Sad death of a lifelong bandsman, Harry Kelly

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Shotts St Patrick’s Brass Band is sad to announce the death of former player and conductor Harry Kelly who passed away in hospital in Drogheda, Ireland, of COVID-19 complications on 17 January, 11 days after his 79th birthday.

Harry’s introduction to music came at the age of six when he started playing cornet, graduating to playing bass trombone. He wasn't the only musician in the family; his dad and brothers, James and Brian, also played in the band. The current line-up includes his nephew Mark and grand-nephew Ellis.

After playing throughout the 1950s and 60s, he took up the conductor’s baton while the band was in the 4th section. Always seeking to improve, he attended conducting courses and had a great respect for Elgar Howarth. Subsequently, it was not unusual to see Harry in deep conversation with Elgar during visits to the Belle Vue contests in Manchester. 

In the next five years, Shotts progressed through to the top section, enjoying various successes throughout the banding calendar. The band competed regularly in Scotland and nationally at the National Mineworkers Championships in Blackpool and the Senior Cup at Belle Vue.

The main highlights were winning the 3rd section at the National Mineworkers contest in 1972 and the 2nd section at the Scottish Championships in 1975. Having seen the band develop and prosper under his guidance, he signed off as conductor at the Scottish Championships in 1980.

It was in that year Harry moved to Drogheda when he took up a new job opportunity after the closure of BMC in Bathgate – and it wasn’t long before he was back banding.

He was appointed musical director of Drogheda Brass and Ardee Concert bands, both of which enjoyed success under his direction.

Notably, Drogheda became the first brass band from the Republic to win a section – the second – of the NIBA Championship in 1985 in the Ulster Hall, Belfast. He was also conductor when they were first winners of the new Championship section of the IABCB (Irish Association of Brass and Concert Bands) Nationals in Wexford 1987.

Ardee’s biggest victory came in 1986, winning the National Concert Band competition at Harrogate.

Harry later took up the post of MD with the Lourdes Brass Band, also in Drogheda, in 1990, winning multiple regional titles and national titles north and south of the border. His dedication and work with Lourdes were rewarded when he was made Honorary President in 2013.

Over the same period, he also had a 30-year association with Mullingar Town Band, again bringing success and investing time in developing youth players just as he did with all the bands he was associated with.

He helped many players to learn over the years, initially in his hometown of Shotts and then from his adopted home of Drogheda. 

Throughout his banding career, he always tried to inspire others and to share his love and enthusiasm for music. He will be sadly missed by everyone whose lives he touched.


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