FOR the past month or so, the beat of the famous lambeg drum has been an increasingly familiar sound in the evenings.
Drummers have been dusting off the cobwebs and making sure their instruments are in tip top shape for the 12th of July.
And with many of the top exponents of the lambeg in the Mid Antrim area, it’s no surprise that great pride is taken in having a perfect drum sound.
Enthusiasts don’t just confine themselves to the traditional 12th parade with many attending drumming ‘matches’ which are held regularly.Guardian photographer, Darren Crawford was on hand to capture some of the atmosphere at one such match last week.
Here are some lambeg facts and figures to help you understand the story behind the mighty lambeg.
A Lambeg drum is beaten with curved malacca canes.
The Lambeg is, together with the bagpipe, one of the loudest acoustic instruments in the world, frequently reaching over 120 decibels.
It measures approximately 3 feet 1⁄4 inch (92.1 cm) in diameter and 2 feet (61 cm) deep, and weighs 35–40 pounds (16–18 kg).
Usually it is carried by the drummer while marching, using a neck harness.
The origin of the Lambeg is unclear.
It is commonly believed to have come to Ulster with English settlers in the early-mid-17th century.
Other accounts state it came to Ireland with the Duke of Schomberg's men of the army of William of Orange during the Williamite war.
Having its roots in the 17th century European military instruments it was originally smaller.
Traditionally it is accompanied by the shrill fife, a small transverse flute similar to the piccolo.
This combination is most common in County Antrim. Drummers in Co. Armagh for example rarely, if ever, have fifers.
Most of the original Ulster fifers were of Flemish descent. A number of French Huguenots had followed William's army into Ireland and the Flemish, English and Scottish Protestant groups had united into the Orange Order.
The name comes from the village of Lambeg, County Antrim, which is situated ten miles southwest of Belfast and two miles from Lisburn. Tradition has it, that it was in the Lambeg area that the instrument was first played with canes.
The Lambeg drum's shell is generally made of oak.
Lambeg drum heads are goat skins, they are very thin and strong, and of even thickness and consistency all over as far as possible.
A Lambeg skin will also receive "special" treatment that is a secret to each maker.
Because of their qualities they are also sometimes used for smaller drums such as bodhráns.
The Lambegs are different from other large drums in the quality of their tone.
The thin heads are pulled tighter and tighter until the tone is bright and hard. There are no mechanical screws on the drums.
The heads are held on with a wooden rim and, traditionally, linen ropes.