Early date for Ulster Championships

McDonald Memorial Pipe Band pictured at the Craigavon & District Pipe Band Championships in Lurgan Park on Saturday 20th June 2015.
McDonald Memorial Pipe Band pictured at the Craigavon & District Pipe Band Championships in Lurgan Park on Saturday 20th June 2015.

Antrim Castle Gardens will be the venue for the 2016 Ulster Pipe Band Championships.

And the biggest event in the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association NI Branch calendar has a new date - Saturday, July 23.

This is a significant change for the flagship NI Branch competition which is usually early in August giving bands a big contest run out before the World Championships the following weekend.

The new date has raised a few eyebrows to say the least as it falls at the end of the July holiday period. However, I understand that the mid-season break will be reduced to one week in 2016 as the annual Co Antrim Section competition is once again set to form part of the Dalriada Festival and therefore takes place on Saturday, July 16.

Instead of being the build up contest to the Worlds the Ulsters will now be held the week before the Scottish Championship at Dumbarton.

The change of date could possibly throw into doubt the visit of the New Zealand Police Pipe Band who I understand were planning to return to the province as part of their World Championships build up. Contact had also been made with another New Zealand outfit, Manawatu, in the hope that they too might pay a visit.

Whether the bands now travel to the province for a Branch competition, which would possibly held in the Lisburn area, remains to be seen but hopefully they will.

I am told that while all the contest dates have been pencilled in a few are yet to be ‘firmed-up’ so I will bring details on those in the new year.

The Coldstream Guards have been confirmed as participants in the 2016 Belfast Tattoo.

Organisers revealed the full list of bands and dancers last week with many local bands taking part.

The full list of performers is as follows: Drum Corps Coldstream Guards

Drum Corps Irish Guards; Liberation Band (Holland); Fanfarekorps Der Genie (Holland); The Regimental Band Royal Irish Regiment with Pipes and Drums 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment The Artane Band; The 2015 Belfast Tattoo Drum Major Display Team; Ravara Pipe Band; Thiepval Pipe Band; New Ross Pipe Band; Marlacoo Pipe Band; McDonald Memorial; Ballinran Flute Band - Kilkeel; Dunloy Accordion Band; Vow Accordion Band; The Belfast Tattoo Highland Dance Troupe; and Innova Irish Dance Company.

The Belfast Tattoo will return to The SSE Arena, Belfast on Thursday 1st, Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd September 2016.

Tickets are on sale now and can be obtained through The SSE Arena Box Office on 028 9073 9074 or www.ticketmaster.ie.

Just two months after leaving Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band, Jim Kilpatrick has been confirmed as the leading drummer of the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band which will compete in grade one at all five RSPBA major championships in 2016.

The band includes some of the most successful solo pipers in its pipe corps and Kilpatrick has brought many of his players from Shotts into both bass section and snare line.

Roddy MacLeod will continue as pipe major while former Scottish Power leading drummer Barry Wilson comes out of retirement to join the drum corps.

While we can only speculate at this stage as to whether the band can make a big impact on the prizes it is certainly an exciting prospect.

I understand efforts are being made to re-establish Leapoughs Pipe Band.

A fundraising event is planned for next year with a view to helping with the costs associated with getting the band up and running.

Friday, March 4, 2016 is the date for your diary when there will be a Scotch Night held in Dromore High School. I will bring more details nearer the time.

Cairncastle Ulster Scots group is holding a Christmas Soiree on Wednesday, December 30, in Halfway House Hotel, Ballygally at 8pm.

Special guests are Richard Findlay, Wilson Scott and local band The Grouse Beaters.

Admission is £5 including tea and biscuits. For information call 07810 294 638 or email cairncastle.ulsterscots@hotmail.com.