THIS year's Malahide Festival of Piping and Drumming will take place at Malahide Castle on Friday and Saturday May 12 and 13.
This will be the ninth year of this event, which is organised by Malahide & District Pipe Band, and will be the first outdoor competition of the 2006 season.
Friday evening features an invitational solo piping contest, which will be organised by Norman Dodds, the Northern Ireland agent for the Malahide solo event. This evening promises to be one of the finest competitive displays of solo piping seen in Ireland and the organisers are also promising the appearance of a very special guest on the night.
Last year Fred Morrison, known as The King of the Pipes', made two guest appearances over the weekend of the Festival.
Also last year there was a launch of a new competition for juvenile pipers to compete for the title of 'The Malahide Festival Young Piper' and it is hoped to again stage this event, which will run along side the band competition.
This is open to pipers over 12 and under 16 of age in run throughout the Saturday, or at the 'Fingal Pull', a Tug-a-War competition for the 'Elite Kamino Perpetual Cup'.
And the children will be well catered for with face painting, bouncy castles and slides, as well as other fun activities.
The pipe bands will also relish the opportunity of competing before a full quota of adjudicators, eg 2 piping, 1 ensemble and 1 drumming judge.
This is good preparation for the bands before the first of the five major events when many will travel over to Dumbarton for the Scottish
Gortaclare Pipe Band, from outside Omagh Co. Tyrone and which compete in Grade 3B, will make a welcome return to the competition arena this season.
The band has now acquired the services of the renowned drummer Willie Wray from Londonderry who has taken up the position of teaching the drum corps. The band is under the leadership of Pipe Major Norman Cochrane and they will field 13 pipers and 8 drummers. Willie is no stranger to success as he has the distinction of winning the world drumming championships an amazing seven times, with five as Leading Tip.
It is with deep sadness that we report of the very sudden death of well-known piper Freddie Russell from Newtownards.
Freddie endeared himself to all pipe band supporters, for in spite of having lost both his legs as a result of a terrorist explosion when he was in the RUC, he carried on playing with the Pipes and Drums of the RUC of which his brother Nat Russell was the Pipe Major.
His greatest love was as a tutor in Campbell College Pipe band in which he taught young students and inspired them in his great passion for playing the bagpipes. He was still involved in this until his untimely death last Monday.
His two sons David and Peter were also well-known pipers and David played a Piobaireachd at the graveside of his father.
At the large funeral, there was a fitting piping tribute from Pipe Major Richard Parkes and Pipers Andrew Carlisle and Brian Martin from Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band.
Sympathy of all in the pipe band world is sent to his wife Margaret, 2 sons and entire family members.
The Programme of Events book is now available priced £1.20. Copies can be purchased from Walter McKibben, 62 Larch Grove, Dunmurry, telephone 9061 0198, mobile 07795561135.
The Pipers Cave at 133 Dungannon Road Cookstown, Beet Street in Cullybackey and the Essay Music Store 180 Albertbridge Road Belfast are also stocking copies. This is a valuable book to have and is a must for all piping enthusiasts.