Support Your Local Pipe Band
IN Conversation with the Star of Eden Pipe Band
ONE of my regrets about the annual Twelfth demonstration in Belfast is the lack of a good pipe band. You never see one any more, although they are still quite common in parades in parts of Counties Antrim and Down. The only time I ever see a pipe band in Belfast these days is as part of the annual ICTU May Day parade. This year there were two pipe bands. One came over from Scotland for the day. If I recall rightly, the Northern Irish band came from Co Fermanagh.
I was recently invited to see members of the Star of Eden Pipe Band at their weekly band practice in Kilroot Orange Hall. I mentioned this to an acquaintance who plays in the North Belfast Pipe Band. He didn't realise that the Star of Eden was still going. Few people outside the Carrickfergus area seem to have heard of it even though it has been established since 1923.
Certainly numbers have dropped off a fair bit since the band won the All-Ireland Piping competition in 1958. Some members have moved away, some have died and others have been 'poached' by more well-known bands. These setbacks, however, have not dented the enthusiasm of young and old members alike. William McDonnell has been involved with the band since 1944. At 85, John Turner is still blowing away with gusto, while 12 year-old Jade McNeill is regarded as the best learner in the band. I was very impressed by this dedication during my short visit.
Nevertheless, the band's members sense that the current revival of interest in Ulster-Scots heritage and culture is likely to benefit them, if people know they're out there. Their ambition is to get back out on the road as soon as possible. Currently they are down to six pipers, two side drummers, two tenor drummers, a bass drummer and a pipe major, so there's plenty of room for new recruits. Would-be junior learners – on pipes or drums - can turn up at Kilroot Orange Hall between 7:00 and 9:00pm each Wednesday evening. More experienced would-be recruits, perhaps even former members of defunct bands, can go along to the band practise each Monday evening between 8:00 and 10:00pm.
Members of the band participate in the annual Burns Night supper organised by Kilroot True Blues LOL1544. Tickets for the forthcoming Burns Supper on January 26th 2007 are likely to be snapped up very quickly as local people flock to hear the pipers and Willie Macpherson's celebrated Address to the Haggis. Band members are also available for various functions, including weddings and funerals.
The Star of Eden can have a great future ahead of it, given the goodwill of the people of Carrick and the wider East Antrim area. Support your local pipe band!