In the early months of 1975 under the guidance of Jimmy McCarroll, some lads from Galgorm and the surrounding area decided to start a flute band.
As with most ideas of this sort, finance would be the main obstacle, so they set about raising the money by various different methods.
On the 18th and 26th of July, door to door collections were taken up. Also during that month someone thought of a novel way of making money. A jar of sweets was purchased at the huge outlay of ninety pence. This was taken door to door and funds were raised by people paying to guess at the number of sweets in the jar. The result of these efforts was a grand total of forty-three pounds and ninety-two pence. This was the start of the new bands uniform and instrument fund.
By September the band had sufficient funds to buy their first instruments, these were four side drums, bass drum and thirty flutes at a total cost of £335.15, barely the price of one side drum at today prices.
A uniform of black trousers, white shirts, red tie and blue jumpers was to be the first worn by the band. In those days of course the trousers had to be worn just below the knee and D.M. boots were standard issue. In April "76", 36 Balmoral hats were bought to complement the above and in June of that year they held their dedication parade. Little did these founder members realise that they had just started what would become one of the best known bands in N. lreland and Scotland, "Pride of the Maine Flute Band".
Things changed fast in the early days. Parts of the uniforms were added and removed. At first the actual vocal noise of the band was more distinguishable than
the actual instruments sounds, but as with the uniforms this changed quickly and the emphasis was turned more towards the musical qualifies that could be achieved. Don't get me wrong, volume and noise both remained very important, the main difference being that the fluters saved more of their breath for playing rather than shouting.
In 1977 a major change in uniform took place which has left its influence on the band right up to the present day. The basic black trousers and blue jumpers were discarded to take on a more individual look. Blue trousers were made to order in a colour shade picked by the members themselves. Sky Blue shirts and ties were acquired to match the trousers The following year a crest was designed and added to the shirt. Those in band circles will know that this is the colour and basis of what they have worn right up until the present day.
The band at it's offset was really the only band of it's kind in the Ballymena Area. It was therefore well supported by the local youth. Membership was never allowed to go above sixty as this seemed like a manageable number and for this reason there usually was a waiting list to join.
The problem of too many members does not exist today, as there is a number of outfits recruiting from the same area as P.O.T.M. In fact several flute bands in Ballymena and the surrounding district have come and gone since the band has formed, probably for this same reason.
At the beginning of the marching season the band changed their uniform again. As has already been said the colour remained the same but jackets and hats were added. The band was the first to take this step and it certainly changed their image significantly.
Through the years the band attended many parades throughout Ulster and Scotland, the total must be getting near the region of 1 500 since the bands formation. They have paraded in all the big occasions since 1976, Derry Day, Black Saturday, Scarva Sham Fight, The Tercentenary Parade, The Mini Twelfth, and of course The Twelfth of July Celebrations. They have a long standing contract with Galgorm and Galgorm Parks Telford Memorial 1109 Black Preceptory for the last Saturday in August Parade. Up until a few years ago the band paraded in the Belfast Demonstration with the Beersbridge Road Bible and Crown Defenders L.O.L. 891. The band has never paraded with a local lodge on the 12th due to the fact that when they started off the local district thought that they had a bad image and would spoil their parade. I think now that they have seen what a big mistake they have made but it would take an awful lot of persuasion to bring them back. It was in Belfast in 1989 that the band had one of its biggest competition successes when they were judged to be "Best Overall Band" on parade and in 1983 the band had yet another success when they were judged to be the 'Best Traditional Band " in the parade. In 1997 the band decided to move from the Belfast district to Portadown. There they took up a contract with Erin's Royal Standard L.O.L. 20. In their first year there they took part in the parade in Armagh. Unfortunately due to the Government bowing down to Republicans the men of Portadown District were prevented from returning from the annual Drumcree church service by the traditional route. The district made the decision to stay on the hill instead of going to the parade in Lurgan. This meant that we were not required on the 12th. To show our support we spent the day at Drumcree as we have done many times since. From 1980 the band travelled to Glasgow for the Scottish "Orange Walk" demonstration here they had along term affiliation with Kinning Park Purple Heroes L.O.L 353. Although many a good weekend was spent there and the Glasgow walk has an atmosphere all of its own in 1994 the band decided after a lot of thought and debate often heated that it was time to move on. They moved up to the east-coast and took up a contract with East Fife Protestant Defenders L.O.L. 240 where they remain to this day.
The instruments used by the band over the years have changed greatly the flute section have moved from one key Millar Browne flutes, to the three piece five key version and nowadays they use a six key Millar Wicke copy of the old Crown AZ. The drummers likewise have changed from Clansman to Premier to the most up to date Andante percussion instruments. The whole band scene has changed so much over the years that most of these changes had to be made to keep ahead of Bands that started up as "Kick The Pope "bands have moved forward and are a lot more involved in the competition scene. Nearly every parade today is a competition and in this area the band has had its fair share of success. The most memorable of these being thirteen first prizes in one day. The present members, like most of the past although keen enough for success in competition terms see enjoyment and self satisfaction in their own playing ability and furthering Ulster’s cause as their prime aim. They strive to please the public ear rather than simply to impress the judges.
One long serving member of the band was asked “How many members did he think had been through the ranks of the band since its formation?” He got greyer by the minute as he thought of the answer. The figure is well into its hundreds with a number of present members being holders of a tankard for ten years unbroken service. He said the crack had been good, and that he had seen a lot of the country. You have to remember that twenty five years ago the only way to get outside your home town on a regular basis was to join a band. Something that has changed now and I think has affected bands on a whole. He had been in a great variety of places and had done an even bigger variety of thing's. The membership today, although a lot smaller is still of the same high standard as ever. It would be easy enough to put men on the road who were not ready, just to have a large band that looks well. We pride ourselves on every man knowing the tunes before he does a parade.
Around 1990 the band felt that a new uniform was required because of our original blue, it was some what difficult to make any dramatic change so for the first time black was introduced. To many this would not seem like a major step but to the band it was the first step towards a more dramatic change. This came in 1994 with new younger members joining and other bands coming up with different styles. The older members knew in order to stay ahead they would have to accept change. The first was the tunic, the band had always worn shirts and ties but this was becoming a thing of the past so a button up tunic was introduced. A lot of bands at the time had moved to tartan trousers, some of which looked very well, others were a bit hard on the eyes. As usual we wanted something a bit different, so we found a tartan that we liked and had it dyed our blue. This is now called the "Pride of the Maine” tartan and is exclusive to the band. Hats were a problem too, we had tried every hat under the sun and were never able to get anything we were entirely happy with. No other flute band in recent years had worn the Glenngarry, which was more akin to accordion bands. Usually in black, these were dyed our colour and completed the uniform. We had to take a lot of stick about these, but this was more to the fact that nobody else had the innovation to try something new and different.
Some of the new members will be experiencing their first annual parade, something they won’t forget. It has been estimated that up to 15,000 people have lined the streets of Ballymena to watch it. There has been up to 90 bands attending with regular attendance of Scottish outfits and on a few occasions a band from the South. The parade has always been well run and trouble free and is one of the most popular parades in the country for participants and spectators alike. This I might add is with the exception of 1997 when the R.U.C used the excuse of the legitimate protest at Harryville chapel to swamp the town with police and D.M.S.U units. This led to the intimidation of bands and spectators in ways such as having Land Rovers at the front and back of the parade. Videoing bands leaving the starting point and a totally unnecessary police presence in the town. This caused a very bad atmosphere of which eventually erupted into violence. This of coarse was just what the D.M.S.U. thugs wanted and they went about their usual business of " Prod Bashing ". Anyone who thinks these people are on the side of Protestantism should wake up and smell the roses.
On that night, innocent men, women and children were batoned, had plastic bullets fired at them and Land Rovers driven at speed into the crowds. No regard was given to age or gender everyone was a target. Two young girls were set upon by them in the darkness of the playing fields, windows on some of the buses were smashed by them and bandsmen batoned as they tried to get on their buses some had to jump on to other buses to escape. Our local M. P. and a number of the committee made complaints, and an investigation was launched, which of course the RUC investigated themselves. The result of which was that the RUC were totally justified in their actions, where's the justice in that. The policing was reduced to a normal level next year and ‘surprise surprise’ there was no trouble.
The band hopes to support the cause Protestantism and would like to wish all bands all over the province courage and strength to do this now and in the future.