A History of St Patrick’s, Donaghmore, Pipe Band – Conclusion

St Patrick’s, Donaghmore, under P/M Sean Falloon

In 1972 the band were selected, along with the Robert Armstrong Memorial (Grade 1), Dromara (Grade 2), Howard Memorial (Grade 3), and Ballykeel Moneyrea (Grade 4), to represent Northern Ireland at the Intercontinental Gathering at the CNE in Toronto, Canada. They were placed ninth as a band and fourth in drumming.

Along with the Armstrong Memorial, they were invited back again in August 1977 to compete once again at this prestigious event which many at the time considered to be the ‘real’ World Championship because of its international dimension.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

1973 was another successful year for St Patrick’s with wins at County Antrim (Carrickfergus), County Down and Mid Ulster, and to crown it off they were declared NI Branch Grade 1 Champion of Champions.

In 1974 Tom Anderson had to stand down due to work commitments and Sean Faloon was once again re-installed as pipe major, however the band had to withdraw from competition.

They returned to the arena in 1975 taking a first at Durrow, and, over the next few years under Pipe Major Faloon, won at the East of Ireland in Howth in 1976 and secured placings at the Mid Ulster in 1977. The band was also crowned the Grade 1 Ulster Champions in 1977 and 1978 when the drum corps triumphed at the East of Ireland, Howth.

During the decade the band also made a number of regular appearances on the BBC Northern Ireland radio programme ‘Ulster Band’ in addition to a few television appearances. One of the band’s last successes came in 1979 when they were placed first in Grade 1 at the Mid Ulster.

Sadly St Pat’s disappeared from competition at this time and they were never to return. This was most disappointing for a band that had reached the heights. To compete against the very best in the world, and to be remembered fondly four decades, later is testament enough to their achievements and says a lot about the respect they were held in.

In addition to those already mentioned as contributing to the band’s rise were pipe majors or piping instructors such as William Wood (Ballycoan), Lowry Nelson (Orritor), and Vivian McCann who went on the lead Ballinderry Bridge for many years.

A poster for the Canadian National Exhibition Tattoo and Championships held in the early 70s in Toronto

Leading drummers during the band’s competing years included Joe Faloon, Alec Walker, Malachy McCullagh and instructors Iain Downey and Ernie Shaw (both Tullylagan).

Despite the obvious rivalries that exist within the pipe band community, and which exist in all competitive scenarios, real friendships develop and none more so that between ‘the Pats’ and ‘the Armstrong’. They both travelled the path to Grade 1 together, and indeed shared two great trips to Canada creating a lasting bond. 

Many believe the endeavours of both these great rival bands played a huge part in raising the performance standards on this island to a level which eventually gave birth to the finest pipe band ensemble we have ever had the privilege to witness, the record-breaking Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band.

Before I close this look back over the history of one of Northern Ireland’s iconic bands, it would be completely remiss in any history of St Patrick’s, Donaghmore, not to give special mention to the contribution of Pipe Major Sean Faloon, a man who did so much to guide it towards its success.

P/M Sean Falloon

He was part of the team that resurrected the band in the 1960s after some years of inactivity, and, using his piping and leadership skills, led it to achieve All Ireland success in 1968.

Despite this he had no qualms about stepping aside when Pipe Major Tom Anderson was recruited to bring St Pat’s even greater success and then willingly took up the reins again when required and lead the band to further prizes at the highest level. 

  • Read the start of this history here. Would you like to share your band’s distinguished history with the rest of the pipe band world? Send the editor your stories and pictures and we’ll do our best to feature them on Piping Press.

10 thoughts on “A History of St Patrick’s, Donaghmore, Pipe Band – Conclusion

  1. This was a fascinating read for me for many personal reasons, being a member of Howard Memorial Pipe Band for years, my Dad was Pipe major and contempory of both Tommy Anderson and Sean Falloon, the two bands were close neighbours after all. The trip to Canada in 1972 was unforgettable and was talked about in our house for years. Lovely to hear again of Percy Smyth, who I knew well, he was taught by my Dad, it was very unusual at the time for someone to cross the religious barrier, particularly during the troubles, and it is a sign that thankfully we are now in a different world, that crossing that barrier happens all the time now, and its not even mentioned.

    1. Hi David,
      Ballykeel Black Watch were also at the Canadian Exhibition in 1972 with St Pats and Rbt Armstrong. Unfortunately, I was too young to attend but those would did get to go still talk about it to this day. It was big adventure as most of the band had never been on an aeroplane before never mind a different continent. The Howard were a good band. I always liked their uniform, the tartan and the Highland dress.

      1. Hi Michael. Yes indeed it was my parents first ever trip on an aeroplane and very exciting. And my Dad took the opportunity to see Niagra Falls when he had the chance. As for the tartan, Red Robertson, you couldn’t beat it!

  2. Michael you asked the question was D/M Derek Stevenson of St. Pats the same as the one in Black Watch in Moneyrea? The answer is yes. I just came across this site today as I had been thinking about my time with St.Pats and looked in the search engine. I loved my time with St.Pats they were a great band and Sean Fallon a real gentleman. I look back on my leaving with great sadness and one life’s. I spent a couple of years with the 29thBB Old boys before retiring as a D/M and judged for a few years. I was surprised when I saw my name in the memories if not a little pleased. I would love to see Sean again as we are now much older.

    1. Hi Derek,
      I was a learner piper in Ballykeel in the early 70’s. I lived just down the road at Simpson’s Corner. I went on to play with the band from 1974-ish to late 70’s. I’m still in touch with Colin Burgess and frequently see JL, (John Lappin). I was recently looking through some old photos I have of the band and sadly, alot of the guys have passed away, not least Kenneth. They were good times. Good to hear from you.

      1. Michael
        Colin Burgess was also in my primary school class. I did not know that Kenneth Stevenson had died, how long ago was that? His father and mine were full cousins and his wife Elizabeth was my next door neighbour. Sammy Simpson lived just across the road and was a big influence in the band. I presume the Black Watch never reformed again. There was another pipe band in Moneyrea called the Star which practiced about a mile further up the road from the Black Watch. Wonderful how things have changed, I remember the BW playing in the middle of the road on summer nights when traffic was much lighter. Another drum Major was Thomas Miskelly he lived four door up from me, he and I would have travelled to some contests together. Most of these people I haven’t seen for 40 years and more.

        1. Derek,

          Kenneth passed away approx 2/3 years ago from prostate cancer I believe. Sammy is still on the go but as you can imagine has slowed down a lot. He’s mid 80’s. The BW never really got going again after the mid to late 80’s although we used to go up to the hall on Wed nights form a tune and a yarn. Sadly a lot of pipe bands in the area are off the road.Sign of the times. Young ones have little interest in the pipe/drums today. Leslie Eagleson is still about, married to Elizabeth’s sister Hazel.

  3. Gilbert,
    You mentioned D/M Derek Stevenson in your history of St Pats. Is that the same Derek Stevenson that was D/M of Ballykeel Black Watch Moneyrea?
    Would it be possible to do a history of The Robert Armstrong Memorial? They were a great band and as you said, they and St Pats were inspirational in setting a standard which was built upon by many bands in Northern Ireland. I’m sure a lot of people would like to hear about them. There’s still a few old RAMs about, Harry Stevenson etc.


    1. I can confirm that a history of the Robert Armstrong Memorial is in preparation and should be with Robert Wallace soon for publication. I was so pleased that Sean Falloon helped out with the St Pat’s one and I am delighted that Harry Stevenson has contributed to the RAMS one. These great bands should not be forgotten and I am pleased to be able to assist in whatever way I can. I am so glad that many readers enjoy them – it makes all the effort so worthwhile.

  4. Many thanks to Gilbert Cromie for an excellent series on the legendary St Patrick’s Pipe Band – highly interesting and very informative. This series, as with the Red Hackle articles, provides a valuable historical account and perspective into pipe bands of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and I am sure I am not alone in hoping for more contributions of this nature on some of the great iconic bands of the past.

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