Sunday, 31 March 2013

Rainbow Drops and Sunday School

I have been a member of Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church all my life, Sunday School, 3rd Ards BB, Church in fact Anderson's have been members of the church since around 1884, perhaps even earlier than that.

Well, my children came home the other day with some packets of Rainbow Drops - I had not seen these for many years and instantly it brought back memories for me.

Whiskey Haw Public House - Front Deed Corner

Each and every Sunday us wee Anderson's were packed off to Sunday School at Greenwell Street Church, it was held in the afternoon around the same time as 'The Big Match' was on ITV (coincidence)?. Anyway just at his corner (above) was Bertie Moorhead's shop and yes with our Sunday collection we called in and purchased as much rainbow drops as our collection would allow us!

Mum if you read this - I'm sorry!


Saturday, 30 March 2013

Assembling Prudence

Building a Lambeg drum is a little time consuming but enjoyable. It is a very important part of the musical tradition, some men can't be bothered, too lazy or simply can't assemble a drum. I have always found it to be enjoyable and great fun especially during the weeks running up to the 'Twelfth' 
I owe a great deal to Eric Cully and Denis Morrow for passing on a number of 'top tips' when preparing a drum. The drum will do together with out much bother providing all the component parts fit. You get to know your own drum and how best to assemble it, you would usually or at least I do mark the drum where certain bits line up.
Once the brace hoops are laced up with the rope you don't need to unlace the rope again as the drum can be assembled and disassembled by slackening off the rope and removing a few buffs.
This is my drum Prudence - I took a few pictures of it as I built it a while back. It is good if there is at least two folk present as it is a lot easier, this time I had Bobby Magreechan with me.
Prudence - stripped!

One head on.

Second head on.

A piece of curtain material comes in handy!

Brace Hoops laced with the rope and buffs - drum slips in. 

Prudence built and in the drum press for a tighten.
In bygone years of yore there were no drum presses, these are a relatively new invention, all drums needed to be pulled by hand - usually with a case or two of stout handy just in case the men got a little thirsty!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Tenebrae Service on Good Friday 29th March at 7.30pm

A couple of years ago I was invited to take part in this service, by Neil McClure, through our mutual good friend Mark Thompson - here we are 4 years later and I have invited back once again.

The Lambeg drum of course is a particularly unique musical instrument and well suite to play the part of Strepitus - the great noise.

This is a very moving and dark service and one I really enjoy participating in.

See details below.


friends of  PORTAFERRY


Irish actor, Roma Tomelty, will be returning to her roots in Portaferry as narrator at the annual Tenebrae Service on Good Friday 29th March at 7.30pm. 

Local choir, the NewQuay Singers, will perform Haydn’s “Seven Last Words of Christ”.  Four outstanding young soloists will join them: Mary McCabe, from Downpatrick, soprano; Laura Lamph, Belfast, contralto; Luke Sinclair – a leading young English opera star , tenor and Páidí Ó Dubháin, Brussels (and Warrenpoint), bass.  The Ireland String Quartet, Richard Campbell, (organist in St George’s) and Gill Withers (doublebass) will provide the accompaniment. 

As the service progresses Roma will read St Matthew’s story of Christ’s journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to Golgotha and the Crucifixion.  At the end of each lesson the lights are dimmed a little until the church descends into complete darkness and Mark Anderson uses his Lambeg Drum to provide the Strepitus - the great noise, signifying the earthquake and thunder that accompanied Christ’s death.

More information on

 Roma Tomelty Returns!

Roma Tomelty, the distinguished Irish actress, returns to Portaferry on Good Friday as narrator at the annual Tenebrae Service in Portaferry Presbyterian Church at 7.30pm.  This is a dramatic and ancient Passiontide service where the Gospel of St Matthew is divided into Seven Shadows – ‘The Agony of the Spirit’; ‘Betrayal’; ‘Desertion’; ‘Remorse’; ‘Accusation’; ‘Humiliation’ and ‘The Crucifixion’.  Each ‘shadow’ is represented by a candle and as each lesson is read its candle is extinguished bringing the church, eventually, to almost total darkness – just as darkness descended on Golgotha at Christ’s death.  In the darkness the earthquake and thunder that St Matthew related will be symbolised by the playing of the Lambeg Drum.
 Roma’s readings will be punctuated by Haydn’s ‘Seven Last Words of Chirst’ sung by the NewQuay Singers.  They will be joined by four superb young professional voices – Mary McCabe (soprano) from Downpatrick; Laura Lamph (contralto) from Belfast; Luke Sinclair, a brilliant young English tenor; and Paidi O Dubhain (bass) from Brussels (and Warrenpoint).   The Ireland String Quartet, Richard Campbell, organ and Gill Withers, double bass, will accompany the performance.  
The Rev David Gray, who will take the service, commented: “Good Friday is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar.  This will be the fourth time that we have held a Tenebrae Service and without doubt it is a dramatic and very moving occasion.  There are few better ways to remember the momentous events of the Crucifixion and we welcome everyone to join us as we contemplate and celebrate this pivotal point in the Christian calendar.”
Ian McDonnell, Chair of the friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church said “We, the friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church are very pleased that our community choir is again joining the congregation to mark Good Friday in this very special and memorable way.  We are particularly pleased to welcome Roma Tomelty back to Portaferry to read the lessons and such a wonderfully accomplished group of musicians to support our community choir.  Portaferry’s Grade A listed Greek Temple makes a spectacular backdrop for the occasion and it is always inspiring to see so many people, of all ages, attending.”
Everyone is welcome to join the congregation for this inter-denominational event.  There will be a retiring collection at the end of the service in aid of the church restoration funds.  Further information can be found at


Roma Tomelty: The daughter of Portaferry’s most famous literary son and sister of the celebrated actress Frances, Roma has been a professional actress for over 40 years.  She has worked in Theatre in Ireland, England, Scotland and San Francisco.  Currently, she is Artistic Director of Centre Stage Theatre Co.  Roma is also the author of several plays including 'The Wind and the Sleeping Harp' on Moore's Irish Melodies, written..."to force Uncle Peter (the late Peter Tomelty) out of retirement!"  It worked and the play was performed across Ireland, Scotland (including the Edinburgh Festival) and represented N Ireland at London's Prestigious Sense of Ireland Festival in both London and Brussels. 

Portaferry Presbyterian Church is widely acknowledged as one of the best neo-classical, Greek revival buildings in Great Britain and Ireland. 
The NewQuay Singers is a ‘community choir’ run by the friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church (fPPC)

For this performance the choir will be joined by the Ireland String Quartet, Richard Campbell, organ; and Gill Withers, Double-bass.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Loughries Grant Applications 2013

Well, it it that time of the year again - I used to dread but have gotten used to recent years.

By the end of this month I will have completed 1 festival funding application and 1 Good Relations funding application. Also, I have already submitted a funding application for Loughries 2 x summer schools to be held in July 2013.

Community development grant in April, then some STRIPE (Orange Institution Project) stuff like marshaling courses, good relations project - that said our membership has increased 400% in 7 years so it is working!!

I will post further details in the coming weeks, nevertheless it is time consuming and draining at times, however I am happy as an Orange & Ulster Scots community activist to put in the time as the rewards far out-weigh a few hours at the computer.


Road to the Twelfth Starts Here!

It may be a very bitter cold, wet and miserable March day, however the road to the 12th of July starts here!

For a few hours today Bobby, Jackie and myself spent time in Ballyrobert pullin a few drum and getting a few heads / skins ready for the upcoming events.

Above are only a few of the drums that we have been working on in recent weeks and months, behind me, where I took this photo - are 2 x more shells and 1 drum in the press ready to be pulled.

Loughries are working to organise a fife and lambeg drumming event in Newtownards on 21st June 2013 as part of our yearly Ulster Scots Festival - funded by Ards Borough Council Festival Funding.

More details to follow!


Friday, 15 March 2013

Fife Cleaning

I received a call earlier this week from a teacher (Shaz) who works in a school that I had been teaching in a while back - she is very keen to get a fife & lambeg drum project up and running.
Anyway, whilst having a chat about the project she enquired into purchasing some fifes, well I had around 20 fifes gathered up, 6 I have kept by for the Lisneal Collage project, so I agreed to sell 4 to Shaz. Sadly I went to get the fifes they looked the rather worse for ware, so I ended up oiling and cleaning 10 fifes, including my own - which got a spring clean! (over 2 hours)
They are like new now and looking forward to delivering them to the school, yes they were a bargin at £*&.%$ each !

A Couple of Turkey's

I was out for my daily walk yesterday and came across these two........ it reminded me on a couple of folk, so I had a wee chuckle to myself - little amuses the innocent!


Bangor Grammar Spring Concert 2013

On Wednesday evening I attended Bangor Grammar spring concert at their impressive new school. My eldest boy Matthew is in year 8 and a member of the training orchestra and year 8 choir - he played a supporting role throughout the night.
Having worked in schools for over 5 years now, preparing children for performances - it was great to sit back back, relax and be entertained, and entertained I was!
It was a fabulous concert with some particularly talented young musicians, playing a wide range of musical instruments. The programme was also quite varied, from film/tv theme-tunes, pop,, rock, classical, choir/barbershop, orchestral, solo's etc. My favourite piece was Bluebell of Scotland, piano & Trombone it was terrific.
All in all a great night out -  with Matthew although quite nervous, performed very well and it was a great experience for him!


Thursday, 14 March 2013

Lambeg Drums - Brian Jamison (Artist)

Well, as I was posting regarding the new Lisneal Collage Lambeg Drum I thought I would share with you some of Brian Jamison's previous work.
Now, Brian paints many varied items, milk churns, stones, wood, lambeg drums and of course canvasses - so I have kept Brian quite busy over recent years.
Here are  few examples of Brian's work:-
Blakley's Glorious Traditions

Ulster's Twin Towers

One of my drums - Prudence

Aul Samuel

Therefore you can be quite certain that the Lisneal drum will be a wonderful painting.


Lambeg Drum for Lisneal College - Londonderry 2

While others still talk about it..................

On Sunday10th March 2013 I posted an article regarding a new Lambeg Drum and associated equipment for Lisneal Collage in Londonderry.
Well on Tuesday evening 12th March I took the drum shell to the artist, Brian Jamison of Ballywatticock to begin the process. I spoke at great length to Brian about what was required from the school and I took along with me a print out of what is to be painted on the drum along with a sketch that had been prepared by Darren Gibson (teacher at Lisneal).
I can't disclose what is to be painted on the drum as it is a closely guarded secret, however think of Londonderry...... that is all I an divulging!

So, here you see the drum prepared with primer and ready for the painting.

I don't intend to photograph various stages of the painting process, however I will keep you all regularly updated on its development.
Darren and I have further plans for the project - more later!
On another matter...............I have been contracted by an organisation to do 2 x similar projects in schools - one from the Catholic Maintained school sector and one from the state school sector, not only to provide the drum and drumming equipment but also to take up to a 20 week tuition course also along with visits to the drum makers and drum painters......... more later !!


A Borough Is Born - Dinner Invite

Following on from the successful '1613 A Borough Is Born' launch a few weeks ago at the Town Hall in Newtownards, Mrs Anderson and I have been invited to the first event.
A dinner hosted by the Mayor Cllr. Gregory to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the first granting of the Royal Charter, on Monday 25th March 2013.
The event is to be held at 'Rosemount Estate' the ancestral home of the Montgomery Family in Greyabbey Co. Down.
Mrs A and I very rarely get out together mainly to due to babysitters, this time we have accepted the invitation and look forward to the event. The great and the good are to be there - not sure what category I fit into!!
I may have had a bit of a hand in organising the music........ shhh!

Ulster Scots in Schools - Kilmaine Primary School

Wednesday morning Matthew and I attended Kilmaine Primary School in Bangor Co. Down for a series of Ulster Scots musical workshops. This is the 4th year that we have attended the school, so we must be doing something right !

We performed at 3 x workshops this time for Primary 1, Kilmaine is a large school with 3 x classes per year. The children learn about their senses touch, smell and that type of thing - Matt and I were the sound element.

We brought with us a range of Ulster Scots instruments, 3 lambeg drums - small, medium and large, fifes, selection of flutes, tin whistles and bagpipes. We talked and interacted with the children as well as getting quite a few of them up to play the instruments

It was terrific and very well received by the children, teachers, classroom assistants and we also had a visit from the school principal Mr. Mann.

For Matt and I, who are genuinely interested in promoting our musical tradition through education, it was a very successful event. For us it is about planting the seed of our Ulster Scots traditions and giving children an opportunity to learn about this culture brought down to their level, in this instance using their P1 theme of sounds.


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Old photo of a Lambeg Drum Maker / Painter

Thanks to Mark Thompson for this photo.

Here is a photo from the past! The fife and lambeg drum is one of the oldest musical traditions in Ulster and it is right and proper that it continues to be promoted and developed as an equal to other traditions - it is generally accepted to be a vital cog in the wheel of our Ulster and British Cultural Identity.
Sadly scenes like the one above are not as familiar as they once were, that said there are dedicated drum makers dotted throughout Ulster who continue on with the drum making tradition - as well as the artists / painters, who through art - express our cultural identity.
In a previous post I mentioned that a school in Londonderry, Lisneal College, have ordered fifes and a new lambeg drum for the school. There are plans for the fifes and drums to be used during the UK City of Culture events throughout 2013 - I personally feel that it is vitally important to showcase this musical tradition, its unique to Ulster and deserves to be promoted in a positive light!!

Lambeg Drum for Lisneal College - Londonderry

Whilst other talk.............

I began a fife & lambeg drum project in Lisneal College Londonderry some time ago, the school and I were promised equipment to keep the project moving forward, sadly and predictably we were let down, as were many other fife and lambeg drum projects - we won't go there!

Anyway, not one to let the grass grow under my /our feet my good friend Darren Gibson (teacher at Lisneal) made alternative plans. We contacted the UK City of Culture office and spoke to Marty, who agreed with our plan - 1 painted lambeg drum, 6 fifes, drum canes, drum stand, neck strap and other bits n pieces that makes a good project, in fact something quite similar to the Boys' Model Project that was so very successful a couple of years ago in Belfast!

The Lisneal drum has now been made and is presently at the artists workshop ready to begin the painting. Darren Gibson has designed the painting in its entirety, using some familiar images of Londonderry and dare I say an excellent design.So Brian Jamison, the artist, will begin the painting on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week and if all goes to plan the drum painting will be completed by May Day.

Darren Gibson and I have a few plans for the project to progress at a later date, sadly however no photo's of the drum as yet, that said I will post something in a while to keep you updated.

Lisneal has continued to promote and develop Ulster Scots projects in the school, they have developed a Burns Night supper now in its second year.

The school has also been working with Georgina Kee the local Highland dance tutor to promote dance in school. All this has come from an embryonic fife and lambeg drum class in the school run by Darren Gibson..... long may this good work continue!!

So, great days ahead at Lisneal

Promoting the fife and lambeg drum through education!


A selection of Lambeg Drums - Military Men part 3

Folks, here is another selection of drums from 'The Ulster Drum' - thanks to Bobby Magreechan.
As you can see I have called this selection part 3 - as in Bobby's book there are quite a few drums with men connected to the military.
Hope you enjoy this montage.


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland - Magee College


I was cordially invited by Dr David Hume - Director of Services at the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland to an event at Magee College in Londonderry, on Wednesday 20th Match 2013.
It is a very important event for Grand Lodge, as Londonderry is the current UK City of Culture - it is an wonderful opportunity for the Orange Institution to show in a positive light, the many elements that makes up the wonderfully rich culture that is the Orange Tradition.

I have been asked to prepare for a series of workshops using PowerPoint on the fife and lambeg drum musical tradition and also to take a number of Lambeg Drums and fifes for display and playing purposes.

Looking forward to working with the Orange Institution - in what will be the first of many projects.



Tuesday, 5 March 2013

An Independent People

On Sunday evening BBC 2 NI begins a new series of programmes about us Presbyterians!

I for one will be tunning in, to find out a little more of  our / my Presbyterian background. I am well aware of some of the history surrounding the Church, but looking forward to learning so much more.

Taken from BBC Website: - A major new landmark series. William Crawley tells the dramatic story of Ulster's Presbyterians, the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland. Beginning with the foundation of the church in the 17th century, Crawley follows the fortunes of Ulster's Presbyterians through four centuries of challenge and change.

In this episode, Crawley tells the story of the rebel Scottish ministers who first established the Presbyterian church on Irish soil and follows their struggle for religious liberty throughout their first turbulent century in Ireland


Saturday, 2 March 2013

Sam Houston.

One of the more international flavoured drums that is in existence, is the drum above - General Sam Houston - his family ancestry indicates that his folks emigrated from Ulster, when they move to the 'New World'.

This drum was commissioned by the Houston family and I believe is kept on permanent display at the family home in Texas.

You may find this interesting - Sam Houston was a hero to many and a very influential man........ On this day 1st February this day in 1861, Texas becomes the seventh state to secede from the Union when a state convention votes 166 to 8 in favour of the measure.
The Texans who voted to leave the Union did so over the objections of their governor, Sam Houston. A staunch Unionist, Houston's election in 1859 as governor seemed to indicate that Texas did not share the rising secessionist sentiments of the other Southern states.
However, events swayed many Texans to the secessionist cause. John Brown's raid on the federal armoury at Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in October 1859 had raised the spectre of a major slave insurrection, and the ascendant Republican Party made many Texans uneasy about continuing in the Union. After Abraham Lincoln's election to the presidency in November 1860, pressure mounted on Houston to call a convention so that Texas could consider secession.
He did so reluctantly in January 1861, and sat in silence on February 1 as the convention voted overwhelmingly in favour of secession. Houston grumbled that Texans were "stilling the voice of reason," and he predicted an "ignoble defeat" for the South. Houston refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy and was replaced in March 1861 by his lieutenant governor.
Texas' move completed the first round of secession. Seven states--South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas--left the Union before Lincoln took office. Four more states--Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas-- waited until the formal start of the Civil War, with the April 1861 firing on Fort Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina, before deciding to leave the Union. The remaining slave states--Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri--never mustered the necessary majority for secession.

Travel Expenses

For the last 4 years I have been travelling around the 9 Counties of Ulster as a music tutor, promoting and developing the fife and lambeg drum musical tradition.

During the course of a week I was travelling up to 600 miles per week using around £80.00 - £100.00 per week on diesel, along with the addition costs of wear & tear and general upkeep of the van -therefore I would spend around £450 + per month taking in road tax and insurance costs. Also take in to account around 14 - 16 hours per week travelling time, unpaid!!

I got used to spend that much money, but it only now that it is noticeable, since the 1st January 2013 to 1st March, I used £50.00 per month = £100.00 on diesel. I have been doing quite a bit of work in local schools within a 15 - 20 radius of my home therefore the travelling expenses have dropped, significantly - less travel time, less expenses and more time at home whilst earning a good wage!

This may not last - but it has been an enjoyable change!


Friday, 1 March 2013

Belfast City Hall Invite

Since entering back into the world of retirement - now more semi retirement, I continue to receive offers of work and the ocassional invitation. I don't intend to blog all of this work - for tax reasons........ however I will publicise one or two!!

I received an invitation during the week from the Boys' Model School in North Belfast to an event at Belfast City Hall on Thursday 7th March 2013.

A couple of years ago there was a similar event held at the La Mon Hotel where a group of boys from the Model were playing their fife and lambeg drum, along with St Patrick's boys who played their tin whistles and bodhrans - It was an excellent event as I recall Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley was the keynote speaker. 

It will be great to see all the folks again from the Boys' Model, who embraced the whole fife and lambeg drum tradition, even though this tradition was almost extinct from our Capital City of Belfast.

Report and photo's to follow.


1613 - A Borough Is Born

On Thursday 28th February 2013 I along with other members of Loughries Historical Society, were invited by the Mayor of Ards Cllr Gregory - to the launch of 1613 A Borough is Born.

In 1613 King James I, bestowed a Royal Charter upon Newtowne - from then the town has steadily grown into a prosperous market town.

It was great to see all the local historical societies at the launch, with an excellent display of artefact's and memorabilia. Also we were pleased to see Bill Montgomery and his wife in attendance, Bill is a descendant of Hugh Montgomery.

It is wonderful that the Ulster Scots settlement by Hamilton & Montgomery 'The Dawn of the Ulster Scots' continues to be recognised as one of the most significant events in Ulster history, as it predates the more well known Plantation of Ulster of 1610.

I like many are looking forward to a year long festival with a great mixture of events planned to help celebrate this very special anniversary.

Events programmes are readily available from Ards Borough Council outlets.

Keep lookin in for further details and reports.