Bleary And District

SSE Arena, Belfast - 4th - 5th September 2015

 

Pipe Major Nigel Davidson and members of Bleary & District Pipe Band pictured at a Civic Reception hosted by the Mayor of Craigavon, Councillor Colin McCusker, at Craigavon Civic and Conference Centre on Thursday 22nd January 2015.

Bleary & District Pipe Band was formed in 1956. Bleary is a townland situated to the south west of the County Armagh market town of Lurgan. The term district in the bands title is probably recognition of the fact that the bands founding fathers did not all come from Bleary but other adjacent townlands such as Ballydougan, Ballinagarrick, Clare and Knocknamuckley. A flute band had existed in Bleary but had floundered at some point in the 1950s. A new band was created in 1956 by a group of individuals who felt the community needed such an outlet.

During the 1950s and 60s the bands primary occupation was taking part in band parades, parades organised by the Loyal Orders, parades of various youth organisations and general community events. During the early sixties Bleary & District joined the Northern Ireland Bands Association and started to compete in competitions at novice grade level with a modicum of success. By the end of the sixties and the beginning of the 1970s the band was in a trough and almost ceased to exist, however with the efforts of a few stalwart members the band re-emerged in 1972 and competed in competitions under the auspices of the Scottish Pipe Band Association. Quite a few of those stalwart members came from two families that are still synonymous with Bleary & District; Moles and Davison. Willie Moles was the Pipe Major and piping tutor for the majority of the period between 1956 and 1977 and to date 10 Moles personnel from 3 generations have served with the Band. The band membership has included Davison brothers from different generations from the sixties until present day.

In 1978 the band acquired the services of Lisburn man Jimmy Johnston who in 1976 was the Pipe Major of Ballycoan when they won the Grade 2 World Championship. Jimmys recruitment marked a significant landmark in the bands history. Not only did it lead to previously unprecedented success, but as he introduced his son and daughter and some former colleagues to the piping ranks it was an end to the bands parochialism (Jimmy was also the grandfather of our very own Michelle Johnston - The Belfast Tattoo's Highland Dance leader) At this time the drum corps under Drum Sergeant Lenny Moles benefited greatly from the tutelage of Frank Gibson; a colossus in the Northern Ireland drumming scene. Under this leadership the band was promoted to grade 3 in 1979 and by the early eighties was regularly winning prizes in this grade.

By the mid eighties when John Moles assumed the Pipe Majors mantle the band was continuing to improve and had a very healthy corps of young pipers and drummers who had been tutored within the band. Several of these young musicians took part in solo competitions and quite a few tasted success in this area.

Bleary & District however became a victim of the success of its youth policy and lost several accomplished players to grade 1 bands. This coupled with retirements reduced the membership to an unworkable level and by the start of the nineties the future of the band looked bleak. Competition work ceased and between 1992 and 1993 the band fulfilled only one engagement.

As in the early 1970s the few remaining stalwart members managed to coax a few players to Bleary & District.

The most significant person in this category was Nigel Davison who agreed to return to Bleary as Pipe Major while enjoying dual membership with Field Marshall Montgomery with whom he had experienced considerable success. 1994 saw a return to the RSPBA competitions at grade 4 level. The band again started to improve both in terms of numbers and musical acumen and prizes gradually began to filter in.

The arrival of Ian Lawson as Leading Drummer in 1996 precipitated the annexation of the grade 4A World Championship in that year. The remainder of the 1990s was one of Blearys brightest ever periods. Several major championships were won at home and in Scotland. The culmination of this success had undoubtedly been winning the grade 3A World Championship in Glasgow on the 14th August 1999.

As a consequence Bleary & District was promoted for the first time in its history to the grade 2 category and approaching the elite of the Worlds Pipe Bands. The band continued to feature in the prize lists in this grade, both in the local and the major championships coming 2nd twice at major championships between 2000 and 2002 with a number of other top 6 places attained.

The band also promoted and featured in a concert at the Armagh Market Place theatre where they demonstrated a high standard of play which was well receiv