Northern Ireland Approves Reduced Season of Pipe Band Contests for 2022

The 71st Annual General Meeting of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (Northern Ireland) Branch took place on Saturday 27th November 2021.

Representatives of seventeen member bands were in attendance along with Kevin Reilly and Brian MacMahon, the Chairmen of the RSPBA and the Irish Pipe Band Association respectively.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

Members heard that the Branch had facilitated a well-attended Zoom meeting of Pipe Majors and Leading Drummers on Monday 25th October at 7.30pm which had indicated a clear direction to the Branch that it was to work towards trying to deliver five competitions in the 2022 season and potentially two festival type events.

If the 2022 programme can be delivered in this way then there will be a significant reduction in the number of contests. Assuming that these five include the Ulster Championships, then, when compared with the 2019 season, the number of local competitions will be reduced by at least three. It is also my understanding that bands made a request that each competition should take place in the weekend prior to each RSPBA major. 

The meeting also heard and passed a number of reports from the Branch Officers and the various committees on the activities which had taken place over the preceding year. The members were particularly pleased to hear that the financial situation remains relatively healthy and that the Pipe Band College had, despite having to continue with online tuition in the main, increased substantially the number of students actively participating. This is quite an achievement given the circumstances that it was operating under, and the College Principal and his tutors are to be congratulated on their efforts.

There can be little doubt that the employment and family pressures which have been mounting on many NI Branch members, officials and indeed supporters will have contributed to what is a scenario that effectively sees the programme content reducing to the levels of the 1950’s and early 1960s.

In addition to these competitions bands will of course still have the opportunity to attend the All-Ireland Championships and any of the five RSPBA Major competitions. Incidentally the All-Ireland is scheduled to take place on Saturday 2nd July 2022 in the grounds of Newbridge House, Donabate, Co. Dublin.

The NI Branch will also be running the United Kingdom Solo Drumming Championship in 2022 which will act as a qualifier for the World Solo Drumming Championships.

NI Branch Chairman Ray Hall in his remarks announced that he had decided not to let his name go forward for election and while he had enjoyed his years in the role he felt that it was time to take more of a back seat and stand down. He thanked the Committee and the Branch bands for their support over his nine years in office and particularly mentioned the Vice Chair, President, Treasurer and Secretary for their sound advice, loyalty and support.

Ray Hall, outgoing RSPBANI Branch Chairman

He pledged his full support to the incoming Chair in addressing the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead. In a statement issued a few days after the meeting the NI Branch thanked Ray for his nine years of loyal service, in which he has done a tremendous job. They also thank Ray for his continued support within the association as representative of the County Fermanagh Section and then fact that he will remain a valued member of the team. In addition a considerable number of folk from both inside and outside the pipe band community praised Ray for his efforts throughout his period in office and particularly during these difficult last two years.

IPBA Chairman Brian MacMahon presided over the election of officers and this year there was a contest for the position of Chairman between George Ussher and Erinn McIlwaine. The successful candidate emerged as George Ussher the present RSPBA President who held the position for a least a decade on a previous occasion.

George Ussher, the new RSPBANI Branch Chairman

The first to offer his congratulations to George was the unsuccessful candidate Erinn McIlwaine who was elected to the important position of Press Officer. The new Chairman then presided over discussions on a number of recommendations and alteration to rules proposals.

One interesting thing to emerge from these discussions was an agreement that in the future all contest draws will be broadcast live. It is assumed that these will have to take place quite a few days before each contest in order to facilitate the printing of the programme. After almost three hours the meeting was brought to a close at 1:45pm.

I am most grateful to NI Branch Project Officer Michelle Shilliday for providing me with a detailed report on the proceedings which for the second year running were held virtually.

In closing I would like to wish all the Piping Press readers a very Happy Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year. It would also be remiss of me not to thank Rab Wallace and all his contributors from across the world who have kept us interested with a wide variety of articles. Let’s hope that in 2022 the majority of the content of all pipe band related media can be based on actual activity with a bit less looking back as interesting as that may be.

  • More from Gilbert to follow this week.

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