Belfast Telegraph

Stepping out in harmony as three generations of one musical family celebrate the Twelfth

Ivan Duff with his son Winston and daughters Gwen and Beverly. Gwen daughter Emma and Beverly’s children Zoe and Sarah
Ivan Duff with his son Winston and daughters Gwen and Beverly. Gwen daughter Emma and Beverly’s children Zoe and Sarah
Ivan Duff with his daughter Gwen (left) and grand daughter Emma
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

It's a family affair today for the Duff family as three generations will take part in Augher's Twelfth celebrations.

Ivan Duff from Ballygawley has been a member of the Dergina Accordion Band for 60 years.

The 70-year-old, who is married to Margaret (69), joined when he was just 10 and was recently recognised for his time in the band.

Now it's very much a family event for Ivan as three of his children Gwen Bartley (45), Winston Duff (44) and Beverly Hylands (41) are all in the band.

His other son Stephen (40) was also a member before he moved to Scotland and now his grandchildren are involved.

Granddaughters Zoe Hylands (15), Emma Bartley (14) and Sarah Hylands (12) are band members.

Emma plays the side-drum, Sarah has the role of drum major while Zoe plays the accordion.

Ivan said: "It's tradition here. My father was in it and my brothers, it's just the tradition that you went into the band as soon as you were able to go into it.

"Apparently, the only Twelfth I missed was the year I was born.

"My family have all been in it from they were about six and up.

"The girls got married and moved away and then they had left the band until the children came and then the grandchildren said they were joining granda's band."

They decided that as they were taking their children to band practice, they might as well join again.

For Ivan, it's very special to have his family with him in the band.

He added: "You enjoy the social aspect of it.

"You have different functions you go to as a band.

"Even the band practice can be good fun."

They take a rest after the Twelfth for a couple of months and then start to practise again on Monday nights.

Nearly all of his children and grandchildren play the accordion, except for Emma, who plays the side-drum.

"That was the first time a girl ever in our band played the side-drum," he said.

"She started learning the accordion but always talked about doing the drums.

"We let her do it one night and she seemed to have a natural talent for it.

"And she has did this ever since.

"It is quite heavy, but the determination keeps you going."

Meanwhile, Sarah is the drum major who leads the band from the front.

"Her mother did it before her and then she got married and was out of the band, so someone else did it for a few years and when Sarah became able to do it, that's what she wanted to do.

"She takes good pride in doing it and it has to be done right.

"Stopping the band when it needs to stop and starting them off - that's all her responsibility."

Ivan is the only one in the band who plays the button-keyed accordion.

The rest all play the piano-keyed version.

He said: "Originally when I started it was all button key, but now because young folk learn music at home on the piano, it's easier for them to play the piano accordion."

After six decades of parading, Ivan says that he still enjoys it and always finds some extra energy for the walks.

He added: "I do know the hills are starting to get steeper for some reason, they tell me it's to do with birthdays!

"But I would find it a bit more difficult now, but you still have the energy to do it."

And of course this can be compounded by the weather.

Ivan says he always hopes it's dry, as rain doesn't mix well with accordions.

"It does worry you because rain spoils accordions," he said.

"You have to wear capes over them and you don't like playing with capes.

"We are always watching the weather, thinking 'hopefully the shower will not come until we've finished the parade'."

Ivan says that every Twelfth is a special day.

However, the one that sticks in his memory was the tercentenary parade in 1990.

He said: "The most memorable day I had was in 1990.

"Our band led our district in Belfast for the tercentenary parade and that was one memorable day.

"Our Twelfth here is a small occasion, very much a family picnic-type thing.

"And suddenly to be in Belfast parading, it was just something very different and sticks in all our minds.

"It's something I'll never forget.

"But every Twelfth is a special day for us - one to look forward to."

Today is the first time the Tyrone village has hosted the parade since 2013 and there will be 20 bands taking part.

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