July 31, 2011

2011 marks 30 years of Richard Parkes at the helm of FMM

It was 1981 when Richard Parkes took the Pipe-Major’s post at the then Grade 2 Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band and, in 2011, he finds himself and the band going strong in their fourth decade together.

Since the band’s promotion to Grade 1 after the 1985 season, Parkes has led Field Marshal Montgomery to six World Pipe Band Championship titles and a remarkable 45 major championships in total, probably a record. Under Parkes since the year 2000, the band has won 32 out of 57 major championships – a success ratio of 56 per cent. Parkes has guided the band to nine RSPBA Grade 1 Champion of Champions awards and  19 All-Ireland titles.

Since the band’s initial placing in Grade 1 in 1990, Field Marshal Montgomery has been in the prize-list 104 consecutive times, including a spell in 2004 when Parkes was recovering from a stroke, which he discussed in detail in his 2007 pipes|drums Interview.

“Certainly [being pipe-major] has been a great journey for me and I’ve enjoyed it very much,” Parkes said. “I’m going to continue to do it as long as I’m capable of doing it.”

Of Grade 1 bands, only Terry Lee of Simon Fraser University has more consecutive years as pipe-major.

Robert Mathieson, who was pipe-major of Shotts & Dykehead for 23 years until he departed after the 2010 season, said, “I watched Richard develop his band from the early days with a few local players to the global force his team has become. Phenomenal achievement. His brogues will be hard to fill when he decides to hang up his glengarry.”

Parkes was presented with an MBE for “services to pipe band music in Northern Ireland” in the 2004 Queen’s Birthday Honours.


  1. A man who idolised PM Ian MacLellan and, in many ways, has perhaps now even surpassed him. FMM has set the standard in terms of sound (especially drones!), unison playing and consistency. The other top bands seem to occasionally rub shoulders with them, but then fall victim the relentless standard that Richard demands and invariably upholds. When was the last time, especially in the past ten years, where anyone could say that Richard’s band had a stinker on the boards? Nothing springs to my mind. To manage a successful professional and pipe band career is nothing short of exceptional and speaks of the his brilliance and dedication. The man is a legend already. Well done, ‘Mr High G’!



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