P/M Richard Parkes Master Classes/ SLOT’s Famous Bass Drummer Retires

The Ulster-Scots Agency is an organisation whose aims are to promote the study, conservation, development and use of Ulster-Scots as a living language; to encourage and develop the full range of its attendant culture; and to promote an understanding of the history of Ulster-Scots.

Since it was established in 1999 it has funded annual tuition programmes generally promoted by individuals bands of all types with piping, drumming and drum majoring to the fore and benefiting greatly.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

In pursuit of those goals and specifically the promotion of pipe bands, the Agency has developed an exciting new initiative to train Ulster’s next generation of world-beating Pipe Band leaders.

It has launched the ‘Richard Parkes MBE Pipe Major Masterclass’ which will see current and aspiring Pipe Majors working with Richard, a man who has dominated the global pipe band scene for three decades, winning a record-breaking 13 world titles as Pipe Major of Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band. 

Ulster-Scots Agency Chief Executive Ian Crozier said, ‘Ulster has long had a reputation as the powerhouse of the pipe band world and we want to make sure we keep it like that.  What better way than to have the next generation taught by the best in the world?’ 

Over two successive Saturdays, Richard Parkes will share some of the expertise that has made him a household name, including band practice strategies, band intonation, reed selection and manipulation, musical approach, improving technique, maintenance and people management.

Richard commented, ‘I am looking forward to working with current and future Pipe Majors who want to take things to the next level. I would have loved an opportunity like this when I was starting out as a Pipe Major and know we can make a positive difference for all those who participate.’ 

The Ulster-Scots Agency invited expressions of interest from current and aspiring Pipe Majors based in Ulster who would like to participate. The applicants were required to provide some basic information about their current situation and piping journey to date, which will be used by Richard Parkes to identify the best approach to delivery. 

The Masterclasses are to be held in April and it will be interesting to see what the uptake of this initiative has been.

MacRaeBanner ’19
Ayrshire Bagpipes Nov 2020
shepherd banner ’22
silver chanter banner 2024

John Dunne Retires

Pipe band plaudits tend to go to the leading pipe majors or side drummers. Bass drummers tend to be a bit of an afterthought. Nevertheless there are some whose standard of playing cannot be overlooked and sadly this weekend we learned that such an individual will not be gracing the contest field again.

I refer to St Laurence O’Toole bass drummer John Dunne who has announced that he is retiring after nearly 40 years of dedicated service to the band.

John Dunne of SLOT

The surprise statement from the band said, ‘John marched into the circle for his first season with SLOT back in 1986 and has been the heartbeat of the band ever since. Giving so many years of service to anything shows extreme dedication and passion.

‘We as a band are extremely grateful that those years were spent guiding and developing the band that we are so proud of today. His unique style and feel for the music has been admired throughout the pipe band world for many years.

Stephen.and John after winning the Worlds Drumming

‘We will miss him among our ranks but wish John, his wife Veronica and his family, the very best for the future. His shoes won’t be easy to fill but we are delighted to have found the right person. We look forward to introducing our new bass drummer very soon.’

There have been nothing but complimentary comments from pipers and drummers from across the world on hearing this news.

SLOT leading drummer Stephen Creighton said of John, ‘There are no words that can describe John’s contribution to our band and the wider pipe band movement. His skill and artistry were irreplaceable. People say that the most important person in a band is the bass drummer. In our case that that was certainly true. He is close friend as well as a pipe band colleague and will be sorely missed. John leaves with our very best wishes and thanks.’ 

2 thoughts on “P/M Richard Parkes Master Classes/ SLOT’s Famous Bass Drummer Retires

  1. John. What a glorious contribution to the pipe band world. Following the footsteps of your famous uncle Andy Gibson and having played with you in the sixties with the Fintan Lalor PB. you have stood the test of time.
    I have watched SLOT and your good self from the other side of the world through social media for some time.
    Congratulations and thanks for the memories.
    Paul Merrigan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *