MacStig’s 2018 Annual Awards and Look Back at the Pipe Band Year

First excerpt we had some catch up headlines from Grade 2 but now a few further observations and plaudits for the wider pipe band world from the man they call MacStig….

In drumming, the British Drum Co, originally founded by some ex Premier experts and others, wisely signed Jim Kilpatrick as a man to assist their embryonic marching drums division.

Jim was quickly followed by some younger turks of note and more recently the top Juvenile solo grade winner. Collectively they will create a following and the manufacturer is very well set up financially to make this new leg of the business work.

We may very well see the strong franchise Andante has built over a decade or more being challenged by a new nimble disruptor, whilst for Premier, the marching side is not core to its business model (kits are the main event).

However, with the current World Solo Champion due to debut another new set of Andante’s with his Inveraray corps in the spring, and the old ones cascading elsewhere, there will remain a big Andante presence for sure. 



In 2018 we said thank you and farewell to Dowco Triumph Street; that was a sad thing to read, but everything has a time.

Hopefully those living and working on the West Coast of Canada will redistribute, whilst the proportion of the band from Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland will have shuffled accordingly. 

Also a farewell to Forres as a venue, as the European Championship moves a few miles westward to Inverness. Oh, I hae ma doots about access, traffic and the like as the infrastructure in the fast growing City of the Highlands groans at rush hour morning and night already. We shall see, and hopefully more ‘Island of Ireland’ bands will cross the sea – Forres had more bands from Australia this past year. 


A fond farwell to P/M Dave Hilder and his Dowco Triumph Street band

Similarly, adieu to the cricket ground at Stormont, with the UK Championship venue moving too though still in NI. The challenge there will be to get Scottish bands over the water, particularly the younger Juvenile bands where about a handful played in Novice B. Logistics will be different for sure and ferries and planes booked. 

In the past year a good news story was the success of the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships, with judging assistance from the RSPBA augmenting the excellent work of the promoters, the Scottish Schools Pipes & Drums Trust. The Trust is behind a big initiative to teach in schools and more power to them.

The numbers continue to rise at the competition. In fact it has outgrown the venues it has used in the past and I reread on PP of concerns about congestion, parking and the like for next February’s event.

Ingleston near Edinburgh Airport is my suggestion – big indoor area, decent parking, and local hotels. The work of the SSPDT is admirable as free tuition for orchestral musical instruments virtually disappears in the state school sector, even though many studies show that students taking up an instrument improve their hard wired skills for things like mathematics and learning the disciplines of practice, punctuality, and playing as part of a wider group.

We should be delighted the pipes and drums are getting such support, but it is woeful that successive parties of Government have washed their hands, offered platitudes, PR spin, and simply allowed the teaching of musical instruments to fall off the curriculum. I do worry where all the graduates of the likes of the Royal Conservatoire piping and drumming courses will find employment. 

In covering the World Solo Drumming for PP, I called Steven McWhirter ‘a great’ and yet a very humble man who still aspires to be even better. If you get a chance, watch the WSD live stream Hornpipe & Jig section.

WSD…Steven McWhirter on stage at Glasgow Caledonian University

It is simply magical and I know he has made the scores available via Drumming on Demand. I expect to see versions played in the years ahead.

Well done to the RSPBA for introducing the new WSD formats and for opening up the Qualifiers in overseas locations too. Hopefully more will follow. 

So on to the MacStig Awards for the past year:

A 2108 Gold Star to RSPBA Twitter feed and video team – exceptional service for free and adding to their Top of the Class for 2017. 

A further nod to Big Rab of ‘Big Rab Show’ fame for furthering the cause of bands generally and innovating in the broadcast medium.

Award for funny memes to Grace Note Vortex, and the ‘wash your mouth out with soap award’ to our podcasters over in Nevada. (The episode with Bog, Rab, GraceNote et al was Pulitzer winning material).

Gold Star to twelve times World Champion Pipe Major Richard Parkes MBE, for galvanising his band on the Worlds final day. 

Happiest band on the planet award was a tough call, but St John’s College, Zimbabwe, winning Novice Juvenile B at the Green get the shout. Callum Beaumont’s Novice A from Dollar grand slamming on the same day a close second, as was the Dunedin celebration. 

Novice B Champions St John’s College, Zimbabwe…the first time a World Pipe Band Championship title has gone to that country

Adjudicators Award – to all the RSPBA’s hardy souls who please a few and disappoint many. Are the ‘sheets’ improving in content and guidance?

Bold Forecast I – White (or natural) socks will make a comeback as peak colour has been achieved. Maybe I was early in 2018 to suggest so – but they are coming…

Peripatetic Drum Line – The ex Cullybackey, ex Vale of Atholl, now Lomond & Clyde drum corps do get about a bit and must be kilt collectors in their real lives. Scatter cushions of all old tartans being sold at Major championships.

Plaudits Award – The team at Piping Press for their CITES campaign, and bagpipemakers for dealing with a complicated issue so well. 

MacStig Complaint Award – Again it goes to the crowd noise at competitions: nonsense chatter going on when the majority are trying to listen. If you want to bump gums – walk away from the arena. 

The Wrong Place at Wrong Time Award – the cameraman walking in front of the Grade 1 bands coming into the Worlds circle – boy it was close at times. 

Paradox Award – Worlds Grade 1 stands, sold out yet mostly empty: maybe a new rule in physics. The idea of a ticket for the day doesn’t work and needs thought. Also the stands face the prevailing weather. 

Worlds arena…sold out but empty seats

Non-Travellers Award – Forres and Belfast respectively, as the competition fields were cut down by those not traveling over the sea in either direction.

The Ghostly Friday Award – Glasgow Green (Friday). Thankfully the format is being looked at and perhaps a Qualifier day may not be required with the relegations and expected no shows.

If they move the Juvenile Grades to Friday it will cause all sorts of issues too (school in or out)  but will free the tutors, mostly in G1 bands, for the Saturday. But our youngest and best will be a bit like an annexe and separated from the main event. 

Glasgow Green (Saturday) – electric with excitement and anticipation but it was almost dark at the end point; however, the place to be on the day.

That’s it now please add some of your favourite ‘moments’ of 2018 below. Keep it clean, and play nice!

I’ll be ringside next season although not quite sure what grade the Editor will assign to me yet. If you want more coverage of your grade, lobby him to have some commentary included.

Time for another iced tea. Waiter! Over and Out until 2019…


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