RSPBA NI Branch Administrator Retires and Replacement Named 

These last few months has seen change within the NI Branch with the retirement of Ian Burrows from his administrator role and the appointment of Michelle Shilliday as his replacement.

Ian, who gave nine years of dedicated service, had succeeded Lindsey Ellis who resigned from her position in 2012 when she relocated to Scotland. Indeed Ian would actually have stepped down in September 2020 as announced by the RSPBANI Executive Committee with arrangements to be put in place to find a successor.

The pandemic, as we know put the brakes on all manner of plans, and fair play to Ian who advised the NI Branch that he would continue until a replacement was found.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

Ian has been a friendly feature at the pipe band contests, always showing support, a smile and encouragement to all pipers, drummers, drum majors and dancers. 

Ian’s retirement will take the form of touring the world as a talented musician and highly respected tutor. Outside of his administrative role within the RSPBANI Ian has had a very impressive piping career to date which has included serving as Pipe Major of the Drumlough Pipe Band in which his family has always played a leading role while he also competed with the Pipes and Drums of the RUC at Grade 1 level.

Ian (r) receives a retirement gift from RSPBA Branch President Winston Pinkerton

He has also achieved a Grade 8 Performance Certificate in Scottish Traditional Music through the London College of Music and is a Bagpipe Assessor. Ian has gained many years of tutoring experience with ‘The Cross Border’ Ulster-Scots and Irish Music Youth Project, the Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra Youth Programme, the Music Service for Pipes and Drums, and the Glengormley School of Traditional Irish Music.  


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As well as being an expert in the Great Highland Bagpipes, Ian is also involved in the ‘Pipes of Peace Project’, which features his skills in uilleann and Scottish border piping. He is regularly spotted playing alongside his famous friend Willie Drennan in The Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra and Nae Goats Toe. Ian’s musical talents have even branched as far as film, TV and theatre productions as well as international tattoos in Moscow, St Petersburg, Berlin, Bremen and Dresden.. 

Ian’s replacement as RSPBA NI Branch Project Officer is Michelle Shilliday who within Northern Ireland is the former Miss Michelle Johnston who has for many years spearheaded the very popular School of Highland Dancing which bears her name.

Michelle’s love of Highland dancing and the pipes gained priority during her teenage years following training in all styles of dance, drama and singing. Competitively, Michelle has won the Ulster Highland Dancing Championship eight times and gained top six prizes at National and International events including the All England, UK, European, North American & Sacramento Valley Highland Dancing Championships.

Highlights include being the first dancer from Northern Ireland to qualify for the finals of the World Highland Dancing Championships in Dunoon. As an adult dancer, Michelle has performed with the Alisa Craig Highland Dancers and the Tattoo Dance Company.

Travels included stadium and arena tours in Switzerland, Germany, Norway & USA. The largest event being the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo & while there, Michelle was delighted to perform for Prince William and Prince Charles at Holyrood Palace.

Professionally, Michelle is a Fellow of the S.D.T.A. (Scottish Dance Teachers’ Alliance), an adjudicator with the R.S.O.B.H.D. (Royal Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing) and head delegate for the N.I.H.D.A. (Northern Ireland Highland Dancing Association). Michelle has choreographed for many large scale productions including the Belfast International Tattoo, the Cross-Border Orchestra of Ireland’s Peace Proms, BBC TV productions and the Queen’s Garden Party at Stormont. 

The new RSPBANI Project Officer, Michelle Shilliday

Michelle’s dancing school now has branches in Moneyrea, Dromore & Dundrum which host over 75 dancers, including 12 associate dance teachers and 6 Ulster Champions. This young talent will be a big help to the future development of Highland Dancing in Northern Ireland as Michelle now focuses her attention to the role of Project Manager of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, Northern Ireland. 

The RSPBANI, its supporters and the pipe band community would wish Ian a long healthy and happy retirement and we are sure that he can achieve the targets that he has set himself in the future. Equally they would wish Michelle every success in her role as she helps to get the local pipe band, solo piping, drumming and drum major competitors back on track after the gap of the last two years following the pandemic.


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