After a pipe band season when the weather was not always at its best, as the curtain came down on the summer contests the sun came out for the Ulster Championships at Donard Park, Newcastle.
Indeed not only did it stay out all day but so too did thousands of spectators as evidenced by the full car parks and indeed almost every available space in adjoining residential areas.
This resulted in the vendors in the park and the town enjoying a welcome bonanza day.
In addition to the Ulster Championship prizes the Champion of Champion [CoC] awards were also distributed.
As always the season’s world champions, Ravara [Grade 2 Drum Corps], Tullylagan [Grade 3B band] and Drum Majors Kathy Hunter [Juvenile] and Benjamin Walker [Junior] were honoured by coming on last at the march past to enthusiastic applause and cheers.
Prior to the speeches the traditional lament in memory of all those connected to the RSPBANI Branch and its bands who passed away in the previous year was played by a piper from the PSNI.
RSPBA NI Branch president Winston Pinkerton paid tribute to all the competitors and spectators who had attended during the season and those who had taken prizes at any of the RSPBA majors during the season.
The Chieftain for the Day was the popular East Down councillor Terry Andrews who took a great interest in the competition and commended the bands and the RSPBANI branch on its long and lasting history.
Competition was keen in all grades throughout the day except in Grade 1 where the PSNI played unopposed. However, it is important to say that they did so extremely well and entertained the large audience with some foot tapping tunes.
Closkelt got back to winning ways by taking Grade 2 in a head to head with Ravara.
In Grade 3A Clogher & District recorded their first win of the season in emphatic style winning both the piping and drumming. Tullylagan who were crowned Grade 3B world champions last week continued in similar vein by taking the Ulster title.
Cullybackey were in fine form as they rounded off their centenary year with a win in 4A in which Gransha had their best result of the season which was aided by Sammy Smith and his youthful drummers taking the drum corps prize.
In Grade 4B which has seen no less than four different winners, Broughshane & District reserved their best to the last day.
In the drum majors Lauren Hanna [Senior], Kathy Hunter [Juvenile], Benjamin Walker [Junior] and Carys Graham [Novice] maintained their good end of season form.
While bands will now enjoy a well-earned rest before getting back to prepare for the 2020 season a lot of head scratching is required by both the NI Branch and its member bands to stem the tide of both reduced spectator and band numbers.
Grade 1: 1st Pipes & Drums of the PSNI [also Best Pipes, Drums, Bass Section , M&D & COC in all categories].
Grade 2: 1st Closkelt [also Best Pipes, Drums, Bass Section, Band & Bass Section CoC], 2nd Ravara [also Best Drums, M&D and Drums CoC].
Grade 3A: 1st Clogher & District [also Best Pipes and Drums], 2nd St Mary’s Derrytrasna, 3rd Battlehill [also Best M&D], 4th Upper Crossgare. Best Bass Section, Band and Bass Section CoC: Quinn Memorial.
Grade 3B: 1st Tullylagan [also Best Drums, Bass Section & Bass Section CoC], 2nd McNeilstown [also Best Pipes, Band CoC & Drums CoC]. 3rd Major Sinclair Memorial [also Best M&D], 4th Cleland Memorial.
Grade 4A: 1st Cullybackey [also Best M&D, Bass Section & CoC Bass Section], 2nd Gransha [also Best Drums and CoC Drums], 3rd Kildoag [also Best Pipes – shared] 4th McDonald Mem. Best Pipes – shared: Bessbrook Crimson Arrow Band COC: Augharan.
Grade 4B: 1st Broughshane & District [also Best Pipes, CoC & shared Bass Section CoC with Carlow], 2nd Wm Kerr Memorial, 3rd Mountjoy [also Best Drums & CoC Drums], 4th Altnaveigh, 5th Syerla. Best Bass Section: Joseph Forde Memorial. Best M&D Kirkistown.
Novice: 1st Carys Graham [also CoC], 2nd Harry Mills, 3rd Mia Buckley, 4th Jorja Turkington, 5th Christie Steele.
Junior: 1st Benjamin Walker [also CoC], 2nd Louise Smiton, 3rd Louis Anderson, 4th Leanne Crooks, 5th Grace Thompson.
Juvenile: 1st Kathy Hunter, 2nd Kathryn McKeown, 3rd Abigail Wenlock, 4th Kara Gilmour, 5th Rachel Lowry. CoC Jamie Cupples.
Senior: 1st Lauren Hanna [also CoC], 2nd Andrea McKeown, 3rd Jason Price, 4th James Kennedy, 5th David Brownlee.