Earlier this year our Editor commented on the lack of support given to minor contests by some bands. Ian Graham, Pipe Band Convenor at Pitlochry Highland Games, has responded below. The picture above shows Pitlochry Games massed bands in the 1970s.
I refer to your recent correspondent who wrote lamenting the diminishing amount of major bands attending local Highland Games. Your correspondent specifically cited Pitlochry Highland Games as an example, and as Vice Chairman and Pipe Band Convener of these Games I would completely concur with your correspondent’s view.
We in Pitlochry have seen a major slump in recent years of firstly Grade One bands, and latterly Grade Two, bands attending our Games.
It appears there is a feeling amongst many bands these days that the playing season ends at the Worlds!
There are other reasons cited: It is a long season; too much travelling and therefore cost involved; pipers and drummers playing in football and rugby teams whose season has just started. These are to name but a few.
Your correspondent suggested the RSPBA ought to make it a rule that major bands should compete at a number of local events before they would be allowed to play in the Majors.
On the surface this sounds like a good idea. Sadly however this would not help the plight of any Games occurring after the World Championship, given this is the last Major and any pre-competing condition of appearing in a local event would already have been fulfilled prior to the Worlds.
The RSPBA could of course help by holding another Major at the end of the season, or are the RSPBA themselves saying the Worlds IS the end of the season?
For the past three years we have had no Grade One bands in attendance at Pitlochry, and this year no Grade Two bands competed.
Our Grade One competition offers a £500 first prize, a second prize of £350 and a third prize of £300 so surely it cannot be the lack of prize money that is keeping the top bands away?
We in Pitlochry actually invite pipe bands to attend and compete at our Highland Games. This is not because we think we are elite, it is simply a matter of available time on the day.
We are restricted and we think it fair to give a ‘first refusal’ to the bands who competed the previous year.
We therefore write to these bands in May inviting them to attend our Games in September. If we have had no reply by July we invite bands on our list of ‘interested to compete’ bands.
This year we are introducing two new grades in our competition. Currently we only have a Grade Three and a Grade Four competition.
However this year we are splitting both these competitions into Grade 3A and Grade 3B and also Grade 4A and Grade 4B. These competitions will take place along with our Grades 1, 2, and Novice Juvenile competitions.
If your band is interested in playing at Pitlochry Highland Games, please email me in the first instance at email@example.com. As indicated we are particularly interested in hearing from G1 and G2 bands.
I am more than happy to enter into a conversation if anyone wishes to discuss the matter further and maybe bring the position of diminishing pipe band attendances at post-Worlds contests, and how it affects smaller Highland Games, to light.
• We would invite readers to comment below.