st. laurence o toole pipe band

pipeband in kildare ireland


In 1910 a meeting was organised by the St. Laurence O’Toole Gaelic Athletic Association Club in the CBS school,Seville Place, Dublin.

The main mover in forming the band was Frank Cahill.

Frank was for many years an Alderman of Dublin Corporation, and later a member of the new Irish Parliament (Dáil Éireann). Amongst those present at the meeting were Pádraig Pearse, Thomas Clarke, Sean McDermott, Arthur Griffith, Douglas Hyde (later to become the first President of Ireland),and the famous Irish playwright, Seán O’Casey.The first Secretary of the band was Seán O’Casey.The first President of the band was Thomas Clarke.Casey acted in many plays staged by the St.Laurence O’Toole Dramatic Society to raise money for the band .Michael Colgan (later a Senator) was the first Pipe Major.

In 1918, the HQ of the band in 100 Seville Place,Dublin were acquired by the band. During the Irish War of Independence 1918-1922, the HQ was attacked by the military on numerous occasions.Furnishings, fireplaces, etc. were ripped out and thrown out into the street.

During the Great Strike of 1913 in Dublin (wherein the Irish Trade Union movement had its origins) the band was set upon by mounted police in Lombard Street while leading a contingent of workers on a protest rally to Liberty Hall (Union HQ).Some of the band members were injured and their instruments smashed. The band took part at the funerals of many of the leaders of the nationalist movement of the time including Thomas Ashe, O’Donovan Rossa, Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins…..the man who is credited with winning the War of Independence and with signing the Treaty which established the then Irish Free State .

Following the War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War, the band ceased to have any political affiliations.

The St. Laurence O’Toole band was the first band to broadcast from the newly formed Radio Éireann in the 1930’s when the station was known as 2 R.N. and one of the earliest Pipe Bands to ever broadcast in Scotland, this was when the band first visited the Cowal Games in Dunoon in 1925.A concert was held in conjunction with the games and was broadcast on the B.B.C. Scottish Programme.

The St. Laurence O’Toole were also the first Irish band ever to visit England and America.On the formation of the IPBA in the 1930’s, the O’Toole’s were one of the first bands to join and have been an integral part of that organisation ever since.The St.Laurence O’Toole have taken part in many contests in Ireland and Scotland and at one time or another have won every major award for Piping and Drumming in Ireland.In 1958, the band won the All Ireland Senior Championships and in doing so also won the Open Drumming prize.

The band was also successful in Scotland taking two first prizes the same year.

These four men decided to make one last effort at reviving the band.

The Pipe Major of the band at that time was John Duggan and the Drum Sergeant was Frank Saunders , Snr. Other officials included James Fitzsimons, Johnny MacDonnell, Mick Lawless, Paddy MacDonnell, Frank Burns, Robert Kavanagh, Charles Stokes, Jimmy Fleming and Patrick Brady.Following the heady days of the 1950’s the band began an unfortunate downward slide.Several members fell by the wayside due to commitments to the army and Pipe Major John Duggan resigned in 1967.

There was a further decline in membership and the band was not in a position to take part in competition .No new Pipe Major was appointed for some time but whenever a public engagement was undertaken, the late Tommy Tully acted as Pipe Major.Eventually,Tommy was elected as Pipe Major.Things got to such a dire state, however,at one stage that there were only four active members of the band left - Charlie Stokes, Seamus Casey, Tommy Tully, and Peter O’Rourke.

Seamus Casey brought his sons Eamonn and Dominic down to learn the pipes (Dominic later changed to the drums and was drum sergeant in the band for many years).Tommy Tully brought along his sons Terry (the legendary Pipe Major of the band and top class soloist) and Patrick.

New blood coming into the band gave a renewed interest to some of the older members and the band began to appear once again at contests.During the period of decline the band had been regraded to Grade 3.

In 1974, the band won the All Ireland in Grade 3 and were subsequently up-graded to Grade 2.

Tommy Tully gradually gave over the reins to his son Terry.At first, Terry just performed the role of band tuner while his father still called the shots.Eventually,Terry was to assume full control and bring the band on to become the top outfit in the Republic of Ireland. Sadly,Tommy Tully died in April 1984. Tommy was well known in the Pipe Band world as a ‘character’ and enlivened many an IPBA meeting with his observations and comments.In the introduction to his first book of tunes,Terry Tully cites his father Tommy as having been the major influence on his playing career. A great tribute indeed to a great stalwart of the Pipe Band scene in Ireland.Seamus Casey also died in 1984. Seamus, despite his years, continued to attend at band practices right up to the week before he died.

The pipers and drummers in the St. Laurence O’Toole didn’t pick their dedication up off the ground, as they say here.The band celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 1985 and were to finish that year as Champion of Champions in Grade 2 in the IPBA.The trophy presented was, rather aptly, the Tommy Tully Memorial Trophy.


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