Editor’s Notebook: Pipes Lead National Remembrance/ Fire Service Bands/ The Fints Were First Worlds Drumming Winners/ Strathallan Drummer Quest

The Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards did piping proud at yesterday’s Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in London. Britain’s day of thanks for the sacrifice of the fallen was restricted in numbers because of the pandemic, but the RSDG sounded loud, well tuned and clear as they performed the Skye Boat Song and Flowers of the Forest.

It is always pleasing to see the national instrument being given its place at these national events and P/M Ben Duncan and his pipers and drummers acquitted themselves very well indeed:

Earlier the BBC showed a film of a short ceremony at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey at which the Queen paid her respects in a lone vigil. Again the pipes were to the fore with Sovereign’s Piper P/M Richard Grisedale playing the lament in the abbey (top).

Not far from the dignity of the Cenotaph, we had this unfortunate incident with a piper in an altercation with the police after he tried to pipe his way through their ranks.

Piper is pushed back by police after trying to break their ranks

Not a good idea to get too close to anyone when playing pipes what with the aerosol they can produce, nor to take on the police in this way.

Reader Charlie Martin writes from the US: ‘I’m interested in service pipe bands in the US, especially fire service bands as that’s what I’m a P/M of. Anyway, I was wondering if you could give me your perspective on service bands in the UK. 

‘While the big police bands are well known, I don’t recall many fire service bands. Manchester has one now but I don’t know how far back it goes.
Were there fire service bands equivalent to the big police bands? I know Govan Police are considered the first non-military band but how far back do any fire service bands go? Thanks for any insight into this subject.’

Any ex-fire service pipers or drummers who can help Charlie?

John Dunne, the much admired bass drummer with the St Laurence O’Toole band in Dublin, has written to correct us on our story on the first overseas band to win the World Grade 1 drumming title.

John writes: ‘The article in Piping Press on the 6th October states that Triumph Street Drum Corps were the first overseas band to win the drumming in Grade 1 at the Worlds. Yes, they were the band that won at the first two-day event in 1979, but, as I’m sure you are aware, the drumming prize went to an overseas band prior to this.

‘At the World Pipe Band Championships in Belfast in 1956, the Fintan Lalor from Dublin were crowned Grade 1 Drumming Champions.  Information is attached to support this:

‘An interesting point regarding that competition was that the Renfrew Pipe Band was without a bass drummer and the rule at the time was to put all bass drummers’ names from the grade into a hat and the name pulled out played with them in the competition.

A very sporting gesture…a letter from the rival Robert Armstrong Memorial Pipe Band congratulating ‘the Fints’ on winning the World drumming in 1956 at Belfast

‘As it turned out the Fintan Lalor bass drummer, Micky Carrol, played with them, so, on the same day, he played with the band that came second in the championship and the band that won the drumming. This information was verified by Tommy Stevens who is a life long member of the Fints. I got the two attachments from him.

‘Another snippet of information, the Fints won the drumming at Cowal in 1939 which was regarded as a World Championship back then. I have photos of that corps as well. I’m sure there is a drumming trophy from the Worlds of 1956 that may be in the trophy cabinet at the RSPBA HQ.’

Craig Muirhead writes: We have a bass and tenor drumming job advertised at Strathallan, currently a day a week but plenty of scope to grow it! I just wondered if it’s something that could be of interest to your readers? www.Strathallan.co.uk\vacancies

2 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: Pipes Lead National Remembrance/ Fire Service Bands/ The Fints Were First Worlds Drumming Winners/ Strathallan Drummer Quest

  1. Further to John Dunne’s item on the Fintan Lalor Drummers winning the Worlds title in 1956 which is absolutely correct.
    I was told a few years back by a very reliable source that Fintan Lalor did not play their own drums that day due to a mishap on the way to the line. Apparently Christy Merrigan’s drum head burst as the band was in the tuning area.
    Billy Barlow, a very well known drummer from the early NI Branch days, who was the lead drummer of Glassdrummond from Ballynahinch was nearby and offered Christy Merrigan his drum. As it did not tune in all of the Glassdrummond instruments were borrowed including the drum sticks.
    Regarding the letter from Fred Cooper the Secretary of the RAMS I am pleased to say that this would not have been an isolated incident and indeed was quite common. I have a file of such letters written in the 1950’s when my own band , Crimson Arrow Brian Boru Newcastle competed in the old NIBA competitions and I am sure that other established bands may have the same. Today such congratulations are issued via social media..

  2. That chap that the police were called to restrain does not present a nice image and his tenor drone seems to be “tuned” too low anyway


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