Marching to the beat in the 
Orchard County

Willie Neill (second left) and Roy Currie (centre) pictured with fellow Lodge members and sons of Willie - Mark, Jonathan and Kyle Neill
Willie Neill (second left) and Roy Currie (centre) pictured with fellow Lodge members and sons of Willie - Mark, Jonathan and Kyle Neill

Two men who are passionate players on the Lambeg drumming scene are Willie Neill and Roy Currie, both of whom are members of Cloncore LOL 84, which is part of Loughgall District.

Lambeg drumming is very strong in this part of the Province, and as Roy - who learned the skill from his father at the tender age of 14 - relates, the men from the Orchard County have a drumming style that is very different in tenor and rhythm to drummers from, for example, North Antrim.

To those of us who are less discerning when it comes to having an ear for a Lambeg tune, the distinctive sound of the beats resonating from this impressive instrument may sound similar, but this could not be further from the truth.

“I couldn’t explain it to you, it’s just one of those things - I picked it up when I was younger and as far as I’m concerned, I’ve been successful at it and I’m still drumming at 70,” Roy, who lives in Annaghmore outside Portadown, says. “I have tried to teach people and haven’t been able to. It’s something you don’t seem to be able to learn - you either have it or you don’t. It is a natural talent you are born with.”

Roy comes from a family with a long association with and involvement in Lambeg drumming.

“I liked the sound of it and I just had the gift to drum,” he says.

“We drum at competitions every Saturday and I practise when I’m getting the drum ready, so that would be maybe from Wednesday night on.

“The competitions last a couple of hours, so you are only drumming for a few minutes, and you can play your own tunes.”

Lambeg drums are notoriously huge and heavy, but Roy says if you’re fairly fit, “it’s really nothing” to carry the instrument. However he adds: “I am getting on a bit; I’m 70 now and I’m starting to struggle a little.”

One of the drums which he frequently plays belongs to fellow lodge member Willie Neill - and it’s a very special one indeed.

Willie commissioned east Belfast drum maker Dennis Morrow to make him a Lambeg drum with a painting of his late father, David Thomas Neill, on the front of it.

It depicts his beloved dad wearing his collarette - Mr Neill was Cloncore’s secretary for 53 years - - and Willie says he “wouldn’t take a million pounds for it.”

The 68-year-old will be celebrate a very special landmark of his own this Twelfth morning when he steps out for the parade in Markethill this year.

“I’m due to get my 50 year service medal on the Twelfth morning,” he smiles with pride.