We continue with part three of our history of the famous Fintan Lalor Pipe Band from the south of Ireland.
Few of the bands from Northern Ireland, outside of the small number that competed in the Oireachtas or Feis events in Southern Ireland, would have ever have seen or heard the Fintan Lalor in action.
However they most certainly would have heard them on the radio as they had broadcast regularly on the south’s Radio Athlone station which was listened to across Northern Ireland.
Most of the competing bands in Northern Ireland belonged to the North of Ireland Bands Association and from 1939 the affiliated NI Pipe Band League.
When the NIBA decided to cancel all competitions for the duration of the 2nd World War, replicating what they had done in 1914-18, there was a certain amount of opposition particularly from the country based bands whose members were engaged in reserved occupations in addition to not being subject to ‘conscription’.
As a result Dromara Highland Pipe Band under Pipe Major Sam McManus, who were on the rise in the lead up to WW2, decided to form the Mid Down Contest Committee to organise both indoor and outdoor competitions.
These proved to be very popular and to achieve their goal of having the leading bands of the era competing in the Open Grade, they invited Fintan Lalor who agreed to attend.
Dromara would win that particular contest, however the friendships that were developed between members of both bands brought about the creation of the All Ireland Championships which came into being in 1946.
The Fintan Lalor would dominate the first three years of the competition although Sydenham did secure the Open Grade Drumming title in 1947.
The Fints returned to Cowal in 1949 when they won the General Contest No. 1 bringing home the Sir Harry Lauder and Hamilton Shields which resulted in them gaining Grade 1 status for the 1950 season.
Pictured at the head of this article is the band under P/M Solan. The personnel are: back row (l – r) P/M P Solan, J Solan, J Mullan, G O’Brien, J Mc Cormack, M O’Hanlon, M Carroll, T Rogan, J Tully, L Keogh, C Mulligan, E McDonald, P Leach, T Keogh; Front row: D/M A Gibson, D/Sgt J (Bisto) Keogh, C Merrigan, J Duffy and D Creaghan.
In 1949 the band lost their All Ireland Championship title to Dromara Highland (pictured below after their success), although they did lift the drumming title. While they regained the title in 1950 they were to find Ballycoan a ‘hard nut to crack’ throughout the 1950s.
In 1950 the All Ireland Solo Piping and Drumming Championships were established and they would be held as part of the main competition.
Three Fintan Lalor pipers, Tommy Moore, Ewen McDonald and Tim Keogh, lifted the first three titles in 1950, 1951 and 1952 respectively with Sean ‘Bisto’ Keogh being crowned drumming champion in 1952.
The band’s reputation across Ireland and beyond had reached a high level and their leadership gained much respect particularly in Northern Ireland were Pipe Major Paddy Solan became a regular and much respected adjudicator.
In the early 1950s, in what appears to have been a sudden decision, Paddy Solan left the band and emigrated to the United States of America.