AT the 52nd Annual General Meeting at the Bridge Community Centre, Lisburn last Saturday, there were 50 bands represented at what was the biggest turn out of members for many years.
So lengthy was the business of the day that an extension to the time had to be requested, but it was good to see so many taking a keen interest in this very important meeting which was presided over by Ian Embelton, Executive Officer of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association.
Tom McCarroll from Ahoghill was voted in for another year as President of the Northern Ireland Branch. George Ussher from Ballinderry now becomes the new Chairman of the branch as well as remaining Chairman at Headquarters in Washington Street Glasgow.
He will be assisted by the new Vice Chairman Winston Pinkerton. Other officers are Lorraine McVeigh (Branch secretary), Joanne Davidson (assistant secretary), Mervyn Herron (Contest administrator and national Council), Kenny Crothers (Treasurer and National Council), Walter McKibben (assistant treasurer), Ernie Clarke (convenor of finance committee), Brian Harvey (Chief Stewart), Fred Walker (Pipe Band Magazine Correspondent) and Mervyn McConnell (Press Officer).
The new Chairman, George Ussher, thanked John Crozier, ex-Chairman of the branch, for his many years service in this position.
John is a well-known figure at pipe band contests and has steered the business of the association in his usual efficient manner for 15 years.
He is also very much to the fore in the Ulster Scots Association where he takes a prominent role in promoting our culture.
Two recommendations passed at the AGM were that Grade 4A bands were to play the same as the musical requirements at the five major championships and that Grade 2 bands will play their own choice of MSR.
Three new bands have joined the Northern Ireland Branch of the RSPBA. They are Grade 1 - Simon Fraser University, 78th Fraser Highlanders and Alberta Caledonia Pipe bands from Canada.
Believe it or not the Northern Ireland Branch is the nearest branch for our Canadian cousins to join in order to become members of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association.
This year's annual 'Piper of the Year' competition held at the Adair Arms Hotel, Ballymena is still attracting a large audience after 22 years.
This invitational event for top soloists is the only one of its kind in Ireland where junior and senior pipers are invited to compete for the top prize of Piper of the Year.
The winner of the March Strathspey and Reel section was Alistair Dunn from Newtownards who pipes with Grade 1 Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe band, the reigning world champions.
Alistair gave a first class performance to lift the top award, winning this coveted trophy for the first time. Runner up was Robert Watt with Allen Tully from St. Laurence O'Toole in third and Margaret Houlihan who plays with Shotts and Dykehead from Scotland in fourth place.
This section was preceded by the piobaireachd competition and the winners were Robert Watt, Allen Tully and Andrew Carlisle, who pipes with Grade 1 Ravara Pipe band. Andrew was fresh from his victory of winning the Scottish junior championships at Carnoustie, where he won the piobaireachd and was second in the March Strathspey and Reel.
It was a worthwhile journey for Allen Tully, son of well-known Pipe Major Terry Tully, for as well as winning the above prizes he was named as best junior piper of the year.
The hornpipe and jig was won by Robert Watt with Margaret Houlihan runner up.
The adjudicator was Fred Morrison from Scotland.