Keeping a long tradition alive: Members of Limerick Pipe Band playing before the Garryowen match against Clontarf in the All Ireland League recently Pictures: Gareth Williams
THE POPULAR City of Limerick Pipe Band has been given a new lease of life, after being left in “Limbo land” following an eviction from their home of two years a number of weeks ago.
Now, the 68-year-old band is drumming to a new beat, bringing a unique musical experience at Garryowen home games after the rugby club offered them a practising spot on their pitches, free of charge.
Band secretary Noelle McKenna said that they were based at the CIE sports and social club, on Careys Road, for two years, but had received a text message from owners to move out six weeks ago.
This, she said, was “devastating. Because it left us in a situation, because next year we want to get back into competitions, so it left us in a kind of Limbo land. And if you take too long, the kids will go off and join other bands, and you end up losing what you have. So we had to act quick and think of a solution to keep what we have.”
A spokesperson for CIE said that the space was leased from CIE property.
“The club had in recent years made it available to the Pipe Band for use. However, it’s not in great condition anymore, and as a result, the Club has had to close access to it for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Noelle said because funding is low in the band, it was difficult to secure a new venue. Her two children, 21-year-old Shane and 16-year-old Emma, are “passionate” members of the band, following the footsteps of their grandfather who was one of its founders.
It wasn’t long before Noelle picked up the phone to Kieran Ryan, grounds manager of Garryowen RFC, to ask if they could be accommodated.
Kieran said that he brought the idea to the club’s executive committee, and suggested the idea of the pipe band performing before the home games. He considered it a “win-win”, as it would allow them to practice on the pitch.
“We are just trying to give them as much help as we can. They are part of our history in Limerick, and I think there is an onus on us to try and keep them alive,” he told the Leader this week.
City of Limerick Pipe Band’s first practice session took place two weekends ago, when the home side beat the Buccaneers 29-17.
They played again last weekend, before Garryowen thrashed Clontarf 51-17.
Mr Ryan said that the performance was particularly poignant, following the death of club stalwart Neville Furlong.
The former rugby player was remembered with a minute’s silence before kick-off.
“It was very poignant because several members of the band have served in the military over the years, and a few lads actually served with Neville.
“Neville touched a lot of people through the army and through Garryowen. And the band itself, it just felt really appropriate that they played. And the band were there bright and early, trying to make sure that everything was spot on. They were absolutely immaculate.”
Noelle told the Leader this week that they are “delighted” to have a new home in Garryowen and that the atmosphere “has been great”.