August 31, 2010

Bobby Rea

The pipe band world lost a true great with the passing of legendary snare drummer Robert “Bobby” Rea on August 13, 2010. Twice winner of the World Solo Drumming Championship (1966 and 1984), and lead-drummer of several top bands, Rea’s mark on pipe band drumming in Northern Ireland is perhaps unrivaled.

Bobby Rea was a member of the Ballycoan Pipe Band of Northern Ireland for many years in the 1950s, and was Lead-Drummer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary Pipe Band from 1980 to 1983, when he helped to bring the band to prominence in Grade 2, paving a path to promotion to Grade 1. He left the RUC briefly and then returned to play under new Lead-Drummer, Paul Turner, in 1984, and then again departing for health reasons.

Following the RUC, he was Lead-Drummer with the Grade 2 Ravara of Northern Ireland, leading that band to several drumming championships in the grade.

Rea influenced many drummers who themselves would go on to greatness, including Turner, Field Marshal Montgomery Lead-Drummer Keith Orr and Inveraray & District Lead-Drummer Steven McWhirter, whom he taught from an early age.

Rea’s win at the 1984 World Solo Drumming Championships is remembered as one of the all-time great performances, and one of the most popular victories in living memory.

The funeral is scheduled for August 18th at noon at the Cooke Centenary Presbyterian Church in  Belfast.

On behalf of the pipe band world, we extend our sympathies to Bobby Rea’s family and his many friends.


  1. Agreed. A fantastic player and composer of scores. I remember clearly as a teenager watching the corps at Ravara with Bobby at the helm – they were a joy to watch. He will definitely be missed.



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