Ulster Pipe Band Championships Report

northern ireland branchField Marshal Montgomery came out on top at the 65th Ulster Pipe Band Championships which were held in Antrim’s Castle Gardens on Saturday, July 23rd, writes Andrew Cromie.

This contest is the RSPBA Northern Ireland Branch’s flagship event and as such it attracted a strong turnout of bands playing to a large crowd of spectators who were eager to be entertained.  The highlight of the day was the Grade One event which was won for the 25th time by Field Marshal Montgomery. The band under P/M Richard Parkes is pictured leaving the field after competing.

Four bands were expected to be competing in Grade One, however Bleary & District took the decision to withdraw as a mark of respect following a bereavement in the Davison family. Ravara also pulled out in the run up to the event. That left a straight head-to-head between Field Marshal Montgomery and St Laurence O’Toole. 

St Laurence won the March, Strathspey and Reel section on ensemble preference, while Field Marshal were winners in the Medley event. Field Marshal went on to lift the overall title and also collected prizes for best pipes and second drums with St Laurence winning the prizes for best drum corp and bass section. 

St Laurence O'Toole pipe major Alen Tully spends a few moments away from band duties with his wife Michelle pictured with their children Emilia and Alex... surely not drummers Alen!
St Laurence O’Toole pipe major Alen Tully spends a few moments away from band duties with his wife Michelle and their children Emilia and Alex… surely not drummers Alen!

The Police Service of Northern Ireland continued their commanding run in Grade Two by taking first place and prizes for best pipes and bass section. Thiepval Memorial, from Co Donegal, claimed second place, and the prize for best drums with Closkelt in third.  First place, and prizes for best pipes, drums and bass section in Grade 3a all went to Aughintober as they dominated the prize list ahead of Colmcille, Upper Crossgare and Drumlough.

Marlacoo & District took the honours in Grade 3b along with prizes for best pipes and bass section. Matt Boyd Memorial were placed second and won the piping prize ahead of Achill and Tullintrain.  First place in Grade 4a and the prize for best pipes went to Battlehill with McNeilstown, Cleland Memorial, Portavogie and Cullybackey making up the top five.  Best drums in Grade 4a went to Tullylagan while Augharan collected the bass section award.

Gransha, from Co Down, were the victors in Grade 4b followed by St Mary’s Derrytrasna, Gilnahirk, who were winners of the drumming prize, Sgt Walker Memorial and Kildoag, who won the bass section. Gransha and St Mary’s shared the prize for best pipes.  The Ulster champion drum majors are Zara Cupples, Kara Gilmour, Lauren Abraham and Paula Braiden.

FM's Chris Pollock (Bass Drum) and Keith Orr (Drum Sergeant) pictured during final practice prior to entering the competition arena at the Ulster Championships
FM’s Chris Pollock (Bass Drum) and Keith Orr (Drum Sergeant) pictured during final practice prior to entering the competition arena at the Ulster Championships

Results – Bands

Grade 1: 1, Field Marshal Montgomery, also 1st Medley, best pipes and second drums; 2, St Laurence O’Toole, also 1st MSR on ensemble preference, best drums, bass and M&D.

Grade 2: 1, PSNI, also best pipes, bass and M&D; 2, Thiepval Memorial, also best drums; 3, Closkelt.

Grade 3a: 1, Aughintober, also best pipes, drums and bass; 2, Colmcille; 3, Upper Crossgare, also M&D; 4, Drumlough.

Grade 3b: 1, Marlacoo & District, also best drums and bass; 2, Matt Boyd Memorial, also best pipes; 3, Achill; 4, Tullintrain. Best M&D: Major Sinclair Memorial.

Grade 4a: 1, Battlehill, also best pipes; 2 on ensemble preference, McNeilstown; 3, Cleland Memorial; 4, Portavogie; 5 on ensemble preference, Cullybackey, also M&D. Best drums: Tullylagan. Best bass section: Augharan.

Grade 4b: 1, Gransha; 2, on ensemble preference, St Mary’s Derrytrasna; 3, Gilnahirk, also best drums; 4, Sgt Walker Memorial; 5, Kildoag, also best bass. Best pipes shared between Gransha and St Mary’s. Best M&D: Ballydonaghy.

Drum Majors results

Adult: 1, Paula Braiden (Cullybackey); 2, Lauren Hanna (Drumlough) 3, Alicia Dickson (Matt Boyd Memorial); 4, Andrea McKeown (Battlehill); 5, David Brownlee (Derryclavin).

Juvenile: 1, Lauren Abraham (Ballybriest); 2, Emma Barr (Field Marshal Montgomery) 3, Zoe McDowell (Aughintober); 4, Gemma McDowell (Tullylagan); 5, James Kennedy (Whitewater).

Junior: 1, Kara Gilmour (Finvoy); 2, Emily Crooks (McNeilstown); 3, Kathryn McKeown (Battlehill) 4, Abigail Wenlock (Cullybackey); 5, Rachel Lowry (Armaghbreague).

Novice: 1, Zara Cupples (Cullybackey) 2, Louis Anderson (Crozier Memorial) 3, Benjamin Walker (Battlehill); 4, Leanne Crooks (Syerla & District); 5, Louise Smiton (Closkelt).

• Don’t miss the next RSPBA major contest, the Scottish Championships to be held this Saturday, July 30th, at Levengrove Park, Dumbarton. Admission is free. Those travelling by train disembark at Dalreoch. The Scottish is the last major before the Worlds and a chance to hear your favourite bands before the big one in August. Grade 1 is particularly difficult to call with the three preceding majors all going to different bands: Inveraray (British), Field Marshal (UK) and SLoT (European). Check Piping Press early next week for a review of the contest.
Grateful thanks to John Kelly for all photographs from the Ulsters.

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