Richard Reflects on His Four Decades of Success with Field Marshal Montgomery – Part 2

The success of P/M Richard Parkes MBE and his Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band from Lisburn, Northern Ireland, is the stuff of legend. In a remarkable career beginning 40 years ago, Richard has amassed a trophy haul that is unlikely ever to be beaten. He continues his look back at that success and how he achieved it….

My brother Gordon was my first leading drummer. He had taken over from Richard Coffey in 1979 and led us through that successful period of 12 championship wins from 1990 to 1998 including two Worlds wins and a ‘grand slam’.

In 1998, when Gordon stood down due to work commitments, Andy Scullion accepted the role of lead drummer. Andy helped us get back to winning the Worlds in 2002 for the first time in nine years. Our current lead drummer, Keith Orr, was appointed at the end of 2002 and has helped me lead FMM through the most successful period in the band’s history. 

First Worlds win 1992

Alastair Dunn displayed tremendous talent when he joined the band around the late 90s. When I was unfortunate to have a stroke in 2004, Alastair took over the P/M’s position.

The band won the Scottish and All Ireland championships in 2004 under Alastair’s leadership. Alastair took over from Brian [Martin] as P/Sgt when I returned from illness and remained in that position until he retired from the band in 2018.

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It must be mentioned that as the band progressed from 2001 onwards, more players joined from Scotland and Alastair very successfully ran practices in Glasgow. This practice model continues, with half the pipe corps residing outside Northern Ireland.

When Alastair retired, I appointed Matt Wilson as P/Sgt and he has continued with the excellent leadership at practices in Glasgow. 

Moment of the announcement at Worlds in 1992 – some familiar faces in this one! 

FMM’s first travelling player from Scotland was Scott Drummond and that happened at the end of the 1997 season.

After Cowal that year Scott and his great friend Stuart Liddell asked if they could play down the street with FMM and we were delighted to accommodate them – and of course they even knew all the tunes.

So after that Scott told me one of them would be playing with us the next season and sure enough he joined and that’s how the Scottish group began.

There have been many other prominent members who have helped me throughout the years and they are too numerous to mention but they all helped shape me and make the band what it is today.

Playing off after Worlds win in 1993

That brings me to my late friend Frank Andrews. Frank was with me helping with tuning the drones and with the sound from 2001 right through to this recent successful period.

He was the perfect bagpipe sound engineer. Frank’s advice, guidance, calming influence and sense of humour is irreplaceable. I miss him.

Going back a bit I must also mention P/M Jimmy Banks from the Scots Guards who was stationed in Northern Ireland in the early 80s.

One year after judging the ‘Piper of the Year’ competition, Jim mentioned to his friend Nat Russell that he thought that I had potential and said he would be interested in teaching me.

Gordon and I in 1992

Nat let me know and I knew it was an excellent opportunity for me to develop my solo playing. I’ll always be thankful that Nat helped me make that connection.

Jim taught me for a few years and was instrumental in refining my MSR playing. There is no doubt that Jim’s teaching helped me with the expression of the band’s MSRs.

My thanks go out to all of these people who have contributed to my 40 years as P/M of FMM. I would not have achieved the success that I have had without them. 

  • More from Richard to follow. Read Part 1 here.

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