By Eoin English
Irish Examiner
Monday, March 12, 2012

Members of a legendary brass and reed band marched through Cork city yesterday to honour their founder as part of their 175th anniversary celebrations.

The city’s famed Barrack Street Band, which is reputed to be the country’s oldest amateur musical institution in continuous existence, performed for the Lord Mayor at 9.30am Mass at the Lough church.

They then marched down Bandon Road, along Barrack Street past the band-house, and into the city centre where a wreath was laid at the foot of the statue of band’s founder, Fr Theobold Mathew, at the northern end of St Patrick’s Street.

“It marks the official launch of the musical element of our 175th anniversary celebrations,” band chairman Billy O’Callaghan said. “It’s always been a real team effort down through the years. It’s not about the individuals — it’s always been about the band.”

The Barrack Street Band, known affectionately as the ‘Barracka’, was officially founded as a temperance band by Fr Matthew in 1837. There were dozens of such bands in the city at the time and they played a key role in the temperance movement.

During the early years, the Barracka, which was based at No 1 Barrack Street, would often march the city’s dim, gas-lit streets by night, playing inspirational airs, accompanied by crowds of temperance supporters parading in torch light to give hope to those who had lost their way.

Several concerts will take place throughout the year to celebrate the band’s 175th anniversary, the highlight of which will be the Lord Mayor’s Community Heritage concert at City Hall, on Sept 29.

The band, which marched in its first St Patrick’s Day Parade in Cork in 1872, is due to perform in the city’s parade again next Saturday.