Friday, October 06, 2017

Were there Pipe Bands in Ulster before the Great War?

There is a general assumption that pipe bands didn’t really exist here until thousands of soldiers returned from the Great War, where they had seen Highland Regiments being led into battle by pipers and with regimental pipe bands. I have blogged a bit about this before. Certainly there was an upsurge following the War, but it was not the beginning.

Thanks to the Aladdin’s Cave that is the British Newspaper Archive, it is now possible to peel back the layers of history to reveal much deeper stories. A number of Scottish pipe bands visited Ulster in the 1890s, such as Dumfries Pipe Band and the Black Watch Pipers’ Band, but there was also a movement to form local pipe bands, seemingly mostly in Belfast and County Tyrone in particular:

1893 : the Belfast City Pipe Band took part in a works excursion of the Brookfield and Agnes Street Weaving Factories in Belfast
1896 : the 13th Belfast Company Boys’ Brigade Pipe Band (Mountpottinger Presbyterian Church) played at a major BB event in the Ulster Hall
1897 : Fintona LOL 169 founded the Jubilee Pipe Band
1900 : the City Temperance Pipe Band played at half time in a Glentoran v Cliftonville match
1902 : Début concert by Castleton Pipe Band at the Parochial Hall, Greencastle
1902 : Fintona - Killaliss Coronation Temperance Pipe Band founded
1902 : Bushmills - report of a pipe band in the village
1904 : a ‘Band Promenade’ in Botanic Gardens, including Belfast Pipers’ Band 
1905 : Omagh Coronation Pipe Band
1905 : Pipe Band of the Portrush Company
1905 : Throne Pipe Band active in Belfast
1905 : Belfast Total Abstinence Pipe Band played at an Orange concert in the YMCA Hall
1906 : Magheracross Pipe Band parade in Trillick
1906 : Highland Games event in Newtownstewart, with unnamed Pipe Band
1907 : Advert in Belfast Telegraph for ‘instructor for pipe band’ for the east of the city 

These are just a result of a quick surface-skim, and are in addition to visits by regimental and Scottish bands. What they do show is that there appears to be a vibrant pipe band scene in Ulster for a full generation before the Great War.

There is also a reference to a solo piper walking on the 12th July demonstration of 1849 in Downpatrick.