Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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THE DOCKLANDS -St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band

Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage’is a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.

St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band

A Club of Champions

2008 was a golden year for the St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band with victories in the British, Scottish, All-Ireland and Mid-Ulster Pipe Band Championships, and 2nd place in the European and Cowal Championships. The band were also crowned Champions Supreme for 2008 - the first non UK band to take the title and the first new name on the trophy since 1976. Although presently based in Tallaght, the Pipe Band's origins are firmly rooted in the Docklands. The history began in 1910 with a meeting of the St. Laurence O'Toole Gaelic Athletic Association Club held at the Christian Brother School in Seville Place. Amongst those in attendance at this extraordinary gathering were the future Easter 1916 martyrs Thomas Clarke (President of the band), Pádraig Pearse and Sean McDermott, as well as Sinn Fein founder Arthur Griffith, future Irish President Douglas Hyde and the playwright Seán O'Casey. The club decided to form a Pipe Band with O’Casey as first Secretary and future Senator Michael Colgan as the first Pipe Major.

Troubled Times

O’Casey raised a good deal of money for the club through plays staged by the St. Laurence O'Toole Dramatic Society. By the time the General Strike was called in 1913, the band were sufficiently well established to lead a contingent of workers on a protest rally to the Irish Trade Union headquarters at Liberty Hall. They were set upon by mounted police at Lombard Street, who wounded some members and smashed their instruments. The band headquarters on Seville Place were inevitably and repeatedly attacked by the British military during the War of Independence. They played at the funerals of many nationalist leaders including Thomas Ashe, O'Donovan Rossa, Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins.

Live Broadcast

The band had ceased to have any political affiliations by the time they became the first band to broadcast from the newly formed Radio Éireann in the 1930's. Their performance at the Cowal Games in Scotland in 1925 was also one of the earliest broadcast in Scotland. The St. Laurence O'Toole were also the first Irish pipe band to visit England and America.

The Dawning of the Day

In 1958, the band won the All Ireland Senior Championships and in doing so also won the Open Drumming prize. Membership decline during the 1960s and the band nearly collapsed. Fortunately the four remaining members - Charlie Stokes, Seamus Casey, Tommy Tully and Peter O'Rourke - made one last effort to reviving the band with some blood and the renaissance began. The band celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1985 by winning the Grade 2 Champion of Champions and took 6th place in the European Championship the following year. In 1987 and 1988, they came second in the World Championships. By the time performed on behalf of the Irish Government at Expo '92 in Seville, Spain, the ball was in motion for their current golden age. The connection between Seville and Seville Place was serendipitous. Unfortunately they lost their bandhall on Seville Place in 1996 when the St Laurence O'Toole GAA Club sold the premises. They currently practice in Scoil Iosa in Tallaght, largely due to the genorisity of the principal.

Thanks to Ronan Maguire of http://www.slotpb.com

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