Northern Ireland News: Boghall to Headline Concert/ Bands Recruiting/ Ravara Concert/ James Frazer Outstanding at Blackthorn

Boghall in concert in 2004

World Champions Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate are to headline the ‘Kids with Cancer Charity’ concert on Saturday, 24th March 2024, in the Royal Hotel, Cookstown.

The band, under the leadership of Pipe Major Ross Harvey and Leading Drummer Kerr McQuillan, World Solo Drumming Champion, have agreed to return to Northern Ireland for the first time in over a decade.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

I would expect a full house to see this outstanding pipe band which is filled by many talented players. Kerr, in addition to contributing so much to the band’s success, lifted the World Adult Solo title on his debut year at senior level in Glasgow in October.

While the full concert line-up will be completed in a few weeks, the following are currently listed on the draft poster: World Solo Drumming Champions Jacob Laird (Section 1) and Lewis Doherty (Section 3), John Lappin and William Glenholmes, plus McDonald Academy Pipe Band, and the NI World Champion Drum Major Display Team.

P/M Ross Harvey, L/D Kerr McQuillan and P/Sgt Calum Watson after Boghall’s Worlds win in Glasgow in August

All proceeds from the concert will go to the Children Cancer Unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, for which the previous six concerts have already raised an amazing £60,000.

Why not buy yourself or a friend a Christmas present of a £20 admission ticket? Contact Gary Smyth on Facebook or telephone  07814446179. PayPal to:

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Thiepval Recruiting: County Donegal-based Thiepval Memorial Pipe Band, missing from the competition scene for quite a few seasons now, are recruiting pipers and drummers, both learner and experienced. Tuition classes are held every Thursday night in Carnone School. Anyone wishing to come along is encouraged to get in touch with Alyson McKnight on 0879423748. The band is very grateful to the Ulster Scots Agency for supporting these tuition classes.

Cottown Recruiting: Last year the Cottown were reformed and were able to attend a number of events as well as competing. They are now actively seeking new players be they experienced or new learners. They will be made most welcome. Band practices are held each Tuesday evening at 7.30pm in Stevenson Memorial Hall, Six Road Ends, Bangor. If interested, please contact the Band Secretary Jim Callaghan at

Ravara Concert: Ravara Pipe Band will be performing live in concert at the Lagan Valley Island Centre in Lisburn on Saturday April 27th. Tickets will be released by the Centre’s box office in the next few months. Grade 2 Ravara performed recently at a concert for the Carson Memorial Pipe Band in Rathfriland.

Blackthorn Pipers: I am grateful to respected piper and retired RSPBA Adjudicator Harry Stevenson for sharing his thoughts on the Blackthorn Society meeting at the Discover Ulster Scots Centre on Wednesday November 15th.

Harry reports: The audience was welcomed by Chairman Grahame Harris who then gave us a selection of tunes on his Border bagpipe. They are  much lower in pitch than the Great Highland and produce a wonderful mellow sound. Then we were treated by two of the talented young Cleland Memorial pipers, Ben Cardy and Daniel McBlain. Both lads had well set pipes with good clean playing – a credit to their tutor P/M Caldwell Hamilton.

Next we had Alan Glenholmes, Closkelt Pipe Band, and Glen Cupples a former member of Field Marshal. Both players were in good form and their playing was much appreciated.

James Frazer….magnificent bagpipe at the Blackthorn

After the break it was the Blackthorn piper of the evening, James Frazer, a member of the Field Marshal Montgomery band since 2015. At the outset it was evident that his Henderson bagpipe was, in a word, magnificent.

James played a wide selection of tunes in various time signatures. For me his competition marches Brigadier Ronald Cheape of Tiroran and Captain Carswell, and the strathspeys and reels Tulloch Castle, John Roy Stewart, Fiona MacLeod and the Smith of Chilliechassie were top class.

Also, James with his doctorate in history, was able to give brief biographies of Brigadier Cheape, Captain Carswell and John Roy Stewart which was of great interest. James also played the ground (the initial theme) of the ‘Nameless’ piobaireachd Hiharin dro o dro which in my book was excellent.

All in all, this was a most enjoyable night’s piping and I just wish more pipers from North Down, the Ards and South Antrim would come along to hear such fine playing. It is not a competition just a night of good piping.

The next Blackthorn evening is next Tuesday, December 12th. The night will double up as the annual Christmas get together – always a great night’s craic with mince pies and beverages available. 

  • If you have any news from the piping and pipe band scene you’d like to pass on to Gilbert please email him here.

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