The All-Ireland Pipe Band Championships were blessed with beautiful weather as competitors from near and far entertained crowds in Ballymena.
Uninterrupted sunshine and light winds welcomed pipers, drummers, highland dancers and drum majors from all over Ireland and further afield to Ballymena Academy. Around 70 people from Knox Grammar School travelled from Sydney Australia to compete in the 74th edition of the championships.
Knox Grammar School were hosted by Mayor Councillor Maureen Morrow in the Braid on the eve of the competition.
The band had earlier in the day entertained shoppers with a 45-minute recital at the Harmony Hub in Ballymena town centre.
Over 9,000 competitors and spectators enjoyed the six hours of competition on Saturday with St Laurence O’Toole from Tallaght Co. Dublin marching off with the day’s top prize as All Ireland Champions.
There was local success with honours for Cullybackey and Broughshane & District.
The Mayor said: “It was a pleasure to host Knox Grammer School at the Braid. It was a lovely way to welcome our guests and to thank them for performing to shoppers in advance of the competition-taking place.
“The performance at the harmony hub was the perfect way to attract shoppers. The atmosphere on Saturday was just fantastic and it was an honour for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to host this impressive event in the picturesque grounds of Ballymena Academy.
“I would like to pay recognition to both Cullybackey and Broughshane & District on a very successful competition. I would also like to thank the Irish Pipe Bands Association, The Royal Scottish Pipe Bands Association NI and council staff for delivering on such a fantastic event. I would also like to acknowledge Ballymena Academy for the use of its grounds.”
Alderman Tommy Nicholl MBE, who led the campaign to secure the All Ireland Pipe Band Championships in the borough, said he was delighted the event had been a success.
He said: “The grounds of Ballymena Academy was the perfect spot to host the competition. The beautiful weather and excellent music provided the perfect day out for spectators.
“Our community was able to enjoy the excellent spectacle of the pipe bands, the skill of the drum majors and the highland dancers and overall the competition created a brilliant atmosphere that all the family could enjoy.”
The competition is organised by RSPBA (NI) and the Irish Pipe Band Association with financial and logistical support from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. The organisers have expressed their appreciation and thanks to Ballymena Academy for the use of its grounds.
Alderman Stewart McDonald said: “I was delighted that a number of local bands achieved success at the All Ireland competition hosted in Ballymena on Saturday.
“McNeillstown Pipe band won the Grade 3b competition and best drum corp, Broughshane won first place in Grade 4b and the best piping cup and Cullybackey came 3rd in Grade 4A and won best drum corp.
“These are significant achievements for the musicians involved and they deserve huge credit for the effort they have put in to gain this success.
“Far too often the wealth of musical talent in Northern Ireland is either ignored – as is the case in the media – or taken for granted by those of us who enjoy parades during the summer months.
“But the scale of the success achieved by local bands on Saturday is testament to the fact that local bands are top class. There is a huge amount of effort which goes in to achieving this level of success.”