Grade 2 Review (Maxville, Moira, Bridge of Allan) and Preview of North Berwick and Perth (Updated)

Some say his brogues are rogue, tassles twirled seven times and tied in a bo’sun’s knot…and with that tie in a Windsor he thinks he’s royalty…..but what the heck, he’s our G2 guru (gnu?) and we know you just love him. He’s the one and only MacStig…. 

‘TWTWTW’, or TW3, will ring a bell with readers of a certain age, and memory jog others. Long before his ‘sir’ ‘That Was The Week That Was’ was a David Frost television programme where all sorts of topical stories from the previous week were satirised. For me, read ‘weekend that was’ with competitions in many corners of the pipe band crammed into the same couple of days….. And if you think that was a busy one, just wait until the ‘murder polis’ of this weekend when bands try to squeeze in both North Berwick and Perth before Worlds Week kicks off in earnest and thousands of pipers and drummers arrive in the City of Glasgow and surrounding suburbs. 

With form followers trying to find every scrap of data to create an educated view, there were some straws in the wind to add to the pile I’ve been creating since the very early days of the season. Firstly, the Grade 2 battalion at the Glengarry Games in Maxville, Ontario, where the outcome firmed up my thinking about how that particular group might impact upon the list at the Green in just over a week from now. Missing were Greater Midwest and Texas-based St Thomas Alumni of course, so hold those names. LA Scots are also preparing to fly over and we await their arrival and those of Prince Edward Island and North Stratton. You will get an opportunity to hear Stratton at North Berwick and Perth although listings can often be overtaken by events and weather. LA Scots, Greater Midwest, PEI and Dunedin are not listed for any local competition, but like many, I’ll be following rehearsals and practice around the city during Worlds Week.

In Maxville, Iain Donaldson’s City of Dunedin (above) swept Grade 2 for an overall win with a perfect score in one discipline and winning the other comfortably. Worcester Kiltie and Peel Regional Police swapped seconds and thirds, with Worcester second overall. After a well-deserved celebration (some of the post event beer tent playing is online), the Dunedin band headed home to Florida, briefly, before re-routing to Glasgow for the big one in a week or so. I’ve heard their medley a number of times now and it is going to be a real challenger in the final – because they will be in it for sure. Winning at Maxville comes with the ‘North American Champions’ tag and I suspect is one step on the journey for Dunedin this summer. As an aside, that Maxville trip, coupled to a second consecutive Worlds trip, underscores the intent from Dunedin, the wider organisation, and the people in the Florida city itself. A tremendous effort by all connected to the band and to the local fundraisers. It looks like the stars are aligning and a dream of a World title (and promotion to G1) must be on the wish list. Of course the P/M and his experienced lead tip Eric MacNeil are cool customers and both take nothing for granted. I’m told that their preparation will be meticulous.

Talking of commitment, second overall was Worcester Kiltie, not so long ago a Grade 3 World Championship winner in Glasgow. Now a second transatlantic trip awaits them after placing at the UK Championship in Belfast some weeks ago. Another potential Glasgow challenger, Peel Regional Police, took overall third and must also be in the running for one of those sought-after qualifying places in the G2 Worlds final – a final that is being broadcast from Arena 1 globally and with what I think will be a high number of  ‘overseas bands’ in the final and rightly so.

North American Championship – Overall Standings:

  1. City of Dunedin
  2. Worcester Kiltie
  3. Peel Regional Police

Back in Northern Ireland at ‘the Moira’, the order in the grade was shuffled again, with Closkelt (pictured top) putting any Dumbarton Rock blues behind them and returning to the first place berth over Ravara, the winners the previous weekend at the Scottish. The Closkelt drum corps also returned to the top of the pile. New Ross, who had missed Dumbarton, took overall third. Also a good run from Colmcille, a band that impressed at Dumbarton too.

Moira G2:

  1. Closkelt
  2. Ravara
  3. New Ross & District
  4. Colmcille

It was tremendous to be able to catch up with the live stream of that competition from Big Rab and his crew. The big chap must surely be Pipe Band Personality of the Year. If not, the Vortex boys should start the campaign. In Scotland, Bridge of Allan was the main event although it only slated locals Royal Burgh of Stirling and Dundonians, MacKenzie Caledonian as genuine Grade 2 participants with a raft of G3 and Juvenile bands playing up. The top Juvenile bands always give the G2 bands a real push and have to be heard to be believed. George Watson’s College won G2 with the MacCals second, although the latter were ahead in piping. George Heriot’s School was third and Royal Burgh fourth.

The strength and depth of the Juvenile grade was recently covered by our ‘Special Corresppondent’ colleague here. (Who does this guy think he is; he’ll be asking to borrow my spare helmet soon.) With a top age of 17 and a bit, and the average more like 14 or 15 years old, the standards are exceptional. The MacCals will be pleased to have had another good run that put Dumbarton well behind them. They also finished third in Grade 1 behind Glasgow Skye and Lomond & Clyde, which reads like a flashback to several results from 2017 before the top two went up to G1. Meanwhile, over in France, I hear from sources there that Bagad Brieg is limbering up and you discount that band at your peril.

So into this coming weekend with North Berwick (NB) and Perth looking to be packed out with many bands taking the opportunity to get out and adjust to the more ‘local atmospherics’. It’s always a risk of course, as the local tic tac begins and it is known for off duty adjudicators to drop by to get their ear in and listen to the visiting bands. Some join the circus with gusto and play at every opportunity –  their grade, playing up and firmly in the ‘we are here, so let’s enjoy it to the full’ camp. Others stay well away and simply knuckle down to practice and get their regime tight for the week. Then there are those who play one contest and call it a day until the Worlds. Who knows what is right or wrong?, but a soaking at either (or both) can cause ramifications for rehearsal (and health) later in the week. The weather forecast for NB and Perth currently does not look good. Showers are forecast. Nothing quite like the reek of damp wool drying in your rented university dorm is there?

At North Berwick (Saturday 11th) all of the grades are busy, although the playing up does pad things out. Just over 100 performances are expected, but we all know from experience that weather, lost luggage (lost uniforms is a classic) and last-minute changes to plans might well alter that. The only thing I can forecast with certainty is that not all will play per the list. The full draw is available via the RSPBA website as usual, but the core G2 bands listed for the G2 Medley Contest (starting at 14.15h) include Peel Regional Police, North Stratton, St Thomas Alumni, Wallacestone, and Scottish Fire & Rescue. All five will play in a combined G1/G2 MSR competition a little earlier (starting at 12.00h). G2 also get the luck of the draw to play for the Drum Majors contest.

The following day (Sunday 12th) at Perth, 72 performances are expected if all bands listed play. Grade 2 starts at approximately 11.30h and the cluster of G2 bands lead the order of others playing up. Stratton appear again, as do Peel Police and St Thomas. They will be joined by Bucksburn, Royal Burgh of Stirling and Mackenzie Caledonian in an intriguing contest that will point to where the leading local contenders sit versus a strong St Thomas and the rest of the overseas contingent. Assuming all play of course. All five go again by playing up in the G1 March Strathspey & Reel contest, starting at around 14.45h.

Once results from next weekend have been crunched and amalgamated into the thinking, a preview of those two World Championship March Strathspey & Reel heats will follow – subject to the Editor finding space in the run in to the Competition. What with Quartets, Concerts and the like, it truly is one of the busiest weeks of the band year. If you aren’t already excited and looking forward to one of the most interesting Grade 2 finishes in a long time, it’s time to start.

In closing, a plea for a bit more silence and respect for those trying to listen to the bands at these upcoming competitions. A bit like golf championships when the stewards raise the ‘quiet please’ boards. Maybe we need that as a constant reminder to all of us. It’s really quite simple: should you have a pressing need for conversation or a phone call, step away. Otherwise, get out there and enjoy the wonderful music – ‘The Water is Wide’ included, Islay. (Winking face emoji.) You have convinced me. Over and out.

PS: It was daunting and endearing to have a busy Inbox after the Grade 2 results piece posted on PP, not least correcting my erroneous calling on the order of discipline for the Green – it is, of course, a drawn MSR in the qualifier and a Medley final. Apologies to those who might have choked on their cornflakes whilst reading and thinking they had to change their emphasis at band practice. That’s how wars start. No excuse; I was harking back to last year or being a blithering fool. I’m standing in the corner (of Winslow, Arizona) writing my ‘lines’ – I must not make simple mistakes – 200 times. I blame the lumbago, old age and writing immediately after the competition whilst it’s all fresh in mind. Thank you to the many who chimed in with the fact checker. If you happen to make such mistakes these days the wider world is a fantastic autocorrect. So keep reading the contributions and assist where you can. If ever in doubt, don’t go anywhere other than the RSPBA site – it’s all there. We scribblers do our best. Sack cloth and ashes now adorned.…and the Qualifier scoring has no bearing on the Worlds final. 

In response to some of the questions asked, rather than individual replies, here are the answers to the obvious ones, in no particular order. You should be able to pick out your answer. 
1. Yes, probably. But never at Bellahouston.
2. Only for Links of Forth and ‘white’ socks.
3. Counting cards. 
4. It has to be ‘The Water is Wide’.
5. No. Never been there, to my knowledge – x6.
6. The bus driver. 
7. Yes – x3.
Definitely Over and Out this time. 

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