Scottie's Diary

- World Pipe Band Championships 2010

St Laurence O'Toole Pipe Band from Dublin, Republic of Ireland,
World Pipe Band Champions, 2010.

Background to The Championships
The World Pipe Band Championships have been staged in Glasgow since 1930 and is regarded as the most prestigious event in the world pipe band calendar. Several hundred bands from all over the world take part. To win, Grade One bands must perform in two events, a March, Strathspey & Reel event which consists of three pre-arranged tunes, and a Medley event, which consists of a short selection of music chosen and arranged by the band.

The highly coveted Grade One title remained in Scotland until 1987, when the Canadian 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band became the first overseas band to win. In recent years, the title has returned to Canada 6 times with Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, and has travelled to Northern Ireland 6 times with the Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band, as well as travelling all the way to Australia with the Victoria Police Pipe Band in 1998. The overall most successful pipe band in this competition remains Strathclyde Police Pipe Band (winning twenty times - from 1912 to 1975), and the House of Edgar Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band (winning fifteen times). That's them pictured here.

Impressions of the Championships

I've been going to the World Pipe Band Championships for ten years now. Initially it was just to take photographs to include in the original "Scottish Snippets" newsletter, not because of any great enthusiasm for the bagpipes. But there is no doubt that bagpipe music stirs the blood of even the most cynical of Scotsmen and a bagpipe lament can bring a tear to the eye - not that there are many laments at the Pipe Band Championships! Bagpipes are undoubtedly at their best in the open air - whether it's on a Highland hill or a dramatic amphitheatre such as Edinburgh Castle esplanade where the annual Military Tattoo is staged. Glasgow Green is not perhaps as picturesque as these locations but if you know your Glasgow history, it certainly has a lot to offer as the oldest park in the city dating back to the 15th century. And for a few weeks in the winter of 1745/46 Bonnie Prince Charlie's army camped in the area. And the large glass-covered dome of the "People's Palace" museum (seen here behind the Lomond and Clyde Pipe Band) can sometimes create an impressive backdrop.

Ten years ago, my first impression was frankly of a disorganised mêlée with bands practicing amidst the crowds of spectators who pressed close to the performers. Admittedly the bands progress from practice areas to arenas was closely monitored amongst this chaos by the marshals. And with all the bands performing fairly close to one another, one band at least drowned out the other ones - and allowed for close-up photos of puffing cheeks and flying drum sticks. But unless the band helpfully had their name on the base drum or the bagpipe covers, it was impossible to know which band was which. Every now and again, a band would form up and march to the next designated practice area - scattering the spectators aside. While there was still some of that confusion this year, at least the final practice session of the Grade 1 bands was in a designated, cordoned off arena which allowed spectators to hear them before going into the main arena. And a large TV screen there gave details of each band as they arrived - with details of the names of the Pipe Major and Leading Drummer as well as the tartan worn by the band.

Since I always want to take photographs of the bands performing, I tend to dash from one band to another. I sometimes think that there is a conspiracy to stop me taking such photos as they often stop just as I get to them! Over the years though, I think I have come to recognise the difference between the quality of Grade 1 bands and the other grades. How the judges differentiate between each band, however, is a complete mystery.

This year was the 64th World Pipe Band Championships and it featured over 8,000 pipers and drummers from 16 nations. The Grade One title travelled to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland for the first time with St. Laurence O'Toole Pipe Band (often referred to by their acronym "SLOT"). The band had been hotly tipped to take the title after winning the European Championships earlier this year.

Not Just The World Champion Pipe Bands

The Piping Championships are now the culmination of a week-long "Piping Live" event in Glasgow with bagpipe demonstrations, whisky tasting, film shows, a tour of the Piping Museum and "Piping in the Square" with a number of bands performing in Glasgow's George Square. On the day of the Piping Championships at Glasgow Green, there is also world drum majors championships (with world class drum majors showing their skills at twirling their mace and throwing it into the air and catching it again - usually!) and the RSPBA highland dancing championships where the best highland dancers from around the world compete.

Glasgow World Highland Games is also staged during the course of the day with all the "heavy event" favourites such as tossing the caber, shot putt and hammer throwing. And this year there was a new event - the Taste of Scotland marquee with food demonstrations taking place throughout the day.

More Information
You can find the full results of the 64th World Pipe Band Championships at the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association Web site.

My slide show of pictures of all the finalists in the Grade one contest is available at YouTube. The slide show is accompanied by songs by the popular Scottish singer Moira Kerr - with "When the Pipers Play", "Highlanders" and "Flower of Scotland". House of Edgar Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band were performing first of the twelve bands and I missed getting photographs of them this year, but have included a picture of the band from a previous year.

August 2010

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line