THE last Northern Ireland Branch meeting of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association for the year 2002 was held last Saturday in the Bridge Community Centre Lisburn, where a large attendance of representatives were present.
Under the chairmanship of George Ussher and the vice-chairmanship of Winston Pinkerton, the meeting had a number of items to discuss and many of these were debated vigorously.
The review group, which was set up to look at the organisation and structure of the Branch, gave an up to date report on the progress so far.
The members of this group are John Moles, Richard Parkes, Alastair Patterson and Mark Wilson, and all appealed to band members to give them some feed back on their views so that more constructive recommendations for the future could be made.
Chairman George Ussher announced several new ideas that the pipe band association is planning to include at contests next season.
It is hoped, with the help of the Ulster-Scots Association, highland dancers, tug of war, caper throwing, bouncy castle etc. will be included at some of the events next year.
Also talks are under way with the Glasgow City Council with a view to returning to Ballyhouston for the world pipe band championships.
George is also meeting again with the Belgian authorities to finalise the European Championships to be held on 13 September 2003 at Alden Biesen Castle, Belgium.
Bands are urged to support this forward thinking idea and sponsorship money to subsidise bands should be known at the next branch meeting on 25 January.
Pipe Major Richard Parkes and his Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe band got a tremendous reception when they played at a recent concert held in Newtownstewart Co. Tyrone.
Over 500 attended the evening and were rewarded with an outstanding performance from the reigning world champions.
The drum corps of the band under the leadership of Andrew Scullion will have a new look this incoming season. The corps has purchased a new set of Pearl drums which they plan to compete with next year.
Upper Crossgare held their annual veteran drumming event last Saturday in the Abbey Lodge Hotel Downpatrick where the guest soloist was Gordon Brown, the 2002 senior world drumming champion.
Also appearing as guests on the show were Ulster champion piper Jonathan Greenlees, and Jonathan Irvine under 16 All Ireland drumming champion.
There was also an entertaining item from several young drummers - the youngest being only seven years old - who were all under the direction of Roy Ferguson from Rathfriland.
Sam Hodgen, proprietor of Andante drums, also contributed to the evening, and his wife presented the prizes.
The Group One winner was Billy Bradford with George McCullough in second place and in third David Carlisle.
Group Two was dominated by drummers from the South of Ireland. First was John Byrne, second Frank Saunders and third Jackie Doran. Group Three was won once again by Ronnie Dickson with Sandy Steele in second and Freddie Noade third.
At the end of the evening all drummers formed a veterans band and were accompanied by Newcastle Crimson Arrow Brien Boru pipe band. Upper Crossgare Pipe band were the guests on the "Touch of Tartan" show last Sunday on Radio Ulster.
Ivan Chambers, playing the small pipes, gave several recitals and the band was under the direction of Pipe Major Trevor Connor and Leading Tip Ian Cherry.
Next week is the last show this year and will feature the world Grade 1 champions - Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band.