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Dedicated Billy celebrates 70 years of music with Portrush flute band

By Allan Preston

Published 23/07/2016

Billy Dallas has been a member of Ballywillan Flute Band since 1946
Billy Dallas has been a member of Ballywillan Flute Band since 1946
Billy as a 10-year-old boy in Ballywillan Flute Band

In a picture taken at Coleraine Showgrounds decades ago, a budding 10-year old flautist from Portrush can be seen proudly holding a trophy, a smile beaming from his face.

Seventy years later, grandfather Billy Dallas (80) remains a dedicated member of Ballywillan Flute Band and has no plans to hang up his uniform.

As one of the longest-serving band members in Northern Ireland, it has been 20 years since Billy was awarded a medal for 50 years' service.

During his musical career, he has served as band leader, taught many youngsters and even had a march composed in his honour.

Today, Billy plays in the band with two of his grandsons and has plans to perform at the Somme in August.

"He has a real passion for it, and that's probably what had kept him going over the years," his son, Roger Dallas, told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It's his main interest in life - he's always been a keen musician. He has been responsible for training countless numbers of flautists that have come through the band. He has great patience, something I'm not blessed with.

"In the dead of winter he used to bring the learners up to our house, where it was warmer.

"We had to sit and listen to these ones in our kitchen. If you've ever had to sit with kids learning the flute, it would do your head in.

"It's probably my mother, Patricia, who has kept him at it for so long.

"He's the type of person that gives 100% - he was the same in his career when he worked as a contractor for BT. He just had that attitude in life."

Roger recalls that on the day his late brother, David, was born in the family home, his father had to dash back late from the opening of an Orange hall in Portrush.

On Billy's birthday in 2008, his sons surprised him with a specially commissioned march, MacIlvennon, named after the Portrush townland of his birth.

Speaking from the family home, Patricia Dallas said the flute music for their forthcoming trip to the Somme was already sitting out on the table.

"He's been in the band as long as I've known him, and some time before that," she explained. "On Saturday, he came home from a parade in Portrush and said he thoroughly enjoyed it.

"I can tell you the band comes before most things. He enjoys it, but sometimes I say, 'If that flute comes out again I'm putting it in the shed'."

Billy and Patricia met in 1958 as members of the choir in Ballywillan Presbyterian Church.

"We're still there and you couldn't get rid of us if you tried," she said.

On August 1 the couple travel to the Somme, where the band will perform at the Menin Gate.

"To think we're actually going to be there with the band playing... it's just going to be wonderful," Patricia explained.

Belfast Telegraph

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