Tommy Millar MBE

Tommy pictured at this year’s UK Pipe Band Championships at Stormont

It is with sadness that we report on the passing of Tommy Millar a true stalwart of the pipe band movement in Northern Ireland throughout his life. Tommy (84) had not been in the best of health for a number of years.

His funeral service was held today in his home town of Ballymena. He was known throughout the Province and was often quoted as saying that the pipe band produced ‘greatest sound in the world’.

This love of the music pervaded all his writing and commentary for local newspapers and for the BBC’s Radio Ulster where his voice was an ever-present in its ‘tartan’ shows for three decades. It was for this dedication to pipe bands that he was honoured with the MBE in 2012.

His funeral notice read: ‘Called Home October 23, 2016, peacefully, late of 43 Grange Road, Ballymena, dearly loved husband of Nellie, much-loved and loving father of Colin and Karen and dear brother of the late Rev. Sam Millar. 

‘Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Tommy will be held in High Kirk Presbyterian Church, Ballymena on Tuesday at 2.00 p.m. 
Family flowers only please. House Private. 

‘Will be sadly missed and lovingly remembered by his sorrowing wife, son, daughter, son-in-law Hugh, daughter-in-law Christine, grandchildren Aaron, Matthew, Ben, Lydia, Paul, David and the whole family circle.’

When his MBE was announced the Belfast Telegraph reported: ‘THOMAS MILLAR MBE: For services to pipe band music in Northern Ireland – PIPE band stalwart Thomas Millar admitted he was still in shock at receiving news of his honour.

The Ballymena man has been involved in pipe bands since joining his first band as a 15-year-old in 1947. Now 80, he said his love affair with the music is as strong as ever, and he continues to host regular pipe band shows on BBC Radio Ulster. He said: ‘It’s a great honour. I’ve been in the business a long time and I’m delighted. It was a complete surprise.’

As well as performing in and organising events, Thomas has also written at length on his passion, both for local and regional titles, and has had regular pipe band columns over the years, helping to promote his passion.

Throughout his working life he balanced working in newspaper production with his pipe band commitments. He said when he first became involved, pipe band competitions took place in small halls throughout the country. Nowadays the world championship pulls in crowds of 40,000.

‘It’s very rewarding and you get to meet a lot of good people. It’s just good, clean fun.’