It’s that time of year again when we take a look back over the year and recognise the outstanding achievements – and some not so outstanding – in the piping and pipe band worlds. Before we get to that we would like to thank all of our advertisers and the thousands of readers who gave us 612,000+ views during the year. We would also like to thank those who supported the Piping Press Shop. Advertising and revenue from the shop helps keep PP subscription free.
Our Piper of the Year has to be Jack Lee (pictured above). On the cusp of retirement, Jack proved at Oban that he can still mix it with the flashy fingered young ones by taking the Former Winners’ MSR and then went on to be crowned Glenfiddich Champion for 2017. In all this Jack never lost his ‘Gentleman Jack’ demeanour and continued to support P/M Alan Bevan as P/Sgt of SFU helping Alan and the band regain their righful place in the top six at the Worlds.
Runner up in this category must go to another Grade 1 Pipe Sergeant, Alasdair Henderson of Inveraray. Alasdair secured a unique double this year winning the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting and the World Pipe Band Championship with his band. Another top piper who knows how to conduct himself and a great credit to piping.
Pipe Band of the Year: Inveraray. From Juvenile to the top of the pipe band world in a few short years, it has been an amazing journey for P/M Stuart Liddell and his band. They were pushed all the way by Field Marshal at the Worlds this year, but few would deny that Inveraray were due the big one. And next time you want to parade a trophy down the main street guys – just do it. Worry about the cooncil jobsworths later.
Runner – up: This was a close call between Dollar Juveniles, Lomond and Clyde and Glasgow Skye. The latter two played marvellously well carving up all G2 majors between them but in the end the panel had to go for Dollar, 2017 Grand Slammers in their grade. A massive achievement so congrats to all pipers, drummers, parents and especially tutors Matt Wilson and Lee Innes.
Book of the Year has to be the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Collection. Even without Lochanside (Cowan’s fault) this was a tour de force showcasing all the standard works from the much-loved regiment and tunes associated with it. A second volume is in the works.
Runner up in this category is Bill Livingstone’s memoir ‘Preposterous: Tales to Follow’ if for no other reason than that Bill was prepared to put pen to paper on his interesting life and times in piping and pipe bands.
Broadcaster of the Year is Cailean MacLean recently retired after 20 something years at the helm of the BBC’s Gaelic piping show ‘Crunluath’. His matter of fact, less-blethering-more-music-approach endeared Cailean to all listeners – even those who didn’t understand a word of what he was saying.
PR Disaster Award: There’s only one winner here – the College of Piping. One public apology with accompanying legal costs is a bad mistake; a second apology and you really start to worry. However this is behind them now and everyone will be hoping that once they have the right people in charge Otago Street will regain its deserved place in everyone’s affections.
Close behind the CoP came the National Piping Centre who also showed what can happen when staff forget their corporate responsibilities (sore arm gate). When two of McPhater Street’s high-ranking employees let down the Uist & Barra they also let down the Centre.
Event of the Year: The World Pipe Band Championship. What more needs to be said about the high point of the pipe band summer and one of the few of Scotland’s outdoor events that can boast crowds exceeding 40,000. Add that to the £20m+ it garners for the Scottish economy and it all becomes a bit of no brainer. RSPBA Chief Executive Ian Embelton and Vice Chairman John Hughes’s command of the logistics is nothing short of brilliant and Ian’s deadpan delivery of the winners’ names something that has entered pipe band folklore.
Unsung Hero Certificate: RSPBA Chairman Gordon Hamill who this year steps down after seven years at the helm. Under Gordon’s sure hand the fortunes of the Association have had a major upturn and they now have plenty of money in the bank – money that will be spent upgrading their Washington Street HQ. Gordon’s other masterstroke was to allow the Association’s branches to run their own minor contests and so create some revenue for their local bands.
Things Can Only Get Better Trophy: Well out in front were the beleaguered Solo Piping Judges Association who in their four years of existence have made just about every mistake it is possible for a (or what should be) fraternal organisation to make. Their biggest howler is/was their failure to stick to their own rule book when it came to complaints. The fallout from this will continue well into the New Year.
Now MacStig weighs in with his tuppence worth:
- Gold star to the RSPBA Twitter feed and video team – exceptional service for free! More please as it beats the shoogly versions on YouTube on a Wednesday, Drone Chorus excepted – he is a pro!
- Honourable mention to the now defunct ‘evil Bob Worrall’ Twitter account for some of the funniest 140 characters ever written.
- Big Rab of Big Rab Show fame for his enthusiasm and sheer effort to advance the case for pipe bands. His excitement in the run in to Major competitions is so palpable.
- Pipe Band Vortex: Funny when they are there but somewhat Pimpernelish.
- Golden Moment: Stuart Liddell’s reaction to winning the Worlds – priceless.
- Grade 2 World Final in Arena 1, and beamed live – appreciated by many overseas.
- The weather (at almost all Majors) – (shakes head in disbelief)
- Misprint in programme ‘Sicily Ross’ – the tune where the pipe major makes an offer you can’t refuse.
- World Class Drummer 1: The strange disturbance in the force to see Jim Kilpatrick ‘watching’ at Paisley from the sidelines. But coaching Oban High School (I think) at another competition.
- World Class Drummer II: Joe Noble retiring from adjudicating. Pity he didn’t get the Grade 1 Medley Final as a sign off.
- Adjudicators: They have to please a few and disappoint many – if you accept that is the outcome, spare a thought for these hardy volunteers out in all weathers, delivering back their experience and knowledge.
- Bold Forecast: White (or natural) socks will make a comeback as peak colour has been achieved.
- The genius of the old Cullybackey snare line arriving at the Vale (via Shotts) to give the Vale the most improved title. Winning ‘least static’ drum line of the season. They move, they groove, they get down.
- Gimmick of the Year – the drone umbrellas
- Crowd noise at competitions – nonsense chatter going on when the majority are trying to listen. I heard the details of a marital dispute and alimony negotiation during an MSR.
- A prosecco bar at a pipe babnd championship – in Forres. (Forebears ‘birling’ in graves.)
- Getting in and out of the stands at the Green – umbrellagate and all that. Next year forget the vuvuzela.
- Forres – organisation was superb. Sad to see it go after 2018.
- Belfast: setting was great and the cricket pitch ground conditions exemplary.
- Dumbarton: dodging the dog mess, plastic bottles, discarded coffee cups and racket from the fairground. Horizontal rain.
- Paisley: What? I can’t hear you for that noise from the airport and motorway.
- Glasgow Green (Friday): Almost surreal and ghost town like other than the bands going through qualification and spectators. Nothing was open!
- Glasgow Green (Saturday): Electric with excitement and anticipation. Facilities had issues, it was almost dark at the end point, however, the place to be on the day.
Add some of your light hearted ‘moments’ below. (Keep it clean, and play nice!)