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THE FLUTERíS TALE

Black Skull Flute Band, Glasgow

EVERYBODY knows me as ĎBig Jimí. Iím 26 and come from Bridgeton in the East End of Glasgow. The East End is mainly republican and Iím only a five-minute walk away from Celtic Park! Luckily, Bridgeton is one of the most die-hard loyalist areas of Glasgow. Itís made up of working class and middle class people. The middle class people are moving in because itís so near the city centre.

I've been playing the flute now for over ten years. I first picked the flute up when I was five and taught myself. To answer the question "how long does it take to learn the flute" all I can say is Iím still learning! Of course this all depends on how far you want to go and how much you want to learn. For instance, many people learn the Blood and Thunder stuff within weeks of blowing their first note.

The reason I became involved with flute bands is that I've been a member of the Orange Order since I was a baby. Iíve walked in many parades over the years. When I was 14 I moved away from the Orange scene. Like a lot of kids that age I just became interested in other things.

I returned to the band scene when I started a new job. There was a lad who worked beside me who was in the Pride of the Village (Thornliebank) Flute Band. We got speaking and he asked me along to their practice. After eight years with the PotV I thought it was time to move on.

I wanted to improve my playing and that meant joining a very dedicated band. Thereís around 50 bands in Glasgow - with new ones starting up every year Ė so I had plenty of choice. Theyíre all of varying standards but in the end I joined the Black Skull Flute Band (Glasgow).

The Black Skull Flute Band (BSG) can have as many as three practice sessions a week. However, this depends on what the band has on, such as competitions, parades or dances. I know that even during the 'Marching Season' there are probably a hundred and one excuses not to attend band practice. However, what keeps me going to practice is that if we miss any we are heavily fined (and you get an ear full from the Bandmaster and other members!) Thereís also the shear enjoyment of playing at the standard that we do and the banter which we have at our practices.

Iíve been in the BSG for two years now and have loved every minute of it. In the BSG I play the Bb 1st flute. The Bb is just a normal flute (youíll see other bands using it) but in our band we use the F flute which is for the low bass notes. We also use the piccolo. The Bb is also used to play seconds and this is what makes our band a core of drum.

Iíve walked (with the BSG) in a lot of big parades. On the Twelfth we walk with a lodge from Glengormley, Co. Antrim. This is a great parade. The banter is flowing (and so is the beer after the parade!). On the 13th July we walk in the Royal Black Preceptory in Scarva, Co. Down. In my opinion this is better than the 12th. The crowds are around 15 deep on either side of the streets. The amount and standard of bands is excellent. The Sir Knights also turn out in their thousands and are very well organised.

The biggest parade we attend is the Apprentice Boys of Derry parade in Londonderry. We are lucky enough to lead this parade with the Grand Council and office bearers. We also have the proud obligation of walking the walls of Derry with every Apprentice Boy who attends. This is the highest moment of our marching season!

The Glasgow Boyne celebration is a parade where we have the honour of walking with the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland. Here we are first in and out of the field. This could bring a tear to a glass eye. The atmosphere is so intense that when you parade out of the field (on the walk home) every hair on your body stands to attention!

Itís hard to describe what itís like being out on parade. Thereís a lot of things running through my mind. I have to keep my eyes on the Drum Major for his hand signals. I also need to watch the lad in front of me so I'm the correct distance away from him. My flute playing just come naturally from all the practice time that we put in. I also need to concentrate on the name of the tune that the band Sergeant shouts out.

The 12th July celebrations mean a lot to me. My family has taken part in it for generations. The reason I still keep doing it is so the tradition remains alive and well. We shouldnít forget about our religion and faith.

 

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