The residents of Kilrea were honoured in 1921 by a visit from Sir James Craig, later to become Lord Craigavon, Premier of the Stormont Government. He had been invited to inspect a large detachment of “B” Specials congregated there for a parade through the town. The parade was led by Cullybackey Pipe Band. The playing and deportment of this band thoroughly impressed the huge crowd of spectators and certainly inspired the young men of the town. Most of the men and boys who played in the flute band organised by Kilrea Apprentice Boys L.O.L. 366 were later to be the nucleus of a new pipe band which the members of L.O.L. 366 decided to form. The cost of the new pipe band was £300, a huge amount of money in those days. The lodge continued to maintain the band fully for the next twenty-five years.

Kilrea Orange Hall, 1920s
Back Row: Pipe Major McCloy
Middle Row: Bertie Woodend, Sammy Holmes, Tom Woodend, Johnston McCarroll, Bob Peden, Sam Kerr, Hugh Peden, John Gamble
Front Row: James Gamble, Alex Holmes, Wm. John Mayberry, Jack Holmes, Bob McKeown, Sandy Graham, William Mullan

The first pipe major, Pipe Major McCloy, was a veteran piper from the Scotch Craigs, Cullybackey. He undertook to train the new band and faithfully attended the weekly training sessions, mostly on his bike and sometimes on his horse and trap. In certain adverse weather conditions, the lodge employed a local taxi owner, James Glass of Church Street, to convey him to and from his training duties. The foundation members of the band were: Alex Holmes, drum major; John and James Gamble, Sam Kerr Junior, Bob and Hugh Peden, Tom and Bertie Woodend, Bobby McKeown, William Mullan and John Crawford, pipers; Wm. John Mayberry, Sandy Graham, Teddy Woodend and Tommie McKeown, drummers; Jack Holmes, bass drummer.

Kilrea Pipe Band made its first public appearance on 1st July 1923. The players wore their own clothes and paraded like this for the rest of their outings that year. The members of the band turned out in 1924 dressed in their new Cameron of Erracht highland dress uniform.

The First Parade with Uniform, July 1924

Portrush on Thursday 23rd July 1925

A Social and Ball ticket from 1926

The band was reorganised in the early 1930s owing to many of the original members having dropped out. New pipers were invited and the man engaged to tutor them was an army piper, Sammy Campbell of Upperlands. Some of those who joined the band at this stage were James McIlfatrick, Bobby Hunter, David Paul and Bobbie Atkinson. Sammy Campbell soon returned to the army and Bob Peden, who had a real musical ear and an uncanny knack of tuning the most recalcitrant of pipes, then took over as pipe major until the outbreak of the Second World War when the pipes and drums fell silent until Victory Day.

Church Street, Kilrea on V.E. Day 1946

Back Row: Archie McMaster, Bobbie McMaster, Andy Alexander, John Gamble, Bob Peden
Middle Row: Stewart Proctor, Tommy Blair, John Kilpatrick, James McIlfatrick, Allen Proctor, Ronnie McFadden
Front Row: Nan Peden, Norman Graham, Bobby Graham, Sammy Holmes, Don Proctor, Bertie Murphy, John Alexander, Sandy Graham, Jean Kennedy

On resumption of activities, John Gamble took over as pipe major. It was around this time that two young ladies, Nan Peden and Jean Kennedy, were introduced to the band and a number of other young pipers joined the ranks, the McMaster brothers, Archie, William and George, the Proctor brothers, Stewart, Don and Allen, plus Ronnie McFadden and Tommy Blair. Bobby and Norman Graham joined their father Sandy as drummers along with John Alexander. Andy Alexander took over from William Stinson as drum major. The tenor drummers were Sammy Holmes Junior and Bertie Murphy. Don Proctor became an ace performer on the bass drum.

The band members formed a fund-raising committee in 1946 to gain funds for purchasing new uniforms and drums. They travelled to neighbouring towns and marched around the local country roads playing and collecting. Mr. T. Kemp of Perth measured the Band in 1948 and the players took delivery in 1949 of their new uniform which included a change to Royal Stewart kilts and shawls. A total of £436, 18 shillings and 6 pence (and a large number of clothing coupons!) was spent on the new uniform with a further £95 in 1950 on capes. £138 was spent on four new side drums, two tenor drums, one bass drum and accompanying covers.

The band’s original bagpipes were replaced in early 1955. After sets of Robertson and Sinclair pipes had been sampled, twelve sets of ivory mounted James Robertson of Edinburgh bagpipes (still in use) with stirling silver soles were ordered at a cost of £557 and 20 shillings. New dark green tunics, waistbelts and crossbelts were purchased in 1958.

Kilrea Orange Hall, 1957
Back Row: Ivan Gilmore, Bobby Graham, Ivor Lennox, Allen Proctor
Middle Row: Andy Alexander, John Gamble, Mac Armstrong, Stewart Proctor, Jean Kennedy, Ernie Gilmore, Bill Smyth, Tommy Blair, Don Proctor
Front Row: Bertie Murphy, Robert Graham, William Gamble, John Alexander
(Absent: Jim Glass, Tommy Gamble)

The band members set their sights in the 1950s on the contesting arena and gained promotion from Grade 4 to Grade 3 in their first season in 1957. John Gamble handed over to Allen Proctor in October 1960. In twenty years as pipe major, Allen saw the band climb the heights of success in the competition field throughout Ireland and Scotland. One notable change in uniform came in early 1961 when the band was one of the first in N. Ireland to purchase a full set of twenty feather bonnets. New black tunics were purchased in 1977.

Kilrea Orange Hall, 1959
Back Row: Arthur McKay, John Gamble, Ivan Gilmore, Allen Proctor
Middle Row: Andy Alexander, John Walker, Andy Wilson, Jean Kennedy, Bill Smyth, Tommy Blair, Don Proctor
Front Row: John Alexander, Ernie Douglas, Bertie Murphy, William Gamble, Billy Douglas, Wilfred Holmes

The players who gained 3rd place in Grade 2 at the 1960 All-Ireland Championships in Dublin

The Band with the Benmore Shield won at the 1962 Cowal Championships in Dunoon

An extract from the “Northern Constitution” in August 1964

Late 1960s
Back Row: Andy Wilson, Alec Young, Cecil Irwin, Joe Patterson, Davy Gordon, -
Middle Row: Davy Taylor, Robert Graham, Stewart Proctor, Jim Gordon, William Gamble, Bill Smyth
Front Row: Wilfred Holmes, Don Proctor, Allen Proctor

The next pipe major was Harold Brownlow, a player with great musical ability. A number of young pipers and drummers joined in his time in charge. Although he moved on to play in Grade 1 with McNeillstown Pipe Band and has now retired from piping, he still shares his knowledge with the current players. Green tweed jackets were introduced in 1984 as an alternative to the full highland dress.

Black Saturday, August 1979
Left to Right: Bill Smyth, Stewart Proctor, Irwin Holmes, Ian Duncan, Colin Proctor, Derek Smyth, Harold Brownlow, Edwin Murphy, Nancy Browlow, Robert Graham, Tommy Blair, Allen Proctor, Jeoffrey Young, Bertie Murphy

Garvagh, 12th July 1986
Back Row: Mark Gilmore, Allen Proctor, Colin Proctor, John Andrews, Stewart Proctor, Rodney Wilson, Tommy Blair, Harold Brownlow, Alan Dempsie
Front Row: Andy Wilson, Sharon Nelson, Diane Nelson, William Nelson, Ivan Wilson, David McGuinness, - , John Proctor

Andy Wilson, a member of the band from the 1950s, took over from Harold in the 1980s. His time in charge saw regular appearances in the competition arena and culminated in a very successful year in N. Ireland and Scotland in 1998 with promotion to Grade 3B. The Royal Stewart kilts and shawls were changed to the Ancient Campell of Cawdor tartan in 1989 and black Crail jackets were bought in 1992.

Kilrea Orange Hall, September 1998
Back Row: Alan Dempsie, Millar Speers, David Faloon
Middle Row: Arthur McGuckin, Alan Johnston, Steven Barry, Graham Lamont, John Andrews, Andrew Booth, David Wylie, Dessie Lamont, Tristan Campbell, Samuel Johnston, Ivan Wilson
Front Row: Russell Wilson, Andy Wilson, Joanne Campbell, Janet Smyth, Olivia Faloon, Rodney Wilson
(Absent: Colin McNeill)

The present pipe major is Rodney Wilson. He has led the band successfully through a period of change in personnel. The band returned to the competition arena in 2004 after a break of five years and purchased new Muted Cameron of Erracht kilts, waistcoasts and sporrans in 2006.

Portrush Competition, 23rd August 2008

Kilrea Pipe Band has always been involved in a range of activities. It currently competes in pipe band competitions in N. Ireland, Rep. Ireland and Scotland. Coleraine Borough Council regularly invites it to entertain residents and tourists in the local seaside towns of Portrush and Portstewart and to take part in parades in Coleraine, such as the Mayor’s Parade and the switching on of the Christmas Lights. It has contributed regularly at the cross-community Fairy Thorn Festival in Kilrea organised by the Kilrea Enterprise Group and leads L.O.L. 366 and L.O.L. 364 on the 12th July each year and R.B.P. 586 on the Black Saturday in August every second year. It also participates in concerts organised by local charities and community groups.