There was a photo of a Brien Boru piper in full Irish dress with a caubeen, saffron kilt, tunic (with a brat) and hose and shoes with large buckles. What caught my attention the most were the pipes. This piper was playing a two-drone set with a 7-keyed chanter. I thought at the time, "these are the pipes for me," and that is how my love affair with the Brien Borus began over thirteen years ago.
My passion smoldered and finally in the spring of 1994 I wrote to the tourist board in Belfast. I waited and waited for a reply. Finally in October of 1994 I received a letter from a clerk at the tourist board. She said that she did not know of anyone who played the Brien Boru pipes, however she had heard from other sources that they had two very loud bottom notes! She also said that a "Mr. Aroleston" in Annalong was a good contact person concerning the Brien Borus.
I wrote to Billy Roleston and got an immediate response. He was the Brien Boru supplier for all of the Northern Ireland bands and shipped full pipes and his small pipes to customers all over the world. Eureka!
I immediately ordered a two-drone, 4-key set from him. The pipes arrived in February 1995. I went to work learning the keys and tunes. It became apparent to me that this was a bagpipe that many people could pick-up and enjoy. Plus it was tuned to a tonic scale so it could be played with other instruments, which made it even more appealing.
I visited Billy in Annalong in March of 1996. We had a wonderful time and I learned about the Brien Boru's military and civilian band history during our visit. I also developed a fine friendship with Billy which continues to this day.
When we came back from our trip, I began thinking about putting together a musical group. I wrote a set of goals and objectives and advertised for members in January and February of 1997. We met as a group at my home on March 4, 1997 for our first practice. Our name was subsequently suggested by Billy Roleston.
It has been an absolute joy to me in helping form our band. We are very indebted to Billy Roleston for his help, encouragement and endless generosity. I will continue to do all within my power to keep the Brien Boru's flags flying!