2006 saw pipers, drummers and drum majors from Northern Ireland complete a terrific year lifting top trophies and awards across the whole piping scene.
In August this year at Glasgow Green Scotland, The Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band under the leadership of Pipe Major Richard Parkes and Leading Tip Keith Orr lifted their fifth world title in the elite Grade 1. The band also won two other top championship titles – the British and the Scottish- to give them the coveted Champion of Champions title in Grade 1.
Bands also winning world championship titles were Aughintober in Grade 3B and Killadeas in Grade 4B. Both these bands also lifted the world's best drum corps title.
At the Scottish Championships held at Dumbarton in May, Battlehill won the Grade 3A title and McNeillstown the Grade 4A title.
Then at the European championships held at Greenock, Seven Towers took the Grade 2 title with Battlehill again winning the Grade 3A trophy.
All three-world titles in the drum majoring events were won by Ulster contestants. Alastair Patterson from Drumquin Co. Tyrone won the senior title, with Jennifer Graham the juvenile title and Linzi Hamilton the junior championship title.
Steven McWhirter originally from Ahoghill, but who now lives in Vancouver Canada and plays with the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, won the senior world solo drumming championship title held for the first time in Northern Ireland in October 2006.
Steven, who came into the championships as the 2006 All Ireland reigning champion, had points to spare when he defeated the defending and 16 times world champion Jim Kilpatrick. In an amazing evening of drumming, two of the remaining three titles were won by Ulster drummers. Chris McNicholl from Bleary Pipe Band took the title in the Juvenile section 3, and Gareth McLees from North Belfast Pipe Band won the juvenile section2.
A young man writing his name in the piping history books this year is Alastair Dunn the Pipe Sergeant of the FMM . He completed a fantastic year when he won the prestigious Northern Meeting Gold Medal for Piobaireachd in Aviemore Scotland at the end of August 2006.
This award is considered one of the top titles awarded by the Highland Society of London and Alastair carried off the title in perfect style completing against 30 of the world's top soloists.
The Northern Ireland branch is not only the largest in the RSPBA but is undoubtedly one of the most successful branches in the association, and 2007 promises to be even better. The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association has distributed a questionnaire to Grade 2 bands that have recently completed at the World Pipe Band Championships asking for their input on whether the grade should copy the "league table" qualifying system currently in place for Grade 1.
A questionnaire accompanied by a letter from the RSPBA Chief Executive Officer Ian Embelton, asks whether bands agree, disagree or are undecided as to whether a pre- qualifying system should be adopted starting with 2007.
The letter outlines the potential system to reflect the system that has been in operation in Grade 1 since 2000. This calls for bands to accrue points at the RSPBA major championships held prior to the world championships in that year.
The letter also suggests that 6 bands would pre-qualify based on the league table system and another 6 to 8 bands would gain a spot in the Grade 2 final on the day of the World's.
It is hoped that all Grade 2 bands will make their views known about this important matter as overseas bands (this includes bands from Northern Ireland) will surely be at a great disadvantage not been able to travel and complete at all the major events held by the RSPBA. Overseas Grade 2 bands don't have the sponsorship which most of the Grade 1 bands have and which allows them to travel to all the major events.