Ulster Pipe Band championships: Closkelt edge Ravara in tight battle

Newcastle hosted a pipe band contest, the Ulster Championships. for the first time in five years on Saturday and the spectators most certainly gave the seaside venue the thumbs up as they turned out in large numbers.

Sunday, 22nd July 2018, 3:17 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd July 2018, 5:34 pm
McDonald Academy made their debut in Grade 4B at the Ulster Championships in Newcastle

As with all the competitions this season the weather was excellent and those watching were able to bask in the sun and enjoy musical and drum major performances across the expansive park.

At the finale councillor Mark Murnion the chairman of the Newry, Mourne and Down Council, welcomed and congratulated the bands.

During the formal proceedings prior to the prize giving PSNI piper Glenn Baxter played the traditional lament in memory of those from the NI Branch who had passed away since last year’s event.

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Newry, Mourne and Down Council Chairperson Mark Murnin leading the parade along Newcastle Main Street after the Ulster Championships along with Winston Pinkerton [RSPBA NI branch president] and highland dancers Rebekah Murdock [Newtownards] and Rebecca Srebot [Canada]

The Ulster champions for 2018 are PSNI – however, Grade 2 was the most competitive on the day with Closkelt lifting first place from Ravara on ensemble preference after the two bands had tied on eight points each.

Marlacoo & District won Grade 3A by a considerable margin although the drumming prize went to Co Donegal’s Thiepval Memorial.

St Mary’s Derrytrasna have been the model of consistency this year and they annexed the Grade 3B title, however Tullylagan won the drum corps.

When it comes to consistency, the names of McNeillstown, who won Grade 4A, and Gransha, who won Grade 4B, are right up there. Both bands won by considerable margins, also lifting the prizes for piping and drumming. You would not have to be an expert to predict that both will be upgraded for the 2019 season.

In Grade 4B it was so pleasing to see a new band take to the ring when the McDonald Academy took to the park and produced a performance that saw them placed ninth out of 12 bands on their debut. This exciting initiative on the part of the McDonald Memorial band from Dromore is already reaping benefits.

The competitive nature of this season’s drum major sections remains extremely exciting and this week we had another group of winners in all four sections, namely Andrea McKeown (Adult), Rachel Lowry (Juvenile), Charlotte Ruddock (Junior) and Louise Smiton (Novice).

A highland dancing competition took place judged by Gemma Baillie and the two winners announced at the finale were Rebekah Murdock (Premier 13 and over) from Newtownards and Rebecca Srebot (Premier 14 and over) from Toronto, Canada.


Grade 1: 1st PSNI (also Best MSR, Medley, Pipes, Drums Bass Section and M&D).

Grade 2: 1st Closkelt (also Best Pipes), 2nd Ravara (also Best Bass Section and M&D), 3rd Manorcunningham, 4th New Ross & District (also Best Drums).

Grade 3A: 1st Marlacoo & District (also Best Pipes), 2nd Drumlough, 3rd Quinn Memorial (also Best Bass Section), 4th Upper Crossgare. Best Drums: Thiepval Memorial. Best M&D: Matt Boyd Memorial.

Grade 3B: 1st St Mary’s Derrytrasna (Best Pipes shared), 2nd Battlehill (Best Pipes shared and M&D), 3rd Major Sinclair Memorial, 4th Clogher & District. Best Drums: Tullylagan (also Best Bass Section).

Grade 4A: 1st McNeillstown (also Best Pipes and Drums), 2nd Kildoag, 3rd McDonald Memorial (also M&D), 4th Cullybackey. Best Bass Section: Lisnamulligan.

Grade 4B: 1st Gransha (also Best Pipes, Drums and Bass Section), 2nd Sgt Walker Memorial, 3rd Broughshane & District, 4th Ballyboley, 5th Major Sinclair Memorial (Best M&D).

Drum Majors

Senior: 1st Andrea McKeown, 2nd David Brownleee, 3rd Lauren Hanna, 4th Alicia Dickson, 5th Emma Barr.

Juvenile: 1st Rachel Lowry, 2nd Kathryn McKeown, 3rd Kara Gilmour, 4th Lana Gibson, 5th Emily Crooks.

Junior: 1st Charlotte Ruddock, 2nd Abigail Wenlock, 3rd Louis Anderson, 4th Kathy Hunter, 5th Zara Cupples.

Novice: 1st Louise Smiton, 2nd Carys Graham, 3rd Mia Buckley, 4th Ben Dickson, 5th Harry Mills.