IT has been a real shock to all in the pipe band world to hear of the sudden illness of Pipe Major Richard Parkes, after returning from America.
Richard is Pipe Major of one of the top Grade 1 bands in the world who are the reigning 2003 champion of champions.
On behalf of all in the piping world, we wish Richard a full and speedy recovery.
Doug Elliott from the Field-Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band has issued this statement.
"It is anticipated that during week commencing Monday 15 March 2004, Richard Parkes will be released from the Belfast hospital where he has been receiving medical care since taking ill immediately upon his return from the United States of America on 8 March. It is intended that Richard will convalesce at his home near Comber, and we know that his many friends and colleagues will understand Richard's circumstances, and fully appreciate his requirements for a short period of time. "We are pleased to confirm that Richard has already made encouraging progress, and is beginning to recovery from some of the early difficulties associated with his condition.
"Richard and Ruth once again extend their sincere thanks. for the overwhelming support, which they have received, from friends, colleagues, and well-wishers around the world. This has been a source of great inspiration to them both.
"During the period of Richard's convalescence, and with Richard's support, the band Management Team will make full provision for continuity in the conduct of all of Field Marshal's activities. Any additional contact arrangements for the band will be issued following our forthcoming management team meeting.
"We extend our thanks and best wishes to all in the pipe band community."
Entries close on 27 March for the Saintfield Mini Bands contest, which will take place in Ballygowan Church Hall on Saturday 10 April at l pm.
It is hoped that bands will support this long running competition. Recently we have seen several other long established events cancelled due to lack of entries and interest from bands men and women. Let's hope that Saintfield won't be the latest statistic. Adjudicators will be John Moles (piping) and Billy Dunlop (drumming).
Contact Wendy Patterson on 97528995 for further details.
It will be good to see Saintfield Pipe band back in the competition arena this new season after many years absence.
The band has now recruited new members and will be under the leadership of Pipe Major Raymond McCaughtry and his son Jonathan as Leading Tip.
Saintfield is one of the oldest bands in the association having been formed in the 1940s. They enjoyed much success in Grade 2, and indeed at one competition, after having won Grade 2, they played up in the Open grade and won it as well.
Tom Anderson, former pipe-major and member of several Grade 1 bands since the 1960s, has now been appointed Pipe Major of the Grade 2 Niagara Regional Police Pipe band from Ontario.
Tom will replace the band's long serving Pipe Major Al Ash who resigned in February this year.
Before settling in Canada Tom has very well known in Ireland. He led the successful St. Patrick's Donaghmore Pipe Band from Co. Tyrone. He was also instrumental in leading the McDonald Memorial band from Dromore as well as being a very gifted composer. Among his repertoire was the famous tune 'Train Journey North' which he wrote while travelling from Dublin to Belfast to attend the band practice.
This would have been one of the top ten leading tunes played by bands at that time, and is still performed to this day.
He is also a talented solo piper and as an adjudicator was at Malahide last year. According to Tom, Niagara Police have 17 pipers and a new drum section led by Graham Kirkwood of the famous piping and drumming family in Ontario. The band, which has finished as high as second in Grade 2 at the worlds, still plan to attend the 2004 worlds. Last year they finished sixth.
The Annual General Meeting of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association took place last Saturday, 13 March, in Glasgow.
A full report will be given at the Northern Ireland branch meeting, which is on Saturday 27 March in the Bridge Community Centre, Lisburn at 2pm.
Also the list of all the adjudicators for the five major championships should be announced this week.