Friday, 9 May 2014

Ritchie Memorial Flute Band

Ulster Tower
One reader of this blog reminded me of the Ritchie Memorial Flute Band at Ligoniel and I understand that it was named after a Benjamin Ritchie.  That set me looking on the internet in search of answers to two questions.  When was the band on the road and who was the Ritchie in the name of the band?

The band was certainly in existence in the 1950s and 1960s because it won the melody section of the North of Ireland Band Association flute band competition in 1950, 1952, 1961 and 1962.

A reader of the blog indicated that it was named after a Benjamin Ritchie, who lived at Ligoniel, and that pointed me towards finding out more about Benjamin Ritchie.

Benjamin was born in Lisburn and was the son of Alexander Ritchie, who died on 31 January 1903 aged 49 and Margaret A Ritchie, who died on 8 January 1922 aged 69. He was educated at Friends School in Lisburn but some years later the family moved to Ligoniel.

He was recorded in the 1911 census as living at Ligoniel Road with his mother Margaret, who was a widow, 57 years of age and a native of county Monaghan.  She had seven children but only two were living at home. His sister Sarah Ritchie was 36 and was a yarn reeler in a flax mill. Benjamin was 24 years of age and a yarn bundler in a flax mill.  The family were Presbyterians.

Benjamin Ritchie was a very active member of the Orange and Black institutions and he served for some years as treasurer of Red Cross RBP No 210.  In September 1912 he signed the Ulster Covenant at the City Hall and gave his address as 5 Kathleen Terrace.  However the report of the City of Belfast Grand Black Chapter gave his address as 4 Kathleen Terrace.

At the start of the First World War he enlisted in the army in Belfast and served in the 15th battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, which was part of the 36th (Ulster) Division.  This battalion was formed in September 1914  from the North Belfast battalion of the UVF and trained at Ballykinlar.   Like so many other young Ulstermen, Rifleman Benjamin Ritchie was killed in action on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  He was 30 years of age.

His older brother Alexander Ritchie, who was named after their father, must have emigrated from Ulster to Canada for he was killed in action in Belgium  on 13 March 1916, aged 32, while serving in the Central  Ontario Regiment of the Canadian Infantry.

The family headstone at Derriaghy parish church graveyard commemorates the deaths of the two brothers and also commemorates Henry Ritchie who died on 3 November 1920 in Coatbridge in Scotland, aged 44; John Ritchie, who died in Winnipeg, Canada; and Sarah Ritchie, who died on 7 February 1951.

Two members of this family emigrated from Ulster to Canada early in the 20th century and Canada was indeed a popular destination for Ulster emigrants.  Coatbridge also attracted a considerable number of Ulster folk and my mother was born in Coatbridge of Ulster parents.

But when was the Ritchie Memorial Band formed, how long did it remain on the road and what other information or photographs are available?

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