I never really knew the meaning of the word 'cold' until Christmas morning in 1968. I was eight years old, and this was the date of the first outing of the rejuvenated Clones Brass Band. We were a small ensemble, no more than a dozen hardy music lovers ranging in age from the elderly to those not yet in their teens. 'Silent Night' and 'Adeste Fideles' rang out from the various locations around the town, where we set up our mobile stage: the churches, the Butteryard and a visit to my grandparents' house. My grandfather had been a bandmaster in the past and now his son-in-law, my father, wielded the baton, metaphorically, since he also played while conducting.
That morning was bitterly cold with eyes, noses and fingertips ravaged by the snowless breeze. The warmest parts of the body were the lips, shielded from the cold by the round mouthpieces and toasted by the constant currents of hot breath discharged into our instruments in order to make music. Performing in public bestowed a certain status, even if the precise circumstances lacked trendiness.
Much of the music we played was arranged by my father with each part written out by hand - no photocopier made it an immensely laborious and difficult task.
It is a long, long time since I heard a brass band performing on Christmas morning, and the Clones Brass Band is defunct. But whenever I hear a band playing Christmas carols I think of my father, of his little band and especially of that very cold morning.
Christmas Past in Clones was cold but it evokes warm memories. My father played the trumpet, not the melodeon, and my mother certainly never milked the cows. But I still have my memory like a white rose pinned on the Virgin Mary's blouse.