It really is hard to believe that we are at the end of another year. The 2014 pipe band season saw many great performances both at home and in Scotland for Ulster bands and drum majors.
It seems that no sooner does the season start in May than they are parading down the street in Portrush at near the end of August.
It was another enjoyable contest season here for the Northern Ireland Branch, although I don’t think anyone would have complained had the weather been better.
Many weekends saw more than the odd shower of rain with the Co Antrim washed out - the first contest to be lost due to the weather for 30 years.
However there is no point in dwelling on what we can’t control and we’ll keep the fingers crossed for better next year.
On the grass, grade one saw Cullybackey collect the champion of champions for their regular victories and success at the Ulster Championship. The All-Ireland title went to St Laurence O’Toole.
The major championships is where the big prizes are and it was another stellar year for Field Marshal. A fourth straight world championship was the highlight of a season which also saw Scottish, British and UK championship wins.
In grade 2 Bleary & District dominated proceedings at home but it was perhaps their wins at the UK and Scottish championships and a runners-up place at the worlds which really caught the eye.
Winston Pollock highlighted the lack of success Northern Ireland bands had enjoyed at the majors in his recent remarks featured in Tartan Talk. Indeed, Whitewater’s 4b success at the Scottish was the only one this year.
Back at home and in grade 3a Ballybriest were to the fore, while in grade 3b Co Donegal’s Thiepval Memorial won every competition they entered. This was recognised by their elevation into grade 2 for the 2015 season.
Grade 4a and 4b were keenly contested with Closkelt and Whitewater ultimately coming out on top.
Numbers of bands appeared to be down slightly but hopefully we will see an increase in 2015.
As always Northern Ireland’s drum majors set the standard dominating the prizes at all the major championships. Paula Braiden, Lauren Hanna, Lauren Abraham, Emma Barr and Zoe McDowell all collected titles at major championships over the course of the season.
Finally, I would like to wish everyone in the local pipe band fraternity a happy and prosperous New Year.