(1972 - )
I’m from a place called Portadown in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. I received my first lessons along with my younger brother Philip at age 13 after being persuaded by my late father to join the local Marlacoo Band. I was taught by various band members before taking lessons with P/M Norman McCutheon. He was the first ever person from Northern Ireland to take the famous Pipe Major’s course at Edinburgh Castle, which was then taught by the legendary Willie Ross.
At 16, I received tuition from Pipe Major Alexander (Sandy) Davidson of the Scots Guards for about 3 years. After that I played with the Marlacoo and Ballycoan bands when they were in Grade 3. I then worked my way up to the Eden Grade 1 band in 1993 under P/M Davey Caldwell.
I subsequently spent a few years with the Syerla band with P/M Don Shannon, who now lives in Texas. I joined the Grade 2 Killeen band in 1998 and persuaded my brother Philip to join the next year. He became pipe major in 2000 and I became pipe sergeant. The most memorable times in the nine years with Killeen were winning the All-Ireland in Grade 2 three times and finishing runners up at the Scottish Championships in 2008. I left Killeen in 2010 and played with Cullybackey for a year before joining St Laurence O’Toole in 2011.
In 1998, I started composing after reading an article about a composing competition to commemorate the death of Princess Diana in 1997. I wrote a 6/8 March called “The Pride of Althorpe” and a hornpipe called “Roses Never Fade.” They were my first tunes that I ever composed and they won first and third prizes. I won a set of silver Niall pipes which I still play today.
I have won a few more composing competitions since and have been placed in several others. The most recent winning tune competitions were in June and August of 2013. I won the hornpipe section of the Comann na Mara contest and won the Piping Live 10th Anniversary tune competition in August. My tunes have been played by the Scottish Power, Cullybackey, St Laurence Otoole and Killeen bands. The Marion Anderson and Pipedown dance and folk groups in Scotland have also played some of my compositions.
In 2009 I won the Intermediate grade at the All-Ireland solo championships, resulting in my promotion to the senior grade. In 2011 I became an instructor for one of the RSPBA piping and drumming schools in Northern Ireland.