Northern Ireland News: Bangor Welcomes the UKs/ St Mary’s/ Ardmore Cup/ RSPBA Regradings

Ravara after their Grade 2 win at the UKs last year

The official launch of the first RSPBA Major contest of 2024, the United Kingdom Pipe Band Championships, took place recently in Bangor. The contest is on Saturday, 18 May, at Ward Park, Arras, Bangor.

The RSPBA Northern Ireland branch are hosting the event in partnership with Ards and North Down Borough Council. The Championships will feature some 1,500 musicians in 75 bands.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

At the launch, Mayor Jennifer Gilmour, said: ‘Ards and North Down Borough Council is delighted to host this Championships this year. It is very exciting that we have managed to secure such a high-profile event in the Borough.’

The new Chairman of RSPBA, Bob Niven, commented: ‘We have worked extremely hard to continue the tradition of Northern Ireland hosting the UK Championship. We are excited to be working with Ards and North Down Borough Council, who have made it possible.’

Playing order and times for the UKs Grade 1

RSPBANI Chairman, Alastair Patterson, said: ‘It is a privilege to retain the UK Championship in Northern Ireland and we are delighted to be working with the RSPBA and the council in hosting the competition in such a great venue as Ward Park, Bangor.’ 

Officials and piper at the UK launch

Bangor has always been a popular venue for pipe band competitions stretching back as far as the 1950s, and for visitors from the mainland it is the perfect opportunity to make a weekend of it and explore the North Down area and beyond. The competition venue is close to the city centre and its shops and cafés.

St Mary’s Derrytrasna: Following all the positive band news of recent weeks comes the announcement that St. Mary’s Derrytrasna will not be competing in 2024.

St Mary’s Derrytrasna winners of Grade 3A at the 2018 UK Championships

The band, returned to the local pipe band scene after quite a few years away, and rose from Grade 4B up to Grade 2, winning many titles including four consecutive first places at the UK Championships in 4B, 4A, 3B, & 3A, as well as All Ireland Champions and a few third places at the Worlds.

The band was elevated to Grade 2 for the 2020 season and the band did compete in each of the last two seasons. They have always been a very musical combination, so it is disappointing to see them leave the scene, however it is their intention to re-build with the emphasis on bringing beginners to a standard that the band will be ready to compete once again. Let’s hope it won’t be long before we see them.

MacRaeBanner ’19
Ayrshire Bagpipes Nov 2020
shepherd banner ’22

Ardmore Cup: This is a solo piping competition which takes place in County Waterford. Held in the St. Declan’s Hall, Ardmore, it is an invitation competition featuring solo pipers competing for a prize fund of around £4,300. The winner for the second year running was Connor Sinclair of Crieff, Scotland, who was placed first in the MSR and second in the Medley. He was also voted Best Dressed competitor.

Alen Tully, winner of the Medley at Ardmore

The Medley section was won by St. Laurence O’Toole’s Pipe Major Alen Tully. Canadian piper Bruce Gandy was the runner-up overall thanks to a second place in the MSR and a third in the Medley. The only piper from Northern Ireland to get into the prize list was Rathfriland’s James Frazer who was placed fourth in the MSR.

The other who took part were Alister Donaghy (Northern Ireland), Chris Earls (Republic of Ireland) and Scott Wallace (Northern Ireland). The Under-12 practice chanter competition was won by Ben Cardy of the Cleland Memorial band from Bangor. He received a vintage set of Peter Henderson pipes  donated by Michael Glennon, a piper from New Jersey, USA. 

Ben receives his pipes from promoter Eric Stein

RSPBA Grading: The Music Board has published a list of bands who have sought either a grading change or are first time registrations. It contains the names of quite a few overseas bands and brings excellent news from a Northern Ireland perspective.

Three bands who have been out of competitions for some time have been granted regrading to Grade 4B. The first is the Queen Elizabeth from Castledawson, a band who had been off the road for around 20 years before returning last year. Since then it has been extremely active appearing at all manner of parades and concerts.

Marlacoo, back in action

McDonald Memorial sought and gained demotion from 4a to Grade 4B, while Raffrey and Marlacoo, who had both competed at 3B level before disappearing from the scene are now back in action, also in 4B. This is a great boost for the NI branch, and it will most certainly make for a competitive Grade 4B during the season. It is hoped that we will see other bands return to the competition action in the coming years. 

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

2 thoughts on “Northern Ireland News: Bangor Welcomes the UKs/ St Mary’s/ Ardmore Cup/ RSPBA Regradings

  1. Margaret – I totally agree Portrush like Bangor and Newcastle are the premier venues. The last few years of Portrush were held in the car park due to works at the tennis courts venue. I’m not sure their restoration makes them suitable again. There may also have been financial issues but not sure. Proximity to the town centre is vital with the parade of the town attracting thousands in from the country areas

  2. It’s just a pity that there is no contest at Portrush now always held in August, brought great crowds to the North West . Was a piper for many years , it’s just in my blood . Margaret .

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