Ulster News: Blackthorn Pipers/ RSPBANI AGM/ Show Returns/ Paddy Kelly/ Dundalk/ St Mary’s

Blackthorn guest Matt Wilson competing in the ‘A’ grade March at the Atgyllshire Gathering, Oban, this year in front of judges P/M Richard Parkes MBE, Robert Wallace and Roddy Livingstone

On the third Wednesday of the months of September and October the Blackthorn Pipers Society welcomed guest pipers Kris Coyle and Ashley McMichael. Both of these Field Marshal Montgomery pipers were in outstanding form and videos of theirs and other players’ performances can be seen on the Blackthorn Society’s Facebook page.

The Society meets in the Discover Ulster Scots Building, 1-9 Victoria Street Belfast BT1 3GA and it will continue on Wednesday November 16th when the guest piper will be Jason McCallister, another FMM piper.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

Looking ahead to Christmas the Society will be promoting a special evening when the guest piper on the evening of December 9th will be none other than Matt Wilson the Pipe Major of the Dollar Academy Juvenile band and the Pipe Sergeant of FMM.

Matt will take to the floor at 7.45pm and give a recital as well as talking about his piping career to date. During the evening there will be a Q&A session with a special guest. This top class event which will be ticketed is expected to attract a capacity audience -over half have already been snapped up.

Unfortunately due to the size of the venue the numbers have had to be restricted. Tickets priced at £12 are now available from the Harris Kilt Company based in Sandy Row, Belfast, and the Blackthorn Pipers Societies Facebook page or at the November session on the 16th if they have not already sold out by then.

The society has been working diligently month after month for years giving young up and coming pipers or the more experienced practitioners a platform to display their talents. I am sure piping fans will give the organisation the support it deserves and particularly when they have engaged such a prestigious talent as their December Blackthorn Piper. 

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Ayrshire Bagpipes Nov 2020
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The date for the 2022 RSPBA NI Branch Annual General Meeting has been set as Saturday 26th November at 11am and the meeting will take place at Cookstown Methodist Church Hall, 28 Loy Street, Cookstown BT80 8PE.

Nominations for the election of officers and notices of motion for the AGM should have been received from band secretaries by the NI Branch Secretary by 5th November. The email contact for the NI Branch Secretary is secretary@rspbani.org.


The BBC Radio Ulster ‘Pipes & Drums’ show returned to the airways for a six programme series each Sunday evening at 6:30pm during September / October. The presenter is Mark Wilson who is familiar to many in the pipe band fraternity as an RSPBA adjudicator as well as being a gifted drummer and seasoned presenter on radio and television.

In the first programme in September he featured the 13 time World Pipe Band Champions, Field Marshal Montgomery, as well as Gransha, Kildoag and the 70’s Experience Pipe Band, amongst some other great music. All episodes can be heard again on BBC Sounds.


NI Branch pipe band competitors, officials and supporters were saddened to learn of the passing of Pipe Major Paddy Kelly of the St. Lawrence of Howth Pipe Band.

Paddy (pictured) who regularly brought the St Lawrence band up to NI Branch competitions was a great character and a long time servant of the pipe band scene in Ireland. As well as being the long serving Pipe Major of the Howth band, he spent many years as a member of both the Leinster Branch of the IPBA and the National Executive Committee of the IPBA.

Paddy’s son Noel is the current Pipe Major of the Howth band and is also a member of the IPBA’s National Executive committee. Our sincere condolences go to Paddy’s widow Agnes (who is also a piper) and also a long-time member of the Irish Pipe Band Association, together with his sons Paul and Noel, sister Angela, brother William, brother-in-law Herbert and the family circle. Paddy’s funeral took place at the Church of the Assumption, Howth followed by burial at St. Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton.



I was interested in a story I came across about a month ago that a Dundalk based couple Marc and Ciara Keller were in the process of forming a new pipe band in the town which is to be known as St Brigid’s Pipe Band.

Marc Keller will be familiar to followers of the local pipe band scene as he competed with St Patrick’s Annesborough and Colmcille amongst others over the years. The new band has been offered assistance from the Irish Pipe Band Association and, whilst competing is likely to be a goal in the future, the initial target will be public performances.

I was delighted to see this picture of the band pipers at their first practice in the towns Clan Na Gael clubrooms (below). Many congratulations to Marc and Ciara on this initiative which is now up and running.


The Grade 2 St Mary’s Derrytrasna is seeking a new Leading Drummer as they prepare for the 2023 season. Melvin Bowman, who held the position since 2017, has decided to step down. The band would like to thank Melvin for all his work over the last number of seasons in which the band enjoyed Ulster, All Ireland, UK, British and Champion of Champions successes as they progressed through Grade 4A, 3B, 3A and into 2.

The band now has a vacancy for a Leading Drummer and is looking for an experienced player with a proven record at Grade 2 level or above. The band has a drum corps of six quality experienced snare drummers as well as bass and tenor drummers ready and willing to take up the new challenge and bring the band to the next level.

If you are interested [or know of a suitable candidate] please contact Pipe Major Martin Lennon on 07743 431212 or snare drummer Kieran McAlindon on07866 172772 for details. The band practises at Derrytrasna only five miles from the M1 Lurgan [Junction 10] every Thursday evening although the drum corps is flexible with week nights.  


Cavanaleck Pipe Band recently held a very successful end of season barbeque in the Royal British Legion in Fivemiletown. A very enjoyable night was had by all however it was tinged with sadness as the band said farewell to one of their longest serving members, Senior Drum Major Albert Hackett (pictured) who was retiring after 40 years of service.

Pipe Major Irwin Lapsley paid tribute to Albert thanking him for his support and dedication over the years. Irwin informed the large group of band members and friends that it was in 1982 that Albert first paraded with the band in Clogher wearing his distinctive Military uniform complete with bearskin. Very few spectators including his own sister recognised Albert in his uniform that day. 

In thanking the band for their generous gifts Albert commented on how much he had enjoyed leading the band and he wished them continued success in the future.

The Cavanaleck Pipe Band is one of a handful of bands that play the unique Brian Boru bagpipes and gave a successful performance at the North Fermanagh Ulster Scots Association’s celebration of St. Andrew on Saturday, November 5th

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