IN his New Year message to pipe band members and supporters, George Ussher, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Branch and the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, said the past year was one that had flown by at an unbelievable pace.
For those charged with running the Association it had been a very busy year, George said.
Some competitions had to be cancelled because of flooding in some areas while other venues enjoyed glorious sunshine.
At the European Championships, held in the Ormeau Park Belfast, some of the worst conditions experienced for many years meant the Grade 1 championships were postponed for 30 minutes because of severe rain whilst at the World Championships in Glasgow one of the highest ever attendances was recorded with an estimated 32,000 spectators treated to a feast of piping and drumming of the highest quality.
The National Council, said George, continues to strive for improvement in the standard of service given to the membership both on and off the park.
A programme is underway to produce a charter of membership services where all the plans proposed will be supported by a solid business plan. Each competition in Scotland and in Northern Ireland is being studied with a view to improving the quality of the venue and the standard of the organisation.
The World Championships in Glasgow will have a corporate entertainment facility for the first time in an attempt to introduce more business community links with the pipe band world.
The team at Headquarters has been strengthened with the appointment of a new Office Manager - Mrs Aliki Papageorgiou - who is originally from Cyprus and has been living in Glasgow now for 24 years.
Some years ago it was feared that the premises in Washington Street would have to be sold, but since the appointment of George Ussher, and Ian Embelton, and with the help of the National Council members, a great turn around has been achieved.
Not only is the association debt free but now it is proposed to give the building a facelift and improve the facilities within the office complex.
The area around Washington Street is presently being developed, and it is hoped that when the funding becomes available, larger and more extensive renovations will take place.
The plan is to have a building that all can be very proud off and one that reflects its standing as one of the world's leading piping organisations.
Lord Edward's Own Pipe Band from Kildare, who were promoted to Grade 2 this season, were recently honoured by a visit from Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister.
The band had one of their most successful seasons last year under Pipe Major Ciaran Murphy, originally from Co. Fermanagh, and Leading Tip Derek Doyle.
They won first place at the Scottish, the Ulster and the Malahide Championships, second in the Worlds, third in the All Ireland and fourth in the British Championships.
As this is the only Grade 2 band in the South of Ireland they will have to do a lot of travelling up North this year in order to find challengers in their grade.
The classes for Belvoir Drum Majors commenced last Saturday in Belvoir Parish Church Hall, and will continue on Saturday 1 1 th, 18th and 25th January, and February 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd from 2 to 4 o'clock.
"Their Annual Display and Presentation of Certificates will be held on Friday 28th February at the same venue.
Grade 1 Ballycoan Pipe Band will be the guests at the annual Burns Night to be held in the Europa Hotel on Friday 31st January 2003.
The event will start at 8.15 and end at 1.00am. Tickets, with or without dinner, are available from John Dean on 90 321766.
A correction to last week's copy. The Drum Majors who were successful at major championships in the year 2002 should have read as follows: