FORWARD thinking, good organisation and the right date are some of the distinctions that go to make up the success of the Co. Down section's indoor Full Bands competition.
Held last Saturday in Banbridge High School, this popular and unique indoor event just goes from strength to strength with the school packed with a capacity crowd.
Thirty three bands over 5 grades took part in what has become known as a great warm up practise for the outdoor competition, which begins on Saturday May 12 with the Malahide Festival of Piping and Drumming.
Starting off the season in winning form was Ravara Pipe Band from outside Saintfield under the leadership of Pipe Major Sammy Connolly and Leading Tip Aaron McCartan.
They took the top trophies for both piping and drumming in Grade 2. Cullybackey and Killeen took the other two places.
In Grade 3B the top honours went to Drumlough from Lisburn when they won both piping and drumming under Pipe Major Ian Burrows.
Two of the grades - 3A and 4A - were won by bands from the South of Ireland. Arklow won 3A with Annsborough in runner up place and winners of the drumming trophy and Manorcunningham took first place in 4A with Letterkenny in second and winners of the best drum corps. Moneygore was the other grade winner and that was in 4B.
Malahide International 10th Festival of Piping and Drumming will be held on May 11 and 12 with an entry of almost 50 bands competing for the top titles. One of the early confirmations from overseas in this year competition is the Grade 1 Scottish Power who will join top Irish band St. Laurence O'Toole and other bands from Northern Ireland to try and prevent current world champions Field Marshal Montgomery from making it a clean ten in-a-row at Malahide.
The Festival has attracted the highest level of competitors since it started in 1997. It promises to be a family weekend as well with face painting, Bouncy Castle and fun activities for the children. And for the first time ever a world-class team of athletes will visit Malahide to put on a display of the heavy events normally associated with the highland games in Scotland.
They will stage five events and spectators are sure to be invited to test their skills and strength against the experts. One particularly novel event this year will be to get spectators to compete in the Haggis Hurling competition, which involves throwing a frozen haggis and half a barrel of whiskey. It will be interesting to see what will happen at that event.
On Friday evening the 7th invitational solo championships will take place at St. Sylvester's GAA club. Fourteen top solo pipers from the North and South of Ireland, America, Canada and South Africa will compete for this lucrative title.
Bands men and women will be saddened to learn of the double death of two of the McVeigh family in recent days. Edith McVeigh, who served as a compiler for many years in the Northern Ireland branch was the granddaughter of the late Eddie McVeigh who was the man instrumental in bringing the Northern Ireland branch and the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association together. His daughter and Edith's aunt Renee Crozier (nee McVeigh) was the wife of the late John Crozier who was chairman of the Northern Ireland branch for many years. The sympathy of everyone is extended to all their family and friends.
Results of the Co. Down Indoor Full Bands
Grade 2 - 1st. Ravara (also best drums). 2nd. Cullybackey. 3rd. Killeen.
Grade 3A - 1st. Arklow. 2nd. Annsborough (also best drums) 3rd. Finvoy. 4th.Cottown.
Grade 3B - 1st. Drumlough (also Best Drums). 2nd. Augharonan. 3rd. Quinn. 4th. Raffrey.
Grade 4A - 1st. Manorcunningham. 2nd. Letterkenny (also best drums). 3rd. Dromara. 4th. St. Laurence Howth.
Grade 4B - 1st. Moneygore. 2nd. Dr. Wright. 3rd. Cleland Memorial (also best drums). 4th. Lisnamulligan.