McDonald band receives Burns achievement award

Representatives of the Belfast Burns Association present members of McDonald Memorial Pipe Band with annual Achievement Award.
Representatives of the Belfast Burns Association present members of McDonald Memorial Pipe Band with annual Achievement Award.

THE McDonald Memorial Pipe Band from Dromore are the recipients of this year’s achievement award from the Belfast Burns Association.

The association has been in existence for over 100 years and is part of the Robert Burns World Federation.

As well as the works of Burns the appreciation of Scottish poetry, literature, art and music are among their main ideals.

Quite a few of its members have very strong links to the pipe bands, which in some cases can go back quite a number of years.

It is with their input and comments from other bands and members of the RSPBNI across the Province that the award is presented each year in recognition of the hard work and dedication of an individual or a band who has done well in the competitions over the last year, increased membership, and for teaching and training the youth which will in later years will preserve the current high standard of world class players and membership for many years to come.

The McDonalds of Dromore are a family with a long piping history. A family of nine brothers and two sisters, their grandfather David was a piper in the British Army during the First World War.

Many of the brothers played the bagpipes in various local bands and it was a long held ambition to form their own band.

And so it came to be in 1977 that the McDonald Memorial Pipe Band was formed. In 1978 the band took part in two competitions finishing 2nd in the All-Ireland Championships and winning the World Champion titles in grade 3. The band was upgraded to grade 2 and a decision was taken to form a junior band to provide a source of young talent for the senior band.

The junior band took part in their first competition in 1979 winning the Novice Juvenile title at the world famous Cowal Highland Games in Dunoon.

They were the first band from outside Scotland to win this trophy in the long history of the games. The following year the junior band were placed second in World Championships in Glasgow with the drummers winning the World Champions title.

Over the following years the senior and junior bands won numerous titles in both grades 4, 2 and 1. These included the grade 2 British Championships in Bathgate in 1982 and the All-Ireland and Ulster Championships in grade 4 in 1983 as well as many county and branch titles across Northern Ireland. The following year both bands were formed into one band with over 20 pipers and 10 drummers. The success continued with the band securing the European Championships title in grade 2 in 1986.

Unfortunately for various reasons the band were forced to withdraw from the competition circuit in 1986. Attempts were made to revive its fortunes but it was not until 2005 that it was decided to begin a programme of teaching piping and drumming to the young people of Dromore and surrounding district.

A structured programme of teaching was put in place with former band members providing the benefit of their title-winning experiences to the young folk.

Such was the success of the teaching programme that several of the young learners achieved GCSE Music examination passes in either piping or drums.

In 2011 the band eventually was in a position to recommence competitions with a group of enthusiastic young pipers and drummers assisted by the experience of several former members.

Financial assistance to purchase instruments was secured through the Arts Council for Northern Ireland, enabling the band to upgrade the outdated instruments which many of the members were playing. The band took part in three competitions and as a result received another influx of young people eager to learn.

The highlights of 2012 included winning the Co Down Championships, second place in the European Championships and qualifying for the final at the World Championships in Glasgow.

During 2011 and 2012 the band continued the development of learners through structured learning with the assistance from the Ulster Scots Agency and this programme will be continued again next year.

McDonald Memorial Pipe Band is providing tuition for beginner pipers and drummers. Lessons are held on Mondays at 7pm in the Band Hall, 93 Banbridge Road, Dromore. All new members will be made most welcome.

Anyone interested in taking part should contact Vikki on 078 4950 8516 or by e-mail to

The band can also be found on Facebook at

l The Northern Ireland Branch of the RSPBA held its annual general meeting last Saturday with a number of newsworthy items arising.

George Ussher has stepped down from his role as chairman after 10 years to be replaced by Ray Hall of the Co Fermanagh Section. Mr Ussher will continue with the prestigious role of president of the governing RSPBA body in Scotland.

Two motions put forward by the Ballycoan and PSNI pipe bands respectively and which have been the subject of discussion around the competitions for some time were debated but they were defeated. The first one was to cap the number of players a competing band can field, something that many feel is restricting the number of bands that are able to compete.

The other that the playing requirements for local competitions prior to major championships should be the same as those championships, which was another talking point that many felt strongly about but obviously haven’t followed the strength of their convictions.

There will be a number of venue changes in a fresh looking contest schedule for 2013.

Lisburn, Carrickfergus and Omagh will all host competitions with Londonderry having the honour of hosting the All-Ireland Championships for the first time in its year as European City of Culture.

A provisional outline of the 2013 schedule is as follows:

May 11 – Lisburn; May 18 – Enniskillen; June 1 – Carrickfergus; June 8 – Cookstown; June 15 – Co Down; June 22 – Omagh; July 6 – All-Ireland, Londonderry; August 3 – Bangor; August 10 – Ulster Championships – Newtownards; August 24 – Portrush.

n Well done to the local pipers who secured prizes in the Piping Society of London solos last weekend.

Sid Moore won the MSR competition with Jonathan Greenlees, James Gore, Ashley McMichael and Ross Hume collecting place prizes.