to mark the occasion. Since then, Sam has never failed to pop in at a final rehearsal before a major contest - not only to show his continued interest but to give the few words of encouragement, which he did so often during his playing years.
It is impossible to quantify the contribution Sam has made to the well-being of Comber Silver and the only way we can show our gratitude is to ensure that the Band flourishes in the years ahead as a tribute to our dear friend.