THE seventh Malahide Festival of Piping and Drumming was held last Saturday in the beautiful setting of Malahide Castle and hosted by Malahide and District Pipe band. These championships are the first of the 2004 outdoor season's competitions and have become the biggest and most popular in the South of Ireland.
The brilliant sunny weather and friendly atmosphere of the event brought many extra supporters in to hear the music of the pipes and drums.
Acting Pipe Major Alistair Dunne led the Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band to success in the Open Grade - all under the watchful eve of Pipe Major Richard Parkes who is recovering well and will soon be able to take up the reins again of one of the world's most talented and successful bands.
Leading Tip Keith Orr was also victorious in claiming the best drum corps award in the top grade.
St.Laurence O'Toole from Dublin were runners up with Ballycoan from Belfast in third place.
Grade 2 was won by Ballinderry Bridge with Pipe Major Noel Mullan. This looks like the band to watch out for this season in Grade 2. Cullybackey took second with Killadeas - newcomers to this grade - in third and Lord Edwards' Own winning the drumming.
Grade 3 was the biggest grade of the day as it merged A and B sections. It was won by New Ross & District with Seven Towers, competing for the first time in Grade 3, in second place, and Black Raven in third. Bobby Rea led North Belfast's drum section to victory in this grade.
Co. Tyrone band Gortaclare took top honours in Grade 4A with close neighbours Aughintober in runners up place. Annsborough were third with Southern band Corpus Christi winning the trophy for best drums.
It was a terrific day for Cullybackey Junior band when they claimed success in Grade 4B. Thomas Davis were second and Cleland Memorial third. Letterkenny & District won the drumming.
The winner of the solo invitational event held on Friday evening prior to the pipe band championships was Clive McFarland from Mountjoy outside Omagh.
Richard Parkes was presented with the President's 2004 award for his exceptional contribution to piping. Apart from been Pipe Major of the 2003 Champion of Champions band - Field Marshal Montgomery - Richard has also won seven All Ireland senior solo championships, eight `Piper of the Year' awards, and nine Ulster solo championships.
Novice: 1st Craig Clydesdale; 2nd Natasha Cherry, 3rd Kiera Wiilson.
Junior: 1st Laura Jane Lawson; 2nd Samanatha Gordon; 3rd Simon Kerr.
Juvenile: 1st Ryan Ferry; 2nd Barry Pitt-cell; 3rd Teresa McCartan
Senior: 1st Brian Wilson; 2nd Paula Braiden; 3rd Andrea McKeown.
Adjudicators for the Drum Majors were Jim Graham Belfast and Alistair Patterson, Drumquin.
The first of this years five major championships will be the Scottish Championships, which will take place in Dumbarton, Scotland on Saturday 22 May.
Fifteen local bands will travel over to compete at this event along with local adjudicators Gordon Parkes (grades 4A/4B) Denver Cardwell (Grades 3A/3B), Ian Wood, (Grades 2 /Juvenile) and Sandy Steele (Grade I /Novice).
A total of 129 bands have been entered for this competition.
The following week the first of the local competitions will commence with the Co. Fermanagh Championships. These will be held at Celtic Park, Enniskillen on Saturday 29 May commencing at 12.45.
There is an entry of 41 bands for this event.
Ballycoan will be competing in Grade I along with a number of Grade 2 bands. The adjudicators will be Leslie Geddis and Sandy Steele for drumming, with Ian Wood and David McConnell for piping.