Pipe Bands – Bellaghy and Bann Valley

The parish of Ballyscullion can boast having not one but two top class Pipe Bands (bagpipes).

In 1974 Bellaghy Pipe Band won the World Championship in Grade 4. We would like to hear from anyone who was a member of that Band or who can share any of its history.

A few miles away in 1938, members of Ballynease Flute Band and Culbane ‘Dawn of Freedom’ Flute Band came together to form Bann Valley Pipe Band.

This new Band led members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) to their various parades each year on St Patrick’s Day and Assumption Day (15th August) but members were also keen to take part in organised competitions.

The Band members attended regular rehearsals in the AOH (Division 1075) Hall on Downings Road.

A Pipe Major (does anyone know his name) from Cullybackey or Ahogill was invited to train Band members and get them ready for competition.

In the mid 1970’s Frank O’Neill (Coalisland) took over as Pipe Major and led the Band to some significant successes. Another Coalisland man, Sean Campbell played the bass drum.

The drum corps was trained by Bellaghy man Jamsie Scullion whose sons were also involved in drumming including son John who went to Scotland to play for Grade 1 World Champions Shotts and Dykehead. John was himself a world solo drumming champion. Can anyone tell us more about Jamsie or John’s achievements?

In 1975, Bann Valley reigned supreme in Grade 4 winning the following titles:

  • Champion of Champions
  • 2nd All Ireland
  • 2nd Cowal Games in Dunoon, Scotland
  • Ulster Champions
  • Mid Ulster Champions
  • Co Antrim Champions
  • Co Down Champions

In the same year, Bann Valley’s drum corps (Larkin brothers, Michael, Eugene and Gerry, Sean Campbell, Vincent Loughlin and others – can anyone tell us who) were All Ireland Championship winners.

Keeping a Band together was difficult during the Troubles and sadly members eventually drifted away although some moved to play for other Bands.

We think that Eamon Downey and Brendan Larkin went to Cullybackey or Seven Towers Ballymena.

At the funeral of Seamus Heaney in August 2013, the cortège was led by Piper Eamon Downey. At the first anniversary celebration event for Seamus Heaney a parade was led by Eamon Downey and drummer John Scullion.

The Society would like to hear from anyone who could tell us more about these two Bands, their history, membership and achievements. Does anyone have old photographs that they would like to share with us?

We would also like to hear about the AOH and LOL locally.