Northern Ireland

Donegal bagpiper dies suddenly minutes after competing at a pipe band contest in Co Down

Alec Brown who died on Saturday
Alec Brown who died on Saturday

A LEADING bagpiper died suddenly on Saturday just minutes after competing at a pipe band contest in Newtownards.

Alec Brown, who was in his early 60s, was an instructor at the Raphoe Ulster-Scots pipe band in Donegal, and had been competing with the Colmcille band from Derry at the North Down Championships.

The band had just finished its competition set and was marching off the main arena to another part of the contest area at Newtownards airfield when he collapsed.

He was treated initially by members of the St John Ambulance and soon after by paramedics from the NI Air Ambulance, but passed away at the scene.

Mr Brown had travelled to Newtownards on Saturday morning from his home at Árainn Mhór island in Donegal.

He is survived by his wife Maria, daughter Teresa and son Callum.

The pipe band competition was suspended for a time and the grand finale was cancelled.

Alec was a National Executive member of the Irish Pipe Band Association (IPBA) and instructor with Raphoe Ulster Scots.

A spokesman for Raphoe Ulster-Scots Pipe Band said: "We are completely heartbroken to have lost our dear friend today at the competition in Newtownards.

"Alec, you were the heart and soul of our band. You kept us laughing at your antics, you had a heart of gold and were a great friend to everyone. You left this world doing what you loved most but you will be sorely missed by us all.

"Our condolences to Maria, Teresa, Callum and all his wider family. Eck Broon - we love you and will miss you"

Brian Hasson from Colmcille Pipe Band said: "We are totally heartbroken to have lost a great friend and former band member today. Eck was a true character who will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him."

The Ulster-Scots Agency, in a Facebook tribute, said: "Alec was a stalwart of the pipe band scene for many years, particularly supporting the development of young musicians, whether at home on Arranmore, in Raphoe or within the wider movement.

"Earlier this year he represented Ulster-Scots in Galway at a gathering of cultural activists from all over the British Isles and was a great ambassador for our community.

"His hard work, dedication and good humour will be sadly missed. We send our sincere sympathies to Alec's wife and family and his many friends."