Ballynafeigh is a small area of South Belfast. It runs from the Ormeau Bridge to the roundabout were the Ormeau Road meets the Ravenhill Road. It is halfway up this section of the Ormeau Road you can find Parkmore Street and Somerset Street the streets where the Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys Flute Band were formed.
The date of the bands formation is the early 1890′s. The band was formed by young men who were apprentices in places like the Ormeau Road Gas-works or in the shipyard, hence the name –Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys. The band appears in the records of Ballynafeigh Orange Hall in June 1902 but is known to have been in existence long before this date. At first the band practised in the open entry at the end of Somerset Street so if it rained band practice was cancelled for that night. It then moved indoors in the same entry to what used to be old stables before moving round into an entry in Parkmore Street to a hall that was owned by Ava Blues Supporters Club.
When the Blues Club folded in the late 1960′s the hall was sold to the Education Board to become Parkmore Youth Club meaning the band had to find a new hall to practise in. With no hall in the area and the refusal of the Ballynafeigh Orange Hall committee to allow the band the use of the Orange Hall the band was forced with moving from it’s roots for a short period down to the Donegall Pass to practice in the hall used by the Donegall Pass Defenders Flute Band, now known as the [South Belfast Young Conquerors].
After a short period the band moved back to Ballynafeigh to practice in the Royal British Legion Hall up at Florenceville Avenue, now knocked down and turned into two houses. Band night in those days used to be thursday’s and after Top of the Pops band members used to head out of the Deramore Arms bar to practice. The uniform was blue sayers [more a black colour] with gold braiding white shirt and black dickie bow and it was made by the well known tailors, Spackmans from High Street.
At the start of the 1970′s and with the trouble becoming more intense the band found itself coming under attack more frequently from youths coming into the area from the Markets to attend the St. Mary Youth Club just up above Florenceville at Carolan Road. Due to these attacks the band took the decision to look for their own hall back down the Ormeau Road.
The Start of the Ballynafeigh Band Hall
A disused launderette at the corner of Walmer Street and Blackwood Street was purchased with five Trustee’s going as guarantors for the premises. As the premises needed a lot of work done to them and money was tight, alcohol at first was sold after band practice to help fund the work. This later progressed to selling alcohol on a Sunday night because bars in these days were not open on Sundays.
This was the first steps in the arrival of the Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys Flute Band Club being formed, all be it as a she-been. The hall was raided by the police and the alcohol confiscated, so after this happened the band decided to try and secure a club licence to sell alcohol legally. This was secured and the Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys Flute Band Hall was now legal.
The humble beginning from Launderette to Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys Flute Band Club have now been in existence for well over 30 years and now incorporates numbers 3 & 5 Walmer Street as well. Practice night is now on a Monday night and there is very few young protestant lads from the Ballynafeigh area that have not been in or part of Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys Flute Band such have been the family traditions over the years.