Saint Columcille United Gaelic of Kearny, NJ, draws its name from an Irish prince, warrior and scholar who became a priest to bring early Christianity to the Western Isles of Ireland and Scotland. From the Isle of Iona, Columcille (521-597) helped spread faith, knowledge and culture throughout Europe. It's an ideal that drove the band's founder, Sean McGonigal, to form a band dedicated to “unity of the Gael.” Sean expressed his goal in the band’s motto, “Ar aghaidh le ceol na n'Gael," “Onward with the music of the Gael.”
The band continues to live by this motto today. The bands sponsored by Saint Columcille United Gaelic have competed at numerous Irish Feis and Scottish Games since the 1950s, culminating in numerous national and international championship honors. Members of our band have further distinguished themselves as top soloists, teachers, and as leaders of the Eastern U.S. Pipe Band Association. While the band routinely performs at parades, dances, benefits, concerts. and other public events, we continually improve and test ourselves through the “competition circle.” The bands’ ideals, set forward by Sean in 1949, remain the mantra of the Saint Columcille United Gaelic organization today.
Dedication to Quality
The St. Columcille organization consists of a diverse group of pipers and drummers. All of them are committed to quality music and performance be it in pipe band competition, parades, special events, solo performance, or on stage. We are always inviting new members of all levels to join and offer free piping and drumming tuition from expert musicians, some of whom have played at the highest levels of international competition.
St. Columcille United Gaelic currently fields three distinct competition groups in three competition grades:
The Grade 5 Columcille School of Piping & Drumming is our "beginner" band in the beginning level of competition. It was formed in 1998 and is designed to get new, learning players pushing their musical potential. Columcille School has had a very successful few seasons, being at the top of EUSPBA standings for the 2017 competition season. The band had the distinction of being awarded "Top Overseas Band" at the 2018 All-Ireland Pipe Band Championships in New Ross, Ireland and finishing 10th in the grade 4B against of field of 28 bands.
The Grade 4 Sean McGonigal Memorial Pipe Band was formed in 1983 for our more experienced learner players looking for new challenges at the next level of competition. Many players will move through the earliest stages of competition play in Grade 5 to play in Sean McGonigal Memorial. This band has had great success in over the years finishing at the top of EUSPBA standings in past seasons, as well as placing 5th at the 1998 World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Grade 3 St. Columcille United Gaelic Pipe Band is our "top tier" level band and has been actively competing and performing with great success for 70 years. The band has been a fixture on the eastern US competitive scene and has made trips to compete in Canada and Scotland. The band is repeatedly at or near the top of the competitive standings in the eastern US. St. Columcille was the champion pipe band in Grade 3 for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. In July 2018, the band had the distinction of becoming the first North American pipe band to win an All-Ireland Championship when the band took top prize in Grade 3B at the All-Ireland Pipe Band Championships in New Ross, Co. Wexford.