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.

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.

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