13 Sr. Francis McMyler

Sr Francis McMyler
School Band
School Band

Sr. Francis McMyler’s love of music began in her childhood when she was taught the piano.  On entering the Convent in Ballinrobe she was requested to teach singing in the school.  Sr. Francis also played the organ in the church with the help of Sr. Baptist.

In 1972 Sr. Francis went to San Diego to teach for a year.  Her class asked to make a record and they were so proud of that.  After returning from America Sr. Francis was approached by Norman Molloy to set up a local parade for St. Patrick’s Day. The way St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in America inspired her.

Before going to America Sr. Francis started the school band having heard of the wonderful brass band set up by Brother Conway, which was no longer functioning. Some of the green capes from Brother Conway’s band were got for Sr. Francis’s band. The band uniform consisted of a green cap with a red pom-pom and replica Tara brooch attached, a green cape, a white shirt, a red skirt, a pair of white knee-high socks, two garters with red and green ribbons worn around the top of the socks, and black shoes for the girls. The boys wore the same with white trousers and red and green stripes down the side of the legs.

Sr. Francis also started the adult choir before travelling to America. When she returned in 1973, she reawakened The Choral Society (Ballinrobe Musical Society) with the help of Michael Finlay as chairman. There was great interest and the following year in March when The Pirates of Penzance was staged. Michael Coyne and Delia Loughrey had the leading roles along with J.J. Gannon.

Around 1975 the children’s choir started singing at 10am Mass every Sunday. Sr. Francis also staged many operettas in the school. She saw a need for you people to express themselves through performing, which would help them develop academically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The spiritual development was very important for Sr. Francis.

Fast forward to 1993 when I started second class and I joined the children’s choir.  Choir practice was a regular feature Friday evening and singing every Sunday at 10am Mass.  Sr. Francis soon discovered I had a singing voice and gave me and a few of the other girls in the choir a chance to sing the responsorial psalm every few weeks.

The following year one Wednesday a group, including me, were watching the school band practice in the school hall.  Before I knew it, I was gently pushed into the middle of the hall.  I looked behind me and Sr. Francis was shooing me to join one of the lines.  I mouthed to her that I didn’t know the routine, but she just replied to follow the girls.  That was initiation into the school marching band.

My first instrument was the recorder, soon progressing to the trumpet. I wasn’t very good at the trumpet, it was a difficult instrument to play. Sr. Francis gave me a button accordion instead and soon I was flying it, playing all the tunes in the band’s repertoire. All the members were so dedicated. We would practice Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, preparing for the St. Patrick’s Day parades and different events at which we wold perform.

I remember passing through the corridors of St. Joseph’s Primary School every day and seeing pictures of the school band from the 70s and 80s and looking at trophies won in competitions. There was great in the school band. The band instilled focus, dedication and discipline in me.

In the mid-90s Sr. Francis staged two wonderful operettas, ‘The Awakening Princess’ and ‘Marjorie’. I was to play a little fairy in ‘The Awakening Princess’ but I made myself so sick with nerves that I couldn’t go on stage. Thankfully I was okay to perform in ‘Marjorie’; I played a gypsy and a maid. These operettas were put on in the Town Hall.

Sr. Francis instilled a love of music and performing in me. I went on to perform with Ballinrobe Folk Choir, Castlebar Gospel Choir and Castlebar Pantomime.  I even studied Theatre Performance in Dublin. I now sing with Ignite Gospel Choir in Galway City.

Sr. Francis also influenced my brother John. John received his first keyboard as a Christmas gift at the age of seven.  When Sr. Francis found this out, she helped him learn the piano.  John had a natural ability for the piano and good musical ear; Sr. Francis nurtured this.  She involved John in the children’s and adult choirs and his love for the organ grew.  Sr. Francis gave John his first organ lessons.  When she retired from the children’s and adult choirs John took over as organist.  Now John is the choir director and organist in The Neale.

Of course, Sr. Francis influenced so many other people and she brought so much joy to Ballinrobe and her students with her music. Sr. Francis now resides in Ard Bhride in Castlebar.  All that’s left to say is, thank you for the music Sr. Francis!

Note From Editor: Please note I could only use some photos/images are most were photographed through glass and the glare did not give a clear photo. Please contact Marteen Lane for other options.

Credits: Thank you to Sr. Francis McMyler for allowing me to write about her and to interview her, and for allowing me to use her picture. Thank you to Catriona Canny, Vice-Principal in St. Joseph’s Primary School, for allowing me to take photographs of the school band and trophies.

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