THE famous Cowal Highland Gathering was held in Dunoon last Saturday and once again Ulster bands reigned supreme in the top grades. Thousands packed the stadium where there was something to suit everyone's interest from highland dancing, athletics, solo piping, tossing the caber and of course the pipe band championships.
Ulster bands took four of the six pipe band championship grades and Laura Jane Lawson the junior drum major championship.
Field Marshal Montgomery claimed their fourth major title of 2004 with Pipe Major Richard Parkes and Leading Tip Keith Orr.
It was indeed a superb performance from the recent winners of the world Grade 1 championships, which also secured them the overall Champion of Champions 2004 award in both piping and drumming. In Grade 2 Ballinderry Bridge competed a perfect season by winning the Cowal Championships - their third major title this year - under the Leadership of Pipe Major Noel Mullen and Leading Tip Melvin Bowman.
Undoubtedly they are now looking forward to next season when they will compete in the elite Grade 1. Cullybackey also did well to take a fifth placing in this grade.
And what a terrific achievement it was for Pipe Major David Reid and Drum Sergeant Michael Cartcart when in their first season in Grade 3B they took their fourth title with a perfect score of four first place prizes.
Seven Towers also picked up the coveted champion of champions trophies for piping and drumming which will win them promotion to 3A next season.
Gortaclare was the other Cowal champion when they lifted the title in Grade 4A with Pipe Major Norman Cochrane. Castlerock with Leading Tip Willie Wray won the best drums section.
Other bands to get into the prize list were North Belfast who won fourth place in 3A and Banbridge drum corps who won the champion of champion's trophy.
Altnaveigh Memorial took 3rd place in 3B and Cleland memorial fourth in Grade 4B.
In the drum major events Craig Clydesdale took runner up place in the Junior grade with Linzi Hamilton in fourth place.
In the Juvenile grade Ryan Ferry won second, Teresa McCartan third and Laura McComb fourth, with Paula Braiden the only Ulster drum major to take a prize in the senior grade and she won third place.
The Cowal Gathering now completes the 2004 pipe band season, but there is still the All Ireland piping and drumming solos which take place in the new venue of Banbridge High School on September 18 and the world solo drumming championships which will be held in Bathgate Academy on Saturday October 30.