Northern Ireland

Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band wins ninth world championship

Field Marshall Montgomery band celebrate winning the 2013 World Pipe Band Championships for the third year in a row
Image caption Field Marshall Montgomery band celebrated their ninth world title at Glasgow Green

A Northern Ireland pipe band, described as the most successful of all time, has added to its unrivalled success by winning its ninth world championship.

The Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band took the title for the third year in a row in Scotland on Sunday.

The band, based in Lisburn, County Antrim, was founded in 1945.

The Ulster Unionist Party has called on Lisburn City Council to grant the band the freedom of the city, in recognition of its "unprecedented achievement".

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: "No fewer than 225 bands competed in Glasgow Green this weekend for the accolade of being crowned the best in the world.

'Deserved honour'

"That means more countries were represented than ever before in the championship's 66-year history and yet the quality of the Field Marshal Montgomery shone through yet again.

"I think it would be appropriate for Lisburn council to grant FMM the freedom of the city, and have already been in touch with my Ulster Unionist colleagues on the council to urge them to propose the much deserved honour," Mr Nesbitt added.

The UUP leader also called for "some form of upgrade" to the MBE honour already bestowed on Pipe Major Richard Parkes, who has led the band since 1981.

Mr Parkes was at the helm for all nine world championship titles, the first of which they won in 1992.

Mr Nesbitt said: "If Sir Alex Ferguson can rightly receive a knighthood for winning one European Championship with Manchester United, how do you properly reward Pipe Major Parkes for what he has done, individually and collectively?"

'Premiership'

The pipe major said it was a "great compliment" to be compared to Sir Alex, and he also drew comparisons between those at the top of their game in football and the elite players in pipe bands.

"You need to compare it to the football premiership," Mr Parks told BBC Radio Ulster.

"The guys that we have in the band are the best players that are out there, and it's down to the leadership that they are given to make sure that they can get to the top level of performance on the day of the competition."

He said most of the members were from Northern Ireland, but 12 live in Glasgow, and this year, three members travelled from Australia to play with the band for the month of August.

The pipe major suffered a stroke in 2004, but recovered sufficiently to lead that band to its fourth world championship title later that year, shortly before he was awarded his MBE.

Image caption The band was named in tribute to World War II hero Field Marshal Montgomery

Double celebration

The band he has led for 32 years was founded in the wake of World War II by a group of farmers' sons in the townland of Drumalig, on the outskirts of Belfast.

They wrote to Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, one of the heroes of the war, seeking his permission to name their band in his honour.

The veteran replied with his blessing, and sent them a ten shilling note as his personal contribution to the band's funds.

The 2013 World Pipe Band Championships was the first time the annual competition was held over two days and it provided a double celebration for the Lisburn musicians, as Field Marshall Montgomery's drummers also won the World Championships Drum Corps prize.

Ray Hall, chairman of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association NI Branch said: "Northern Ireland is one of the most competitive regions to participate at the World's (World Pipe Band Championships) each year.

"To achieve such a result from a small region like Northern Ireland is outstanding."

'Grand slam'

Mr Hall added: "The Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band is now the most successful pipe band of all time in the world."

But after so much success, what else is left for them to achieve?

"There's five major championships in the year. We've now just won four, so we've got one more to go for a grand slam," Mr Parkes said.

"We just completed a grand slam two years ago and we were the only band who have completed two grand slams so it's just a matter of going on and trying to do things that nobody else has done in the past. That's what drives me."

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