Irvine Memorial Pipe Band in Clabby has been well-known for its annual concerts prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, using these as a platform for new and emerging musical talent both in the local area and within the band itself to emerge.

The band has for many years operated a piping and drumming school, which has rejuvenated an interest in piping and drumming in the area, and the band has been steadily developing under the direction of Pipe Major Neil Stronge and leading drummer Nicky Armstrong.


The band decided to host a different type of event this year, using funding obtained from the Ulster Scots Agency given in order to mark the Centenary of Northern Ireland.

As such, ‘An Audience with Champions’ will take place at the Royal British Legion Hall, Fivemiletown, on Friday, December 3 at 7pm.

Tickets for the night are free, with admission strictly by ticket only; to order, contact either Sandra at 0783 737 2994, or Neil at 0779 196 5738.

Two highly-respected champions – drummer, John Scullion, and piper, Mark Faloon – will play on the night and will also talk about what has been instrumental to their success as they look back over their competing years.

No doubt there will be yarns and reminiscing, but it is also hoped that this evening will spur on younger pipers and drummers to strive for excellence in their individual playing, and to encourage an interest in contesting in the future.

John Scullion

A four-time winner of the World Solo Drumming Championship, and winner of Champion of Champions, John is recognised today as a premier master of the Scottish snare drum, having developed a great resource for developing drumming skills, as published in his book, ‘The Fairly Together Programme’.

John was initially taught by his father, having come from a family of pipe band enthusiasts.

He says he was unwittingly hooked on rhythm as he was carried as a toddler in his father’s arms back and forth in time to 6/8 marches.

John was drumming from the age of four, playing a 2/4 march of some difficulty which is practically unheard of, initially copying what his father was teaching his older brothers to do.

At one stage, his father was laid up with a bad back, lying on a board, and unable to move his arms, but he taught John a competition MSR drum score by using a series of clicks and sounds with his mouth.

John says this was invaluable to him, as from that time on, he let sound determine his sticking, and stopped him from picking up bad habits whilst watching others play.

Later, he was mentored by the great Alex Duthart, a Scottish drummer of some renown, who has heavily influenced the progression of pipe band drumming since the 1960s.

John moved to Scotland in the early 1970s, where he played for a number of years in Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band, eventually leading the corps to its first top finish at the World Pipe Band Championships.

In 1991, he joined the Scottish Power Pipe Band, and across 11 years he won several championships with that world-famous band.

Mark Faloon

BORN in Portadown, Co. Armagh, Mark started piping at only eight years of age, and was first taught by his father.

In 1978, Mark joined Battlehill Pipe Band, a local band in the area, and by the age of 14 he had started to compete in local solo competitions.

At this stage, Mark was instructed by Norman McCutcheon for the Juvenile piping grade.

At 16 years old, Mark dual-registered and was able to compete in the Graham Memorial Pipe band from Cullybackey, which was in grade 1, whilst playing as Pipe Major of his first pipe band, Battlehill, in grade 4.

Mark enjoyed success as a solo player in the Junior grade, being instructed by Irvine Memorial past member Lenny Browne, winning prizes including the All-Ireland solo competition, which promoted Mark into the Senior level at 18 years of age.

Mark was the Pipe Major of the Royal Ulster Constabulary Pipe Band from 1992 to 1998.

He then joined the Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band in 1998, and was a member until completion of the 2017 season, gaining 54 Major Titles with the band in that time, including the World Pipe Band Championships, British Championships, European Championships, Scottish Championships, The Cowal Games, UK Championships, Ulster Championships and the All-Ireland Championships.