Northern Ireland Pipe Band Update: Richard Garnham/ Cancer Kids Charity/ Web Designer/ Closkelt Concert

There was widespread sorrow across the pipe band community, and in particular the Upper Crossgare Pipe Band, on the passing of their leading drummer Richard Garnham. Pipe Major Mark Rodgers, led the condolences on behalf of the band and conveyed their sympathy to Richard’s wife Elaine, son Ryan and the family circle.

Richard is pictured fourth from the right celebrating the band’s success at the UK Championships in 2015. He had two spells with the band having initially joined along with his brother Rodney in the early 1980s when they became members of the band’s successful drum corps as well as attaining success in Juvenile and Junior solo drumming competitions. 

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

Richard’s talent and leadership skills were identified and he was appointed leading drummer at a time the band was progressing up the grades. In 1984 he led the drum corps to become the Grade 2 All Ireland champions. While numerous other successes came along Richard’s other calling would lead him into full time ministry as a Baptist pastor.

While Richard was now pursuing this important and demanding work his interest in drumming remained and in particular the progress of Upper Crossgare Pipe Band. Around 2008/9 they were engaged in what became an extremely successful tuition programme with the drummers being taught by Richard’s father –in-law Davy McKibben. Richard was encouraged to take on the leading drummer role again and these talented young drummers, which included my son Andrew, were to benefit from his experience and tuition. They, and an equally talented pipe corps, would go on to become the 2010 Grade 4B band and drum corps World Champions. 

Pipe Major Mark Rodgers and Richard then went on to lead the band to a number of upgradings and prior to the pandemic they were competing in Grade 3A. Joining Richard in the drum corps for most of the last decade was his son Ryan. 

Sadly in recent times Richard had been diagnosed with a serious illness through which he was cared for by his loving wife Elaine, son Ryan and family. A large congregation attended a Service of Thanksgiving for Richard’s life in Ballynahinch Baptist Church on Saturday 13th November with the interment taking place at Ballynahinch Congregational Church with his friend Francis Strain piping at the graveside.

Donations in Richard’s memory can be sent to ‘Every Home Crusade’, c/o Douglas Funeral Directors, 20 Dromore Road, Ballynahinch, BT24 8HP. On behalf of the pipe band community I would wish to express sympathy to Elaine, son Ryan, mother Sylvia, sisters Joy and Karen, brother Rodney and wider family circle at this sad time.



I was delighted to receive news earlier this week from Gary Smyth confirming that he and his team will once again be promoting a Kid’s with Cancer charity event in 2022 and that once again the intention is that it will be held ‘live’ in the Royal Hotel in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone.

This popular event will be held on Saturday the 26th of February 2022 with the doors opening at 5pm for a 6pm start. All proceeds will be in aid of the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity at the Royal Victoria Hospital. This will be the fifth running of this event which up to 2021, and despite having to go online last year, has raised the amazing sum of £38,800. The admission cost, which must be pre-paid, is £20 per person by either bank transfer or PayPal (kidswithcancer2020@outlook.com). 

You can contact Gary Smyth on Facebook or text 07814446179. One thing that these concerts do not lack is quality acts and that is exactly the case this time around. Drummers appearing include Gareth McLees, current All Ireland Champion, William Glenholmes, eight time Ulster Champion, Steven Shedden (video performance), John Lappin the ‘yodelling drummer’ and the ‘Kilted Cousins’ group.

Shotts & Dykehead will be playing that the Kids with Cancer charity fundraiser

Pipers include Ashley McMichael, five time All Ireland Champion and 2021 London Strachan Trophy winner, Alastair Donaghy, Ryan Cupples Menendez and Scott Wallace. There will be a special performance from Shotts & Dykehead under Pipe Major Emmett Conway and, intriguingly, a Field Marshal Montgomery Drum Corps performance under Leading Drummer Gordon Parkes and some other ex-players.

Also appearing will be one of the newest bands in Northern Ireland, the Down Academy Pipes & Drums, under Pipe Major William Wallace. There will also be a performance from the County Armagh Drum Major Class. For a complete change of subject matter there will be a Question & Answer session with Northern Ireland Football legend Gerry Armstrong. I imagine as the time passes by other artistes will be added to the programme.


RSPBA NI Branch Website Development – Request for Proposal

The Branch has identified a need to refresh their website and is keen to explore whether anyone associated with the organisation might be interested in leading the redevelopment. The site comprises static pages as well as dynamic content all served from several databases.

The site needs a refresh and rebranding, supporting all devices with a simple navigation system, and we would like the ability to create content ourselves via a content management system. Interested companies or individuals are asked to visit rspbani.org for further information, or contact michelle.shilliday@rspbani.org. The closing date for Expressions of Interest is Friday 10th December 2021.


Closkelt Pipe Band bringing back the Sound of Pipes & Drums for 2022 

One band that is making strides towards the 2022 season is Grade 1 Closkelt. They’ve just announced that they will be holding a concert in the Market Place Theatre in Armagh on Saturday, 26th March 2022. Closkelt were promoted to Grade 1 at the end of a very successful 2019 season which saw them crowned as Grade 2 British, Scottish, UK and Ulster Champions.

The pandemic has seen them wait for two seasons to take their place amongst the big boys and it looks like they have sought to bolster the ranks considerably in the meantime. Closkelt, whilst maintaining a superb sound and precision standard of playing, have done so with what would have been considered to have been a small band by Grade 2 standards.

According to the roster on their website they have made significant additions and now feature around 21 pipers, 11 side drummers and a bass and tenor section of eight. It is also significant that amongst the new recruits are quite and number of experienced players who will give Pipe Major David Chesney and Drum Sergeant Brendan Megoran great support as they seek to move the band forward against very strong opposition.

A concert of this type will give the leadership the opportunity to get the best out of their players early on in the season in what is a prestigious event which will no doubt attract a large attendance given the absence of any other top class band events.

In addition to the host band there will be a quality line-up with performances from bands Matt Boyd Memorial and Gransha, Kathryn Stewart Highland Dancers, plus a Drum Major display team and much more. Tickets which are modestly priced at £15 each are available online from: https://marketplacearmagh.ticketsolve.com/shows/873621904 or by calling the Market Place Theatre Box Office on 028 3752 1821.


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