First talk of starting up a band was mentioned at the funeral of Jimmy Templeton.
`Tempy` or `Jimmy` was a dear friend to many locally, and was a true Loyalist and proud Orangeman. He had always wanted a flute band to play at the graveside of his funeral, and although a few flautists lamented a couple of tunes, no band was able to attend.
Therefore, following lengthy discussion, it was agreed to call a meeting for the purpose of starting a band in Saltcoats. As a result, in August 2005, Saltcoats Protestant Boys Flute Band was established.
Present at the inaugural meeting held in the Orange Hall, Saltcoats, and therefore founder members, were the following current members of the SPB; Frank McKee, Gary Woods, John McKee, Kenny Pollock, Jim Lindsay, Charles Beattie and Allan Bruce.
First item on the agenda was the name of the band.
It was decided unanimously that Saltcoats Protestant Boys would be appropriate, and although the general feeling was that this would restrict the band from playing in local fete`s, gala`s etc, this would be representative of the bands objective; the promotion and defence of Loyalism, Protestantism and Unionism - this is reflected in the tunes that the band play encompassing all sections of the Loyalist community.
Now that the band had a name, a course of action was necessary to enable the purchase of instruments.
We had no money, but thankfully the current band President, Frank McKee, loaned the band the sum of £2,000 - although not a massive amount in today`s climate, this gave the band a solid financial footing, one which enabled the purchase of 1 bass drum, 8 side-drums and 15 flutes from Drongan Young Conquerors, to which we were grateful for the affordable selling price.
Now that we had obtained instruments, a place to practice was needed.
It was decided to ask LOL 82, the owners of the Orange Hall, for permission to use their establishment for band practice and to ask them to sponsor the band for the stipulated one year as per Grand Lodge regulations. As the Worthy Master and Treasurer of the Lodge were also members of the band, this would hopefully facilitate an approval.
It was duly passed by the Lodge that the band would have use of their premises and that any fee due for lease would be waived - the hall to this day is still being used, in fact, we are in more often than not on Wednesday night`s too, this to allow additional practice for those still learning. The Lodge also agreed to the sponsoring of the band, consequently, as a gesture of gratitude for both, the band has decided to waive band fees due to them for this year`s Church Parade and the Ayrshire, Renfrewshire & Argyle Boyne Demonstration.
In the beginning we only had 5 members who had any band playing experience; a bass drummer, 3 flautists and a side drummer. Within a few weeks, membership had risen to more than 20 - posters advertising for members were placed in various local hostelries; Mermaid Bar, in Saltcoats and The Cross Keys, in Stevenston, to name a couple. Membership has fluctuated, as is the case with most bands - we do, however, have a devoted number of around 20, with current membership standing at just over 30. Extensive practice, particularly from those with no previous experience, would have to be undertaken to enable us to get on the street as soon as possible.
As mentioned previously, the band started with no money. Therefore we relied, in part, on the generosity of local sympathetic organisations for donations and assistance - we are unendingly grateful to those that helped us out in our time of need.
As well as donations, fund raising functions were held to enable the future development of the band. The support received from the loyalist community, in the form of donations, attendance and participation at these functions helped us immensely to get to the stage we are at today.
Monies raised from that which has been mentioned beforehand would be used in the purchase of music stands, flute pouches and various forms of perishables, for example, drum sticks, skins & flute keys. As well as the above, a uniform was also purchased.
Again, with vast amounts of money not being readily available, a new uniform was out of the question. Therefore, we asked our friends in Scotland and Ulster if they knew of any second-hand uniforms for sale. To our benefit, Rutherglen Bluebell were changing their uniform and were willing to give us their old one for a donation - again, the SPB are grateful for the benevolence - the strength and bond of loyalism reaches far and wide!
We now had in excess of 30 uniforms and were almost ready for the road. One other essential was missing though - the band crest.
Paul Mikkelson, one of our artistically talented flute players, came up with the basis of a design which he thought was appropriate; St Andrews Cross on one side and The Union Flag on the other. This idea was welcomed but also added to giving the band its current crest; St Andrews Cross and Union Flag flanking the centrally located Red Hand topped by the Crown.
Although thought was given to having a Saltcoats theme, it was decided that what we have now was more appropriate for what the band stands for i,e supporting Scotland, defending Ulster and maintaining our Rights as loyal citizens of the United Kingdom.
After almost 18 months of hard work, enthusiasm and bountiful commitment, it was felt that we were ready to hit the streets - on the 11th February, 2007 the SPB had their first parade through the streets of Saltcoats. A large following ensued, a mixture of well-wishers and the curious. The standard of the bands performance surprised many and those that said that it would never happen, that we would never put a band on the streets of Saltcoats, were proved wrong. We had arrived!
Since that day we haven`t looked back and have taken on many engagements; Kilbirnie LOL in what was to be known as the `tour of the valley`, Dalry Young Citizens band parade, Irvine Newtown Defenders Band parade and competition and not least being afforded the honour of parading with LOL District No.9 at the Act Of Union tercentenary parade in Edinburgh, just some of the highlights.
As you will have gathered, the band has strong links with the Orange Order and it is hoped that these links will be maintained. To date, we have undertaken the privilege of parading with both Stevenston and Saltcoats LOL`s at their annual Church parades as well as supporting the Juvenille Lodges of District No.9 in Johnstone at their Church Parade.
This brief history of the band, partly tells of the difficult times we endured as we endeavoured to achieve our aspirations. There are many people to thank for their support and assistance in getting the band on the road; Newtown Defenders & Abbey Star Flute Bands as example - there are too many to name them all here. To all those that have helped though, we hope that we have repaid your belief in us and that you are proud of what we have achieved. We have demonstrated that there is a need for a flute band in Saltcoats and have proved a lot of people wrong. Evidence of this is not only displayed by this website, but by the unmistakable sound of the SPB as we march through the town.
We believe the community has benefited from our existence, young lads who may have succumbed to the corner-boy mindset, have been given an opportunity to achieve something that they probably thought that they couldn`t do - play in a flute band.
The SPB is proof that dedication, loyalty, togetherness and a willingness to learn - all good Protestant virtues - can have its desired rewards.
This is just the start of what we hope is a never-ending story................
We have given much, we have much to give.
WE ARE THE SPB.