Observations on the World Pipe Band Championships

We hope you have enjoyed MacStig’s contributions to PP over the summer. He, and he alone, has provided our Grade 2 bands with entertaining commentary throughout the 2019 pipe band season. We know the bands are grateful for it and his thousands of readers are testament to his popularity. Thank you MacStig! In his final piece today he leaves us with a few words on the 2019 Worlds.

Given the venue (Glasgow) and site (The Green) are fixed for various reasons of commerciality for the next few years, there should be new thought given to the space planning. It’s easy to roll in and repeat the same old set up, but the main stand aspect isn’t right – it faces the prevailing weather. Wind and rain rolled in wave after wave over the two days at this year’s Worlds. And cut the first day. Friday on the Green was a near ghost town. (Saturday was curtailed too, the weather cancelling some of the traders at very short notice.) 

By MacStig

Being an early arriver – to get into an independent car park – I wandered to the Grade 1 arena and found Lee Moore’s Preston Lodge High School band in final tuning. Their grade was going in Arena 1 at 9am or something very early. With the Grade 1 Ensemble judges on duty for the Juveniles, it made sense to use the free arena before the big bands arrived after 10am, but with no cameras and virtually no one in the stands?

How soul destroying for the youngsters. The crowd was six to eight deep at the fence, but access was impeded by tents, camera and sound equipment. Meanwhile the vast stands had about 50 people watching and listening. I went there and used my Grade 1 ticket to get in – that was the only way to do so because orders are orders for those security guys.

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If the plan is to use Arena 1 for the Juvenile contest for heavens sake let the parents and guardians into the stand free and then just clear them out after the grade finishes. If we are trying to encourage young players do it properly.

I spoke to a St Thomas, Texas, school parent in the stand and they were disappointed that it wasn’t being streamed – the school has a thousand or more pupils and they would have had a big screening back there in the USA. I know there are privacy issues with the BBC but this was being done by Glasgow Live.

As an aside, the standard from the Juvenile contest was exceptional and the top three or four would have been giving St Thomas and Closkelt a fright in Grade 2. I know another columnist was covering the Juv grade so I’ll leave it there. 

To the finale…..The faff at the end of the day whilst the false BBC narrative of creating an overnight ‘table’ and building suspense for Grade 1 is leaving bands standing in the rain. This must be avoided in future.

Simon Fraser University….won the Saturday Medley

The March Past was glacial with half a field length between bands at times. The bands themselves must also take responsibility and get on faster, rather than playing ‘who dares wins’ to be last whilst populating the beer tent.

Show some respect to the centre bands who had played over two days. It seemed they had by then performed in perpetuity until others decided to show up to trudge past the Chieftain.

However it was entertaining at times ……. to see the two kids trying to get on TV and standing waving at the big screen for an hour……the yellow bumble bee band in Buchanan tartan and bearskin get an award – I know not which, but they should…..the Malaysian band and their antics were priceless. I wish one of them had body surfed the puddle in front of the drum majors. They won and an upgrade for sure. The drumming was excellent [Pictured below with their trophy.] 

The prize giving was the least slick in years, with some slip ups and bands not getting someone to the podium quickly. Whilst the celebration of winning is important, showing respect to those waiting is important too. There are too many prizes to be handed over and photos taken.

I’m thinking of offering up a trophy, per the RSPBA request, and calling it the ‘I Can’t Believe It’ Trophy. Seriously, I do hope the request attracts some nice silverware to sit alongside those with the names of greats on them. 

I also understand the compilers were really under the cosh with the new Grade 1 format and the final tabulated results was still work in progress as Grade 3 was announced. Another reason to cut the Friday.

The RSPBA web crash didn’t help either – it’s always the case that traffic peaks as the ‘tables’ go up after a championship. But this was something different. Credit though to the Tweetmeister throughout. 


Talking of which, a new parody arrived on the scene around the time of the UK Championships and has been roasting since then. Parental advisory is a must, but good satire is always close to the edge. The report of ‘As’ having been found after a certain band performance and being available for collection at the lost property office was lightening quick. It was reminiscent of a much loved commentator’s parody account some time ago since closed down. I suspect ‘Heidquarters’ will follow.

In Grade 1 the numbers drew me to look at the splits. Both I’ray and FM scored equally in piping aggregate over the four sets. A long way clear. FM marginally won the Ensemble but lost on drumming. SLOT won drumming clearly, but was a way back in piping. If you have an hour, look into that and you’ll see the patterns emerge. 

SFU won the Saturday Medley [P/M Alan Bevan and his band pictured above], Shotts won an aggregate piping in one event too. There were outliers of scores and much more besides. But it wouldn’t be a World Championship without that. 

I’m off now for a vacation in warmer climes than Argyll, so Cornwall will do. In fact anywhere is warmer. Good luck to the lads and lassies heading to Inverness for the solos next week. The very best of fortune to you, and more importantly, safe travels. 

I’ll be back at the year end to prod the Editor with some highlights and tongue in cheek awards. It has been a great pleasure to follow the Grade 2 bandwagon once again and thank you to those who have read these columns. I’m delighted that so many of you do so, whether you agree with my views or not. Signing off for the final time this season. Over and out.

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1 thought on “Observations on the World Pipe Band Championships

  1. In any competition (piping or other), the different elements of the final result can always be analysed to show different outcomes. What we are looking for in this Grade 1 World Championships is a truly exceptional and consistent performance in this premier grade across all performances. With 2 MSR and 2 Medleys, this provides a fitting and ultimate test of a bands capability, and it is both fair and appropriate to rate the bands cumulatively over these 4 contests. I agree with MacStig that the interminable march-past and prize giving ceremony are a truly awful and outdated spectator experience. The RSPBA should re-vitalise this finale to the day, and bring it into the 21st century

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