The band was formed on Thursday 7th May 1970 at the Girl's Club on Foxcroft Street in Portarlington. Its members came from a twenty-four mile radius of the town. The band had been brewing for a long time before 1970. The late Seán Ryan (a well known composer of Irish music and an All-Ireland champion fiddle player in the 1950s) had a céilí band of his own named after him in the area, but it disbanded around 1966. The members of the Seán Ryan Céilí Band were drifting in and out of other bands and they always had the dream of resurrecting Seán Ryan's band. After much prompting from the late Martin Fallon, who was one of the founding members of the Bridge Céilí Band, the new band was formed. The band was called The Bridge Céilí Band because the leader Eugene Nolan came from Monasterevin, which is noted for its bridges, and in particular the Pass Bridge, at the foot of which Eugene Nolan lived when the band was formed.
In 1970 Eugene Nolan wrote out ten postcards to the lads telling them of the meeting in May. The original instrumentation intended was four fiddlers, one accordion, one banjo, two flutes, piano and drums. But on that Thursday night the banjo player Owen Hackett unfortunately could not make it. He had changed address only days before the invitation was posted to him. The bands main goal was to compete in the Leinster Fleadh Cheoil in June 1970, so instead of Owen Hackett, Tony Coen, a garda from Woodford, Co. Galway (but stationed in Portarlington), joined as the tenth member of the band.
Tony Coen was a fiddle player and therefore became the bands fifth fiddle player. Normally there would only be four fiddlers in a céilí band, and maybe two or three accordions, but the Bridge produced a new sound in having five fiddles one accordion and two flutes carrying the melody. Up till recently the band still had the same line out. Eugene Nolan believes that if you have more than one accordion they will tend to dominate the music, it also becomes harder for the accordion players to play exactly together.
The band won the Leinster Fleadh Cheoil only five weeks after they were formed. The band next went on to win the All-Ireland that year in Listowel. Martin Fallon (R.I.P.) a native of Roscommon was a fiddle player in that All-Ireland team. The other fiddle players were Denis Ryan from Offaly and Maura Connelly also from Offaly, Tony Coen who was a native of Galway and Tom Aherne from Laois. The accordion player was Ellen Comerford from Offaly. On piano was Pat O'Meara a native of Tipperary. The flute players were Joe Smullen from Offaly and Eugene Nolan from Kildare. The drummer was Jim (The Hopper) McGrath from Offaly.
In 1972 Jim McGrath left and Denis Cahill became the bands drummer. Denis had played with the Gallowglass Céilí Band. This band had a regimental rhythm and Denis brought this into the band. This strict rhythm can be heard on the bands L.P.. Denis has been known to strike a double tap on the bass drum. This keeps the band together and re-imposes the rhythm. Denis used this if he felt the band was not together. In 1973 Joe Smullen left and Patsy Hanley joined in his place. In 1974 Tony Coen left and Robert Gleeson joined.
The Bridge Céilí Band have entered the Fleadh Cheoil Céilí Band competition twelve times. They have won the competition six times - 1970, 1973, 1974, 1992, 1996 and 1998; they came second in 1971 and 1995 and third in 1972, 1975, 1990 and 1991. Apart from the band's success in competition they have performed frequently on R.T.E. radio and television and at concerts and céilí's throughout Ireland. They have entertained at the prestigious Bank of Ireland G.A.A. All-Stars banquet and three members of the band, Denis Ryan, Robert Gleeson and Eugene Nolan have visited the U.S.A. and Britain on Comhatlas Ceoltóití Éireann tours.
Over the years the personnel of the band has changed. Recently, they regrouped with some new and younger members, their aim, to win the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in Chonmel later this summer. Only three founder members played with the band at the Leinster Fleadh Cheoil in Kilcock this summer, where they came second. Owen Hackett, who was meant to have been in the first Bridge line-up back in 1970 has now (eventually!) joined as the first banjo player. There is a younger and maybe more livelier kick to the band this time round. The blend of the banjo with the arrival of four young girls has put a spark into their music, which will be hard to beat. Bearing this in mind it is remarkable that the tone and quality is very similar now as it was in the first 1970 line-up when the band won its first All-Ireland.