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Huge crowds enjoy playing of the highest standard  

Pipe Bands by Mervyn McConnell

THE 58th All Ireland Pipe band Championships were held last Saturday in Newcastle's Donard Park at the foot of the beautiful Mourne Mountains.

It was a truly outstanding event which brought crowds of visitors and supporters from many parts of Ireland to the town.

This competition is the biggest event organised jointly by the Northern Ireland Branch of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association and the Irish Pipe Band Association.

It was a clean sweep in all six grades for the Ulster bands with Field Marshal Montgomery under Pipe Major Richard Parkes claiming the title for the fourteenth time in Grade 1.

They won first in the MSR and second in the Medley but won the title on MSR preference. St. Laurence O'Toole were runners up and winners of the best drum corps for the second year in succession.

The Grade 2 British champions -Bleary & District from Co. Armagh - continued on their winning streak by taking the All Ireland Championship title.

This band, under Pipe Major Nigel Davidson, have already achieved victory in the Co. Antrim, Mid-Ulster, Co. Down and Malahide competitions and are almost certain of promotion to Grade 1. Taking the runners tip place was Ballinderry Bridge who also won best pipes in Grade 2. Lord Edward's Own had an amazing victory by winning the trophy for best drums, which gave them 4th overall placing.

Pipe Major Kenny Ferguson and his Killadeas band had their fourth victory so far this season in Grade 3A to claim the All Ireland title.

This has been an outstanding season so far for this band and if they continue to do as well in the second half of the season then they are well on their way to promotion to Grade 2.

The drumming and best bass trophies were won by North Belfast under Leading Tip Bobby Rea.

The British Champions in Grade 3B - Quinn Memorial- again swept all before them and won both piping and drumming in their grade. This has been an amazing year for Pipe Major Harold Bloomfield and his band and must give them much confidence for the world championships in August.

Co. Armagh band Marlacoo had a terrific day when they won Grade 4A in convincing style. Pipe Major Isaac Grant must have been well pleased with the performance of his band.

Leading Tip Sammy Smyth led the drum corps of Gransha to victory in 4A

Indeed the whole performance of the Grade 4A bands were, according to one of the adjudicators, the best he had ever heard in his 30 years experience of adjudicating.

Lady Pipe Major Iris Gilmour and the Queen Elizabeth band had a hat trick in Grade 4B when they won best pipes, best drums and best bass. This has been a good season for this band as well.

The senior All Ireland championship title in drum majoring was divided between Kathy Megarry and Paula Braiden.

The judges just couldn't decide between these two girls and so they were declared joint winners. Ian Scott won the juvenile title, Laura McComb the junior and Aisling Duggan took the novice juvenile trophy.

The second half of the season opens with the North Down Championships in the grounds of Bangor Castle on Saturday 26 July at 12 o'clock.

Results of the 2003 All Ireland

Grade 4B. 1st Queen Elizabeth. (also best drums and best bass) 2nd Manor Cunningham. 3rd McNeillstown. 4th Cull ybackey Jun.

Grade 4A. 1st Marlacoo. 2nd St.Patricks Bandon. 3rd Annsborough. 4th Gortaclare. Best Drums Gransha Best Bass Corpus Christi.

Grade 3B. 1st Quinn Memorial (also best drums.) 2nd Altnaveigh. 3rd Black Raven. 4th Fintan Lalor. Best Bass Newcastle West.

Grade 3A. 1st Killadeas. 2nd Syerla. (also best pipes) 3rd North Belfast (also best drums and best bass) 4th Finvoy.

Grade 2. 1st Bleary & District (also best bass). 2nd Ballinderry Bridge (also best pipes). 3rd Killeen. 4th Lord Edward's Own (also best drums)

Grade 1. 1st MSR Field Marshal Montgomery. Ist Med. St.Laurence O'Toole. Overall 1st on MSR preference Field Marshal Montgomery. 2nd St.Laurence O'Toole. (also best drums and best bass) 3rd Ravara.

Novice Juvenile Drum Majors. 1st Aisling Duggan. 2nd Linzi Hamilton. 3rd Samantha Gordon. 4th Craig Clydesdale. 5th Jonathan McKee.

Junior. 1st Laura McComb. 2nd Joanne Wilson. 3rd Ryan Ferry. 4th Laura 1. Lawson. 5th Alison Wilmont.

Juvenile. Ist Ian Scott. 2nd Teresa McMechan. 3rd Jennifer Elvin. 4th Danielle Sharvin. 5th Paul Spence. Senior. Ist joint Cathy Megarry and Paula Braiden. 3rd David Brownlee. 4th Brian Wilson. 5th Ian Young. 

Ulster Star