Veteran drum major marches on
DRUM Major John Ryan has been with the Lismore City Pipe Band for the Past 58 years and has no plans to hang up his mace as he prepares to lead the band again at this year's Anzac Day parade.
Lismore's annual march wouldn't be the same without the pipe band, nor would the after-parade celebrations at the Civic Hotel, and Mr Ryan wouldn't have it any other way.
He joined the band in 1954 just six years after the group participated in its first Anzac Day march.
That was the year Queen Eliza- beth visited Lismore, he said.
"I was part of this band, but I played with the Army Band as they were getting paid," he said.
Mr Ryan played the bagpipes for seven years but has spent 51 years at the front of the band signalling with his mace. He keeps the musical unit well-drilled and marching in time, he said.
The band has only missed two Anzac Day parades since it was formed and that was to attend the National Pipe Band Championships, he said.
despite a triple bypass operation, a mechanical valve in his heart and a knee replacement, Mr Ryan said he was raring to go.
"Nothing is going to stop me, I'll use a wheel chair if I have to," he said.
Pipe bands are very traditional and there have not been a lot of changes over the years in the style and type of music the band plays.
The big change was that women were now able to join the band, he said.
This was a practice that wasn't allowed by Scotsman Alis- tair MacSween who founded the band back in 1947.
"The band wouldn't be the same today without women; they are some of our best pipers and drummers," Mr Ryan said.
While there is a steady inflow of young players into the band, some new recruits underestimated the work required.
"They turn up one day and expect a uniform the next, but it takes about 18 months before you can play a decent tune on the pipes," he said.
"It is not like other bands where you can read music, you have to learn it all by heart in a pipe band."
Mr Ryan was born and bred in Lismore but his roots go back to Scottish emigrant Joseph Atkins (1859-1941) who was a member of a Dunoon-based pipe band, and later the First Lismore Scottish Band.
The Lismore Pipe Band can also trace its success to the work of the Ladies Auxiliary that has helped raise funds since its foundation, vice president Barbara Ryan said.