Belfast Telegraph

Former drum major world champ Violet on the march once again

It's a world champion-style photograph from 20 years ago and every time Violet McBride, the lady in the centre, looks at it she feels a skirl of the pipes coming on.

For Violet is a former world champion drum major – never mind her other achievements.

And, at 58, she is about to go marching again at the Belfast Tattoo at the Odyssey Arena from September 27-28.

Violet will be dusting down her favourite mace, the one presented to her by her father Henry 40 years ago, when she was challenging for her first all-Ireland drum major title.

And clad in the white sash he gave her as a good luck charm, she will be back in action for the first time in years at the two-day spectacular.

"My dad was pipe major of Cumberland Pipe Band in Kilkeel, in which I used to play the bagpipes," she explained.

"He used to carve my maces from special cane, but he bought this particular one for around £9 in the Essay musical store on the Albertbridge Road in Belfast. Money couldn't buy it today. It's precious – my father died aged 85 in 2008.

"He was a joiner by trade and he carved maces for me and my brothers Harry and Alan. He even cut out our band jackets and kilts.

"My mum Dorothy, who died three years ago, made up the packed lunches."

In the picture the chap on the right behind Violet is brother Alan, now 55, who was world champion drum major five times (1985, 1991, 1995, 1997 and 1999).

Violet won the world drum major championship twice – in 1980 and 1982 – along with many other Ulster and British titles.

In the picture, too, on the left is Harry, now 60, who once won an all-Ireland championship.

The young chap beside Violet on her left is Harry's son Darren, who is now 34, married to Lisa and the father of one-year-old daughter Eva.

He has won junior drum major titles, but now concentrates on working in the fish business in Kilkeel.

Violet and Alan will be leading a massed parade into the Odyssey Arena accompanied by seven other drum majors, including new European champion Brian Wilson.

But don't mention the word retire to bachelor girl Violet, who plays golf regularly at Belvoir and at her home club in Kilkeel, where she is a lifetime honorary member.

She was capped 38 times at hockey for Ireland in an electrifying career and played 64 times for Great Britain. She was the only Ulster girl chosen for the Great Britain team at the Seoul Olympics of 1988, where she was vice-captain.

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