Pipe Band History: Fintan Lalor Enjoy Success Under P/M Tim Keogh

Pipe Major Tim Keogh, who had held the Pipe Sergeant position for a number of years took over the leadership of the band in 1953. Tim was an accomplished piper and violinist.

He was also a gifted composer with one of his tunes, The One and Only, being dedicated to his former Pipe Major, Paddy Solan.

This was a time when competition within Ireland was getting stronger with the Ballycoan band under Pipe Major William Wood dominant as they lifted seven All Ireland titles and six drumming titles.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

Fintan Lalor did not win their first All Ireland title under Tim Keogh until 1954, and they followed that up with a drumming title success in 1956.

While they may not have won the All Ireland title as much as they would have liked through the decade, they were placed second on five occasions, third once, and only in 1958, when their Dublin neighbours, St Laurence O’Toole took both band and drumming titles, did they not make the top three placings. 

In the 1950s the Irish Government established the ‘An Tostal’ festival series which ran from 1953 to 1958 and included a pipe band competition in each of those years.

[wds id=”2″]

The first contest in 1953 attracted a number of bands from all over the United Kingdom, with Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia winning the Open Grade and Fintan Lalor in second place.

The band however captured this title on the remaining five occasions it was held, generally competing against the top bands from Northern Ireland.  

In the early years of the 1950s the band was in a strong numerical position with a junior ‘feeder’ band led by Paddy Solan Jnr having considerable success at Grade 4 level.  

In 1956 the band competed at the World Pipe Band Championships in Belfast and their drummers under Christy Merrigan came away with the Grade 1 drumming title. Interestingly they played on drums and sticks lent to them by the Ballynahinch-based Glassdrummond band following a burst head occurrence minutes before they were due to go on.  

The 1960s was perhaps the most competitive decade in Irish pipe banding with no less than five different All Ireland winners – however Fintan Lalor claimed four of them. In the picture at the head of this article P/M Keogh leads the band through Dublin in 1960 after they won their seventh All Ireland title

In 1962 the band celebrated its Golden Jubilee and to mark the event the Cowal Gathering Committee commissioned a special piper’s banner. Unfortunately it was not ready on the day and instead the Marchioness of Lorne made a token presentation to Pipe Major Keogh with the banner passed on some time later.

It was at this time that they released an album on the Avoca label entitled ‘Irish Bagpipes’ which was recorded at the Fitzgerald Studios in Dublin. 

Top row: Paddy Leech, Willie Ward, Jimmy Hennessy, Mick O’Connor, Padraig O’Brien; Middle Row: Colm O’Brien, Sean Keogh, Joe Cox, Mick Moore, Jack Bradshaw, Liam Keogh; Front Row: P/M Tim Keogh, Mick O’Brien, Andy Gibson, Joe Duffy, Drum Sgt. Larry Ward, Tommy Moore.

In the early 1960s the band made a series of visits to the Ballyclare contest securing Open Grade wins in 1962, 1963 and 1964. The band’s last All Ireland Open Grade drumming championship came in 1966 when they and St Laurence O’Toole tied. At Cowal they won the Hamilton Shield in both 1968 and 1971 with Frank Saunders as leading drummer.

At the All Irelands in 1972 the band were the Grade 2 Champions, and in 1974, as a Grade 2 band, their drummers won their section and were also placed second in the Open Grade behind Robert Armstrong Memorial, the dominant force in Ireland at the time.

When P/M Tim Keogh retired from his very successful tenure leading the band, he was a highly respected figure in the pipe band world and undertook a lot of adjudication duties including major contests in Scotland. 

  • To be concluded. Read the first excerpt of this history here, the second here, the third here.

9 thoughts on “Pipe Band History: Fintan Lalor Enjoy Success Under P/M Tim Keogh

  1. I danced at the Fintan Lalor Feis held in Dublin in the 1950’s , I danced as a member of the Caldwell school of Irish Dancing Cora Caldwell, Ita & Bernie , I think we’re 3 sisters , Bernie I think was married to Tim Keogh. I have all my dance medals with the piper enamelled on the front of each medal 8 in total. I was just wondering if I have made the right connection , I have recently been in touch with my dancing teachers family whom still teach . I am 81 year of age and just love Irish dance music , shame Irish dancing is all about wigs and ridiculous costumes . Hoping you can let me know if there was a connection . Always loved the pipe band ☘️

  2. G,Day from Australia. My name is Terence Merrigan and I took up drumming two years ago aged 59. To anybody who is well familiar with the band, they will recognise the names of my uncle Christy Merrigan and my two brothers Paul and Frank Merrigan. Christy was All Ireland drumming champion around 1960 whilst playing with the Fintan Lawlers and Paul and Frank played with them from about 1966 to perhaps 1974, before all heading off to Australia, where I followed many years later .
    Sorry to read the band has not had a practice for the last three years or so. If anybody has any pics of the band in either My Uncle Christy’s time or brother Paul and Frank’s, I would love to see them.
    Now , back to my paradiddles and rolls. Cheers.

    1. Hi Terence
      I have a couple of photos you might like, one of the whole band in 1952 including Christy and another of Christy with another drummer, Dominic Creaghton. I can’t see a way of uploading them here but if you send me an e-mail at dgobrien1948@hotmail.com I will send you the pics.
      Best regards
      Dermot O’Brien

      1. Thanks Dermot, I have sent a message to that email. Very kind of you. Cheers, Terence.

    2. G/Day Terence, i know that expression well, my sister Eileen has lived in Adelaide for 43 years, and is married to an Australian guy. I played in the FLPB with Paul and Frank, great drummers, but i really owe my dedication to drumming to your father
      Peter, a gentle man and a master of how pipe band rudiments should be played. It always amazes me the amount of people who slap a snare drum onto themselves and cannot play a roll properly, but you have the edge your a Merrigan. I only have one photo of myself with Paul and Frank, and if you email me i will send it to you.
      Regards Patrick.

  3. Hi Barbara
    Sadly, I think the Fintan Lalor Pipe Band may no longer be active. I too have a connection to the band in that my father, brother, cousin,three uncles and grandfather were members (i.e. Gerry, Colm and Padraig O’Brien, Tim, Sean and Liam Keogh and their father John Keogh). I remember your father very well. As a child watching the band many times at competitions, the bass drummer was then one I wanted to be. Once in Scotland for the Cowal Games your Dad showed me how to twirl his sticks. Great man.
    Dermot O’Brien

    1. Hi, i have a couple of finton lalor pipeband medals, if you email me i`ll send you a couple,since of respect of your familys connection

  4. Hi, My name is Barbara Cahill, nee Carroll, daughter of Michael Carroll, Chairman of the Fintan Lolor Pipe Band, who was also a world champion bass drummer at Cowal Games in the 1950s. My dad died in 1996 and I wonder who is still with the band or is it still in existence? My dad also taught the Rathcoole Pipe Band.

    1. Hi Barbara.
      I was a very good friend of your dad.
      An absolute gentleman.
      I last met you in the hospital in Harold’s on the sad evening of his passing.
      The band is still in existence but no practice have been held in the last 2 years.
      Hopefully we will get back together soon.
      Kindest Regards
      Pat Byrne former Pipe Major

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *