LOOKING back on the pipe band season of 2002, there were many victories for Ulster bands at all the major championships.
Indeed in Grade 1 and Grade 2 Field Marshal Montgomery with Pipe Major Richard Parkes and Ballycoan under Pipe Major Alfie Rea totally dominated the piping scene.
Winners of the European, British, Worlds and Cowal, the Field Marshal men only just narrowly missed out on having a complete whitewash in Grade 1. They were runners up at the Scottish Championships, being pipped at the post by their old rivals Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia.
Ballycoan, in their most successful season since the formation of the band, claimed the ultimate victory at the British, Scottish, European, Cowal and World championships, which left the rest trailing far behind. These achievements elevate them into the elite Grade 1 next season.
Both of these bands also won the coveted champion of champions title in their grades.
In Grade 2 there was also success at the worlds for the drum corps of Upper Crossgare Pipe Band under the leadership of Ian Cherry, when they won the trophy for best drums. Paul Crothers from the same band also won the world's best bass award.
It was also a good ending
for North Belfast Pipe band with Pipe Major Jackie Moore and
Leading Tip Bobby Rea.
The band only entered the competition arena for the last major event, which was the Cowal Championships, and went away with first place and the winners of the best drums in Grade 3A.
They hope to be ready to complete at all contests next season. Tullintrain were also victorious at the British Championships in 3A at Ayr Scotland, and Syerla were awarded the overall champion of champions in drumming in this grade.
Two drum corps also won major titles for their band at the world championships. Ballydonaghy Caledonia in Grade 3B took the world drumming championships and Mountfield the title in 4A
It was a also good season for our bands in Grade 4A where all five major titles were won by locals. Quinn Memorial were crowned champions in both piping and drumming at the Scottish and British championships. Altnaveigh won the European and Cowal and Killen took the last remaining title when they won the top prize at the world championships.
Altnaveigh also won the Champion of Champions in both piping and drumming.
The last grade - 4B - also saw victory for an Ulster band when Gransha won the European title and the trophy for best drums at the worlds.
On the solo scene there was no-one to touch Andy Scullion when he claimed the Ulster and All Ireland solo drumming Championship titles once again. These wins brought his total of victories to an amazing fifteen, and will take a long time to be equalled.
Taking the All Ireland senior piping title was Gary Watterson who pipes with Grade 2 Bleary & District, and the new winner of the senior piping at the Ulster Festival of Piping was Jonathan Greenlees.
Our drum majors also did us proud this season. Alistair Patterson brought home the world and British senior titles. Ryan Ferry won the Scottish and Cowal Junior titles. Jennifer Elvin also took the Scottish and Cowal in the juvenile section.
Two British titles were won by Laura Jane Lawson (Junior) and Danielle Sharvin (Juvenile), and two European titles went to Donna Gillespie (Junior) and Rachel Corr (Juvenile).
In January all bands will begin practising in
earnest for the new season. This will be especially so for the
ones that gained promotion last year.
Let's hope that 2003 will bring as many - or even more - victories for our Ulster bands and drum majors.