Richard Reflects on His Four Decades of Success with Field Marshal Montgomery

Only P/M Ian McLellan of the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band can rival the success of P/M Richard Parkes and his Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band from Lisburn, Northern Ireland. In a remarkable career beginning 40 years ago, Richard has amassed a trophy haul that is unlikely ever to be beaten. He is truly a living legend in the pipe band world and today on Piping Press he begins a look back at that success and how he achieved it….

I’ll just give a short history of my introduction to Field Marshal band. I was originally taught in Raffrey Pipe Band by P/M Sandy Cummings with help from John Garrett.

Raffrey and FMM amalgamated in 1970 for competition purposes under the name Freymont and they competed in Grade 3 under Sandy Cummings as P/M.

In 1975 there were just a few left from Raffrey and there was an influx of players and a new P/M and lead drummer for FMM, so it was decided that it was time for FMM to reform and continue in its own right.

The new P/M was Ricky Newell and D/Sgt was Richie Coffey.

One man who made a major impression on me in my younger years was the first P/M of FMM, William (Billy) Maxwell, or ‘Big Billy’ as he was known. (Billy was a player in the reformed FMM.)

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As a founder member he did everything he could to keep the band going, even in hard times. In fact he mortgaged his house to buy the band’s first uniforms.

That shows his level of commitment and what the band meant to him. He was one of my original tutors (when the bands amalgamated) and mentors, not just in piping, but in life. He was like a second father to me and I know that he was like that for many of his students.  

The trips away to the competitions were big events in our younger days and Billy always looked after all the young learners in the band.

This is Gordon and my first day playing with Raffrey Pipe Band approx. 1970

You were sure to get the advice to make sure that you would ‘bring a pound (£1) with you’ and when you were competing his trademark phrase was ‘keep your bag tight and mind your parts’.

Billy eventually became President of FMM for many years until he sadly passed away in 2013.

Under P/M Ricky Newell the band were successful, winning the Worlds in Grade 3 in 1976 and taking second place in Grade 2 at Cowal in 1979 and 1980.

Ricky’s biggest achievement was leading the band to win the Grade 1 Champion of Champions in 1979 after a consistent year playing up into Grade 1.

I am furthest left in this photo of FMM in Grade 3, approx. 1976 (See inset)

As stated earlier, I was appointed P/Sgt in 1981 and after a disagreement mid-season, P/M Newell left the band, so I inherited the job in early July that year.

My first P/Sgt was Ian Wood. Ian helped me a lot with advice when I took over. This was very important in my early days as P/M.

Davy Chesney joined in the late 80s when I was trying to improve the quality of pipers within the band. I appointed him as P/Sgt around 1990.

Me as P/M in the early 80s

Davy assisted me with reed selection and developing the sound of the band. This helped lead us to our first World Championship and Grand Slam wins in 1992 and ’93.

Brian Martin took over as P/Sgt around 1998 and was the only member to be with me right through since our first major win until his recent retirement.

  • Stay tuned for more from Richard.

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