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Seven Towers

History

The Seven Towers Pipe Band was founded in 1927 by a number of 'like minded lads' from the Harryville District of Ballymena. It has to be remembered that in those times, members would have to live within walking distance, or in some cases, cycling distance of the practice hall.

However, after a time, a uniform was required, so after lots of fund raising, there was a shortfall to be made up. A prominent family by the name of Cameron came up with the required cash and it was decided to wear the 'Cameron Tartan' as a gesture of appreciation. 

The band quickly became popular in the town, taking on a number of engagements including the 12th day, Black Saturday, Derry Day, including the preceding Sunday Service parades. This type of activity continued more or less the same, until the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939. Shortly after this, the band joined up to become the band of “C” Company Ballymena Home Guard.

During this period they wore their kilts with army khaki tunics. When the war ended, we reverted to the fully Highland Dress and at this time there was an influx of young members.

For the next few years the band was a member of the Northern Ireland Bands Association, who provided one contest per year in the Ulster Hall on a Saturday night in November. Bands back then were divided into three grades – Junior, Intermediate and Senior. We were a Junior band, about thirty of which turned up in the streets around the Ulster Hall, sometimes with snow or hailstones falling. Then we queued up on the stairs inside to go onto the platform to play for judges who were under cover. Every band played the same tune, the music for which was provided some weeks before, along with a drum score. Bands outside the first three places did not know how they were judged, until some weeks later, when a little booklet was published, giving a few sentences of praise or otherwise and points awarded. We considered it O.K. if we were in the first dozen. 

Just prior to the 1950's, we obtained the services of P.M. Donald MacClean, who had a big influence on the band and its preparation for contests. At this stage we changed to Red 'MacClean Tartan'. First success came in 1950 at Windsor Park, when we came 1st and won a trophy called the “Hawkes Shield”. This prize looked like the top of an old coffee table and spent the next 12 months shoved under the bed of P.M. Bertie Todd, until it was due for return.

When the Scottish Pipe Band Association formed a branch in Northern Ireland, Seven Towers were one of the founder members.

The band suffered a bad blow in 1952 when six members emigrated to Canada. Pipe Sgt. Davy Adamson and Pipers Billy McDowell and Sammy Kirkpatrick along with leading drummer Tim Orr, Bass Drummer Arthur Laverty and tenor drummer Tom McNeill. This left the band in pretty bad shape, but we continued to compete with more failure than success.

Gradually the band got better over the years and after a good run during the 1960's we brought in P.M. Jim Gordon and leading stroke Jackie Doran. In 1969 we won the All Ireland for the first time, and had a very successful year.

Shortly after this, the job of Pipe Major came back into the capable hands of Bertie Todd, who first took the responsibility at the age of seventeen. Over the next period there was a bit of astute - recruiting and the signing of leading drummer Jackie Browne, the band eventually won the Ulsters Championships in 1976, which had eluded them over the years, even when the band was quite good.

Winning this led to an invitation to play in a radio programme called “Ulster Bands”, broadcast on a Saturday afternoon by the B.B.C.

In this same year, we went to Newcastle, Co Down and won the Grade 1 contest although doubling up from Grade 2. This was quite a common practice a the time as Grade 1 bands were a bit thin on the ground. There was a time when bands from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were allowed to play down a grade when competing in Scotland. The year this rule was rescinded, was the same year as Seven Towers were promoted, which actually turned out to be staying in Grade 2.

In the year of 1982, The Seven Towers Pipe Band were invited to represent Northern Ireland at the "International Folk Festival" in Lorient, France. They were so well liked that they were invited to return the following year.

1986 was a significant year for the band, having been formed in 1926 the band had now reached its diamond anniversary (60 years). As a recognition of the many years service to the Seven Towers Pipe Band, the President, Alec Murray presented on behalf of the band, gold watches to Pipe Major Bertie Todd and his assistant, Pipe Sergeant Syd Adamson.

2003 is perhaps the landmark year for the Seven Towers Band. This was the year in which David Reid was appointed Pipe Major. The band competed in 4a this season and won the Scottish Championships, was runner-up at the Worlds and finished up Champion of Champions. The band was then promoted to 3B.

Competing in a new grade (3B) for 2004 the band started to hit their stride. The band won all but 2 contests in which they competed this season and were runner-up in them. The wins included Scottish Champions, European Champion, World Champions, Cowal Champions, Champion of Champions as well as Scottish Champion of Champions. 

Again the band were promoted (3A) for the 2005 season. The band continued to progress and in this season and after being runner-up at the Scottish Championships, the band went on a winning run this season again lifting titles such as All-Ireland Champions, European Champions, Cowal Champions and were once again World Champions and were Champion of champions once more.

After racing through 3 grades in 3 years under Pipe Major David Reid, the band were promoted to the tough grade of grade 2. In this year the band lifted the European Champions trophy, a remarkable achievement for the first year in such a tight grade. The band also won at Newcastle and were placed 4th at the British Championships.

The January before the start of the 2007 season the band were delighted to welcome Amos Gilmore, arriving from the Field Marshal Montgomery, to fill the role of Pipe Sergeant. In his first season with the band, the band won the Scottish Championships and European Championships. Also that year, the Seven Towers picked up runner-up at the World Championships and Cowal Championships.

At the end of the season the Drum Sergeant, Stephen Purvis left his role. The job of leading tip was then handed over to Ali Hopper. who had just left the band to join the Field Marshal Montgomery, he happily took this job and with a few drummers leaving he had to rebuild the core. Glenn Higgins took over from John Martin on the bass drum. 2008 was a disappointing year for the band, not winning as much as they would like.

However, the band worked hard through the winter and Rodney Cranston took over from the departing Glenn Higgins, who went to join FMM as a tenor drummer. 2009 to date has been more sucessful with the band taking a clean sweep at the Co. Antrim Championships (overall, pipes, drums and bass section), drummers and bass section winning at Cookstown, Pipers and Bass Section winning at Portadown - The Bass Section winning 3 in a row. The pipers from Seven Towers also won the piping at the All-Ireland Championships were the band were placed 2nd overall.