LIMERICK city native “Pa” Phelan braved the rain, and the pandemic, to lead out the Boherbouy brass and reed band for a socially-distanced outdoor concert in Corbally this week.
The sprightly 91-year-old is President of the Boherbouy Band, which was formed from the remnants of the British Army Band in 1850, blew away the covid blues to mark the 50th anniversary of the Park Gardens estate.
The neighbourhood is home to many famous local “heads”, including legendary Limerick soccer hero Des Kennedy who famously scored twice against 1980-81 European Cup finalists Real Madrid.
Two local girls went on to marry two members of The Cranberries on their way to rock stardom; while cycling enthusiast Angela Lynch is known as the godmother to every child in the estate, where many got a fine start in life with pre-school guru Vivienne Campbell Vereker.
With music so much a part of the community, Pa and his band celebrated the golden jubilee in appropriate style.
Local resident Joe Mulcahy, of iconic 1970s rock n roll band Reform, along with his wife Nuala, who is an award-winning singer, joined in the celebrations with their neighbours and friends.
Half a century of community has of course forged life-long bonds between neighbours, explained resident Paddy Brennan, the man behind the famous Limerick Rock n Roll Club, who helped form the residents association in 1970.
“We used to get personalities like Tony Ward out to present the trophies to the kids after the local sports days. We won tidy gardens competitions and organised outings to rugby internationals,” he recalled.
Community solidarity is just as strong in the hearts of ‘blow-ins’, like Pa Phelan, a native of Edward Street whose love for the 170-year-old Boherbouy Band has never waned.
“I’m 91 — and a bit — and don’t forget ‘the bit’. I was born four doors away from the band hall. It’s my hobby and I’ve played all over the world,” he proudly declared.
“I was reared on the euphonium, it’s part of the bass section; a magnificent instrument, the sound out of it is beautiful.”
He laughed out loud remembering his music teacher’s motto…“The euphonium player is like a tenor in the band, he always gets the girl.”
“My wife died nine years ago, but all my family are in the band. We had seven children, and they have been in bands, in Dublin and all over America,” said Pa.
“I’m playing as much as I can, even out in the rain.”
Quick to remind his younger bandmates that they still have a lot to learn, he added with a wink: “I got a civic reception with the mayor a few years ago, I thought it was the whole band getting it, and the next thing the Mayor James Collins called me up – It was a great surprise.”
The inclement weather didn’t dampen the spirits either, and residents clapped on local couple Teresa and Joe Begg who were presented with a bottle of champagne to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.