Lambeg drum will sound again around County Down for Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral

Almost 70 years after it was played for the Queen and Prince Philip, the sound of a special Lambeg drum will once again reverberate around Hillsborough in tribute to the late duke.

By Mark Rainey
Saturday, 17th April 2021, 7:04 am
Updated Saturday, 17th April 2021, 8:11 am

Following the funeral service for the Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor later today, a Lambeg drum that serenaded the royal couple at Hillsborough Castle in July 1953 will be played in the area as a mark of respect.

The drum’s owner, Co Armagh man David Lester, said he would never part with the instrument due to its royal connection.

He said the story around how a pair of Lambeg drummers ended up giving a private performance for the Queen and Prince Philip is not entirely clear, but the film footage of the event shows they enjoyed the experience.

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David Lester with his Lambeg drum that was played for the Queen and Prince Philip at Hillsborough Castle in July 1953. Photo: BBC News NI

The encounter took place during the royal couple’s first visit to Northern Ireland since the Queen’s coronation the previous month.

Daniel Crooks, who lived near Hillsborough, and Garfield Matchett from Portadown were the two lucky drummers.

It was captured on Pathé newsreel footage at the time and later recreated for the popular Netflix series The Crown.

The drum had a number of owners before being acquired by Mr Lester.

He said that despite the Lambeg having historic importance, it is still played regularly.

“It’s not just an ornament,” Mr Lester told BBC News NI.

“The drum changed hands several times until I bought it. It’s been used for drumming competitions,” he added.

The original newsreel footage shows the Queen and duke smiling at the front door of Hillsborough Castle as two drummers play.

There are some reports that more than two drummers were involved on the night, and that the display had been hastily arranged after the royal guests were intrigued by the unusual drumming sounds nearby while having dinner.

However, many believe it had been arranged well in advance of the royal visit to their official residence is Co Down.

Mr Lester said his own research suggests the royal performance was the result of cooperation between the local drumming fraternity and Northern Ireland government officials – with the blessing of the royal household.

“As far as I am aware, there was a drumming competition held (nearby) and there were two parts to it – the best sounding drum and the best dressed drum, and the winners got presented to the Queen,” Mr Lester said.