Gilnahirk Pipe Band

Formed 1919

Playing in Tullycarnet

The Band was delighted to be asked to play at a local Charity event on Saturday. A community event had been organised at the Hanwood Centre in Tullycarnet in support of Autism Charities. Some of the organisers had attended one of the Band's "gigs" earlier in the year and asked if it would be possible for Gilnahirk to come along and play a few tunes.

The event itself was only a couple of miles from the Band's practice halls at Gilnahirk, so we didn't have to be asked twice.

The current heatwave took care of the weather - and it always seems that bit easier to play in glorious sunshine! Thankfully the members of the Band who had been playing in Loughbrickland over the Twelfth had been liberally applying Aftersun cream ever since, so a fairly full complement of players made it out!

The Band paraded into the venue at the Hanwood Centre, much to the surprise of the local football teams practising on the all-weather pitches! The crowd was appreciative and the atmosphere was friendly and casual, allowing the Band to play a few tunes and then mingle with the spectators before taking up instruments again.

One particularly positive point was the performing début of Piper John, who has been honing his skills on the practice chanter over the last few months. John brought an element of glamour to the ensemble, playing in shorts and T Shirt whilst he awaits his kilt and waistcoat for next year's competition season. It was also great to see his proud parents out supporting the Band.

The Band played a total of three times throughout the late morning and early afternoon before parading away from the venue once again - wakening any residents from a long Saturday lie in!

The atmosphere in the Band is massively upbeat at the moment and we are hoping to bolster the playing membership further over the next few weeks. If you want to be part of Gilnahirk and join the fun, why not drop us an email at or just call up to practice this Monday night at 8pm?

Helping out Dromara

Gilnahirk didn't attend the Twelfth of July celebrations as a Band this year but when the call came to help out another band, the members weren't slow to respond.

Dromara Pipe Band was short of both pipers and drummers for the Loughbrickland Twelfth. Anyone who knows the history of pipe bands in Northern Ireland will know that Gilnahirk's Pipe Major, Ricky Newell, had a hugely successful period in charge of Dromara, winning all before him, so it was a natural fit to combine the two outfits for the hottest Twelfth of July parade in recent memory.

Once again, it was an early start, with the Lodge and Band assembling in Dromara for 8.30am. Gilnahirk provided 3 pipers, 4 side drummers and 1 tenor drummer (Jesse making her first outing with the Band, joining husband George making a début on the pipes). Dromara provided the bass drummer and five pipers.

The day started with a parade through Dromara and then it was on to the bus for the short hop to Loughbrickland and a walk to the Assembly field. Although it was still early in the day, the heat was already searing and once instruments were downed, the players descended on the bottles of water provided by the Lodge and slapped on suncream for the rest of the day.

As the Band was with the leading District, the parade was soon under-way. The scorching temperatures were the main feature of the day and the ice cream vendors did a roaring trade. This parade is one of the biggest in Northern Ireland, featuring a great array of bands and a massive number of Lambeg drums.

Crowds were heavy along the route and the field was soon littered with the prone forms of exhausted bandsmen and Orangemen.

After the service and the resolutions, weary feet were once again employed for the walk back to the bus. A short journey later and it was back to Dromara for a quick walk round the town which was met with an enthusiastic response from the locals.

The (long) day over, the Band was pleased to tuck into sandwiches and buns provided by the Lodge, alongside the obligatory cup of tea.

Gilnahirk was very pleased to be able to help out Dromara - it was a case of making new friends and renewing old acquaintances. Clearly, we did something right - the Band featured as the "headline act" in UTV's coverage of Loughbrickland.

With the holiday over, attention now turns back to the contest season - and more hard work! 

All-Ireland Championships 2013, Londonderry

It was an early start for Gilnahirk last week when the Band set off for the UK City of Culture and the All-Ireland Pipe Band Championships at St Columb's Park.

Local residents might well have been concerned that their Saturday morning was about to be disrupted by the skirl of the pipes when cars started to arrive well before 9am but they need not have worried. Pipes and drums stayed in their cases and instead the bleary eyed bandsmen piled into our coach for the trip up the M2.

Arriving in Londonderry, it was gratifying to see blue skies for a change. The forecast had been for glorious sunshine across Northern Ireland except for the North-West - but the weathermen thankfully got it wrong and the contest was completed without a drop of rain. The Band gazebo was used to ward off sunstroke, rather than hailstones!

The new contest location left a lot to be desired with space at a premium and the drum major contest shipped out to Ebrington parade square. Nonetheless, the Pipe Major got to work on the pipes and soon had a great sound. Close to playing time, the Band paraded down from an elevated position towards Final Tuning - a great many heads were turned when they heard Gilnahirk on the move - and for all the right reasons!

The contest performance was solid and the playing showed significant improvement on the Omagh performance from the week before. The drum corps was bolstered by the addition of the highly experienced Grahame Turner, making the back end six strong, with three tenors and the bass on top.

Playing last of a field of twenty bands made it hard to crack the prizes but the Pipe Major was content with the progress made - with similar steps in the last few contests of the season there should be cause for optimism.

The Finale over, the Band returned to the bus and onward to Eglinton where Happy Landings was the venue for a slap up meal before the journey back to Gilnahirk. The opportunity for winding down after the day and a good yarn was very welcome!

The break over the Twelfth now kicks in, but that doesn't mean there will be any respite from practice - onwards to the second half of the season!

County Tyrone Championships 2013, Omagh

A little later in the season than had been hoped, Gilnahirk Pipe Band made its first appearance at the 2013 Contests today in Omagh. The weather could have been better, but Band was delighted to be able to give the new look its first competitive outing.

Sporting the beautiful new MacDuff tartan kilts, new waistcoats and jackets, the Band received compliments from all and sundry on the dramatic change in appearance. 

The new uniforms weren't the only changes to the men and women of Gilnahirk. The Band was also delighted to have two new gazebos at its disposal, courtesy of Band Chairman Stephen Jackson and Bass Drummer, Michael Harrison. As it turned out, the inclement conditions meant that the shelter provided was absolutely invaluable - and the banter whilst sheltering from the storms had to be heard to be believed!

Not content with these material changes, a plethora of players were making their competitive débuts for Gilnahirk. Of course, this was Pipe Major Ricky Newell's first contest in charge - and the change in attitude and approach he has brought to the Band has utterly transformed it. Ably assisting in the Pipe Corps were fellow débutantes, Carson and Jonty. The drummers were led by returning Gilnahirk stalwart, Stevie Hoy and were greatly assisted by (as yet) non-playing instructor/guide/tuner/conductor, Grahame Turner. The tenor section had two new faces - Jordan and Paddy - both showing great potential and men with sights on snare drumming and piping as well!

The Band played in better conditions than most and came away with Judges' remarks which give great cause for optimism - bearing in mind that this was a first outing competing against bands with three or more contests under their belts already this season - watch out, we're coming for you! You can catch some of the in-contest antics on our Facebook Page.

The atmosphere may have been heavy with moisture, but the atmosphere in Gilnahirk was extremely upbeat and remains so. The Band was featured by the Northern Ireland Branch of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association on its Twitter Feed - highlighting the new uniform and several members were stopped by veteran players in other bands, remarking on the massive improvements made since last year. We intend to live up to the promise and can't wait to hit the contest in Londonderry with even greater commitment in two weeks time - see you there!

If you are in the Gilnahirk area, why not come along to the Uniform Dedication Service, being hosted tomorrow (23 June 2013) in Gilnahirk Presbyterian Church at 7pm? We would love to see you - and there will even be a cup of tea afterwards!  

What a Night!

Last night Gilnahirk was treated to its first ever celebration of Burns Night (albeit a day after actual Burns Night) at the Jack Britton Halls.

The night proved to be a great success with the hall jammed full of enthusiastic supporters and friends from all across Northern Ireland.

The support from Gilnahirk Presbyterian Church was clear for all to see - and is very much appreciated by the Band. We have had a long association with the Church and the help from that source in running the event was extremely welcome. The Band was pleased to see the Minister, Rev Stephen Moore enjoying the evening and he was good enough to say Grace before the feasting began.

Special mention should also go to Colin McRoberts who helped out with both the lighting and sound on the night.

The evening folllowed a fairly typical Burns Night format. We had been able to secure the services of Matthew Warrick from the Ulster Scots Community Network, who kicked off proceedings with a vigorous delivery of the Address to a Haggis and the Selkirk Grace.

The most important part of the evening then followed - the food! Haggis, Neeps and Tatties were the predictable but delicious dishes on offer, courtesy of Chef-for-the-night and bass drummer, Michael Harrison. Dessert was trifle, with tea/coffee and shortbread. Judging by the near-spotless plates collected afterwards, the supper went down well.

The programme of entertainment then started, with Matthew being good enough to act as compere and all round genial host.

The first performers were Lara and Leoni, the Highland Dancers, introduced by Olive Dobson. Their display was energetic, informative and well-received by the attentive crowd.

Following them came Iain Carlisle and David McComb, on the accordions. With plenty of familiar tunes and some new ones too, they really got feet tapping and pulses racing round the hall - the boys may have got themselves a few new groupies!

After a quick costume change, the dancers returned for a brief reprise and then Thelma, our Chairman's wife announced the results of the hotly contested Burns Night Quiz and distributed the prizes.

Finally, the Band took to the stage for a run through some of the Pipe Band classics, to warm applause from the crowd. It was gratifying to hear the appreciative remarks made by some of the pipe band afficionados in the audience!

The evening wound up with a boisterous rendition of Auld Lang Syne, led by Iain and David on the accordions and the crowd lingered a while to chat and renew acquaintences before drifting home.

Then began the clear up! The Band has to thank all those friends who stayed behind to help with the less glamourous side of any event!

Major thanks from the membership of the Band have to go to Michael Harrison who, along with his bass drumming duties was the driving force behind the whole event. He dealt with the cookery almost single-handed and it is fair to say that, without him the Night simply wouldn't have come together.

The Band pulled together well to set up the Hall, welcome our guests and perform table-waiting duties. Special mention should also go to Sam and Mrs Kerr who provided the "favours" of tartan brooches for the ladies and heather for the gentlemen.

The thanks would not be complete without a word for our Chairman, Stephen Jackson,  who found himself pulled in every direction as the "go to guy" when anyone had a query or problem. If you need to see an example of how to be cool under pressure, look no further!

So, thanks to all who helped, attended, donated and clapped and cheered in the appropriate places - we really enjoyed entertaining you - and let's hope we see you all again soon!

Celebrate Burns Night With Us!

Gilnahirk will be hosting its first ever Burns Night this coming weekend and we would love it if you could join in the fun!

Over recent years the Band has been lucky enough to be invited to perform at several Burns NIghts (and we will again be taking part in the event at Willowfield this Thursday) but this year we have decided to break out and run our own night.

Our inaugural Burns Night will take place this Saturday coming, 26 January 2012, and will include entertainment from several artists with an Ulster-Scots theme and, of course, the Band will be performing a set or two! The venue is the Jack Britton Hall on the Gilnahirk Road - if you're are unsure of the location, check it out here.

The evening will be a literal feast as well as a cultural one - haggis, neeps and tatties will be the order of the day. If you eat all of your haggis, you may even get a dessert and tea/coffee.

The price for all that entertainment and good food is only £6 - where would you get value like it?

If you want to come aling and support us, drop us a line by email, or leave a message on our Facebook page and we can leave a ticket at the door for you - but make it quick - the tickets are going fast!

Bring it On!

Happy New Year to all our friends, family and fans!

2012 was something of a mixed bag for the Band with some disappointing results in the contests attended, but the year drew to an end with much better news and considerable anticipation of what 2013 will bring.

We finish 2012 with new Pipe Major Ricky Newell who has a proven track record of success, an energised drum corps led by Gilnahirk stalwart, Stevie Hoy, and plans to develop the Band even more.

Before January is out, the Band will have hosted its first ever Burns Night (and we will be letting you all know more details on that shortly) and will also be participating in other celebrations of a similar nature in the early part of the year.

The increasing numbers in our ranks have left us with a rather pleasant dilemma - not enough uniforms to fit all the players! As a result, the Band is currently examining the possibility of new uniforms - including a change to the tartan. Again, our internet followers will be amongst the first to know when/if any decision is taken, so watch this space! Don't worry, whatever we do, we will remain distinctive!

All in all, 2013 looks like it has potential to be a great year to be in Gilnahirk Pipe Band, so drop us a line and come join us!

Annual General Meeting 2012

Gilnahirk entered an exciting era last week with the election of new Pipe Major, Richard Newell who hopes to guide the Band back to winning ways.

Annual General Meetings can often be dry affairs in pipe band circles, but Gilnahirk had plenty to be excited about this year. Although the Band had taken to the grass three times last season, the performances had been poorly received by the judges and it was agreed by the entire membership that an infux of new talent and ideas would greatly benefit the loyal membership.

The Band was delighted when Ricky Newell agreed to visit one of our practices a few weeks ago and even more pleased when he decided he would be willing to take over the reigns.

There was unanimous support for the new Pipe Majpr's election to office and outgoing Chief, Mervyn Mayes agreed to stay in the ranks as Pipe Sergeant. Making up the rest of the "management team" for the pipers is Carson Tate, an experienced and talented player in his own right, who was appointed Pipe Corporal.

Already, the Band is working hard on a new repertoire for next season, refreshing the contest set and a number of the street tunes. Precision playing and strong expression will be the order of the day!

In keeping with popular condition, the evening would up with a cup of tea and a chat!

Although these developments are exciting in their own right, the Bands needs to retain the momemtum and we are still looking for new players to add to the ranks.

At the AGM, there was particular satisfaction in noting the progress which has been made in attracting learner players, and we can facilitate anyone, whether an absolute beginner or a novice. However, we are still keen to welcome more experienced players - both pipers and drummers - who want to join us in our adventures in the contest arena in 2013.

As usual, you can contact us by email, or through our Facebook Page.

Gilnahirk Presbyterian Church Autumn Fair 2012

The Band was again delighted to be asked to play at the opening of the Church Autumn Fair on Saturday 20 October 2012.

Not only did we have the pleasure of playing under blue skies to an appreciative audience, but the ranks were swelled by the presence of P/M Richard Newell - a famous name in Pipe Band circles in Northern Ireland.

P/M Newell has been attending practices and putting the pipers through their paces for a few weeks now and the improvements can already been seen - more importantly - heard! The full Band was not out but those players who were present acquitted themselves well.

Indeed, we like to think that the mugs of tea brought out on a tray at the end of the performance were as good an endorsement as any Judge's Sheet!

It was also great to see Piper Margaret back out with the band, having made a fantastic recovery after her recent nasty injury. Welcome Back!!

Things are really starting to take off for the Band and our sets for next year are now the priority. If you want to be part of these exciting times for Gilnahirk, come along any Monday night at 8pm or drop us an email at

Failing that, join our expanding Facebook Fanclub!

European Pipe Band Championships 2012 - Stormont Estate

Saturday 28th July 2012 saw the last of three trips across the Irish Sea for the European Pipe Band Championships, one of the "Majors" which together are used to decide the Supreme Champions in each of the Grades.

Unfortunately, due to some lacklustre promotion, it seems that the crowds this year were signifcantly down on previous years - notwithstanding the fact that Gilnahirk appeared briefly on the ITV Daybreak programme on the Friday preceding!

The Band was drawn to play number 4 at 15.41 - clashing for the second successive year with the Grade One contest, and thus assuring us of even more meagre crowds.

The Band was further hit with bad luck when one of our most faithful pipers, Margaret, fell victim to a rather nasty accident on the night before the contest, making it impossible for her to play. Get well soon!

Despite the ill fortune, the Band played with heads high and again received a few pleasing comments on the Judges' sheets and will return to the practice rooms with plenty still to work on.

All in all, it was a good day and it is always pleasing to get to walk onto the Grand Finale in your home town to the cheers of supporters. Now back to practice!