Big thank you from

Sylvain Hamon takes Fort Invitational title  

THE Fort Invitational solo piping competition took place last Saturday in the Fort Bar Dungannon where 18 pipers competed for the winning title.

Sylvain Hamon, originally from Brittany but who is now living in Glasgow, won first place in the Hornpipe and Jig and third in the March, Strathspey and Reel to secure the overall title.

It was a fiercely fought contest with excellent performances from all the players, making this event one of the most popular in solo competitions.

Other names on the prize list were Bill Geddes who took runner up place in the Hornpipe and Jig followed by Philip Tasker from the St. Laurence O'Toole Pipe Band from Dublin in third spot.

The March Strathspey and Reel saw Jonathan Greenlees in winning form to take first place with Andrew Carlisle in second and Sylvain Hamon in third.

This year a new prize was introduced for the best newcomer and this was awarded to Philip Tasker.

The 2009 pictorial calendar from the Northern Ireland branch of the RSPBA is now available to order.

This calendar, which costs £4, has all the dates for venues and competitions, including the majors for 2009, plus many photographs of bands men and women from the 2008 season.

These are available as usual from contest secretary Mervyn Herron who is happy to take orders now. These calendars are always very popular and in great demand so early booking would be advisable. Contact Mervyn on telephone 028 4062 4849 or mobile 077 02 681189 to secure your copy. There was good news for representatives at the 58th Annual general Meeting of the Northern Ireland branch of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association held in Lisburn recently.

Belfast Northern Ireland is to host a major pipe band championship event for the next 3 years - 2010, 2011, 2012. This is a massive boast for the city of Belfast, which will welcome thousands of visitors from Scotland, England and many parts of the world.

Next year's competitions will include the All Ireland which will take place in Lisburn on July 4, and also for the first time, a competition will be held in Dungannon on May 9. This Dungannon contest will signal the start of the outdoor competition for the 2009 season.

The Co. Down section will again host their annual indoor event on May 2. Last year this was cancelled and replaced by an outdoor event to fill the gap left by the cancellation of the Malahide Festival. Up to the moment it doesn't look as if Malahide will take place next year.

Other business decided at the AGM was the election of Alec Gordon as vice-chairman, and Arlene Brownlee as assistant treasurer. Thanks were given to Walter McKibben, who had to step down from the post of assistant treasurer and organiser of the Programme and Events book, owing to ill health.

Walter gave many faithful years to his role in the Northern Ireland branch and the branch is indebted to him for all his support.

A reminder about the concert organised by the Co. Armagh Drum Majors which will take place on Friday November 28 in the Church of Ireland Hall at the Dobbin starting at 7.30pm.

Taking part will be the Moneygore Pipe Band, the Pride of Birches Accordion band Scottish dancers and Grade 2 Killeen Pipe Band who are renowned for their excellent concert performances.

Tickets cost £5 and can be paid at the door. You are advised to come early as this promises to be a really good night's entertainment.

Bands upgraded and downgraded for the 2009 contest season have been announced by the National Council of the Royal Scottish Pipe band Association.

Upgraded from Grade 4B to 4A are Burntisland & District, Cleland Memorial, Keith Highlanders, Paris Port Dover, Stamperland and Stockbridge.

Upgraded from 4A to 3B are Badenoch & Strathspey, Black Bottle Isle of Isley, Colmcille, Manor Cunningham and Royal Burgh of Stirling.

Upgraded from 3B to 3A are Augharonan, Central Scotland Police, Concord, Cullenfad, McNeillstown and Raffrey.

Upgraded from Grade 3A to Grade 2 are Clydebank and Mackenzie Caledonia, and from Grade 2 to Grade 1 Bagad Cap Caval and Torphichen & Bathgate.

And making the biggest jump up the grades in the history of pipe bands is Inversary and District who were upgraded from the juvenile grade to Grade 2.

Downgraded bands are Saintfield, City of Brechin and Kilmarnock from 4A to 4B, Banbridge and Black Raven from 3B to 4A and Kilsyth Thistle and Sgt Walker from 3B to 4A.

Thomas Carey, on behalf of Dromara Pipe Band, would like to acknowledge the generous donation from the Lottery Fund, courtesy of the Arts Council for Northern _Ireland. This enabled the band to purchase 6 Andante side drums, 4 tenor drums, 1 bass drum and 2 sets of pipes.

Grade 3A Cottown Pipe Band are looking for learner pipers and drummers to strengthen the band for the new season.

There will be qualified instructors and the band practise every Monday and Wednesday evenings from 8.00pm to 10.00pm in the Stevenson Memorial Orange Hall, Six Roads End, Ballygrainey.

Anyone interested please contact Agnes Griffiths 02891 818120 mobile number 07970 929838

The new address and telephone number for Mervyn McConnell Press Officer of the Northern Ireland branch of the RSPBA is as follows: 28 Lady Wallace Walk, Lisburn, BT28 3GY. Telephone number 02892 669582.

Ulster Star