Pipe Band History and the First Two Day Worlds

In recent weeks Piping Press has published material provided by reader Trevor Clydesdale showing tunes played by the Grade 1 Bands at the Worlds in 1970 and then by Ian Forbes for Cowal 1968.

I have found among old papers tune lists for a local competition at New Meadowbank in Edinburgh in 1948, the World Championships in Stirling in 1974 and will cover these in a later report. For now here is an article on the Worlds held at Nottingham in 1979 with details from another old programme I have.

The World Pipe Band Championships were held over two days in 1979 in Wollaton Park in Nottingham. At that time the RSPBA was still known as the Scottish Pipe Band Association as ‘Royal’ status was not granted until the following year, 1980.

The Chairman of the organising committee for the event was Ernie Gordon, who at that time was Chief Officer and Director of Public Works and Services in Nottingham. He was also a member of the SPBA National Council, representing the London & South England Branch. 

One of the challenges facing the organisers was in persuading the Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County Council and the Labour-led Nottingham City Council to collaborate in a joint venture to provide 50/50 funding support, a challenge which was achieved successfully. 

The final audited cost was around £72,000, which included University Halls of Residence accommodation, a travel subsidy for the competing bands and supporting activities (Highland Dancing and Heavy Events), expenses for SPBA officials and adjudicators, prize money and VIP costs. 

Total prize money amounted to £8,500, with first prize in Grade 1 being £1,000, a four figure sum for the first time ever. The total cost was offset to an extent by gate receipts and sponsorship from trade stands etc. over the two days, amounting to approximately £12,000, which was quite remarkable given that the admission charge was only 30p per adult and the cost of the Official Programme was 25p.

Views at that time varied on whether the two-day World Championships were a success.  Organisationally there is a no doubt that they were successful as the total entry amounted to 127 Pipe Bands: 11 Novice Juvenile, 11 Juvenile, 36 Grade 4, 27 Grade 3, 25 Grade 2 and 17 Grade 1. 

Here are the Grade 1 bands and their tunes. This contest was held on the second day of the championship:

The Drum Major competition had 42 entries in the Adult competition and 15 in the Juvenile.  These statistics are fairly close to the numbers at Major Championships these days, although the World Pipe Band Championships under normal circumstances is now a much higher profile and international event with almost double the entries. 

The winners of the Grade 1 competition at Nottingham were Strathclyde Police Pipe Band under P/M Ian McLellan and L/D Alex Connell (pictured top). Here is the band with their Duke of Sutherland set submitted on the day but I am not sure if that was their winning medley:

It has also to be borne in mind that in 1979 most bands did not have the opportunities to travel which normally exist today, so a trip to somewhere like Nottingham was probably seen as an exciting opportunity for many.

The Grade 1 Drumming was won for the first time by a band from overseas, Triumph Street from Canada.

The victorious Triumph Street drum corps under the late L/D Willie McErlan pictured at the Nottingham Worlds in 1979. L-R: Jeff Crowter, Scott Robertson, Kennedy Cranswick, L/D Willie McErlean, Jim Inglis, Jan Senyk, Terry Leonard (Photo: Allan Skalazub)
  • We’d be grateful if someone could forward the other prizes at Nottingham.

5 thoughts on “Pipe Band History and the First Two Day Worlds

  1. My Dad was Pipe Major Iain MacLeod of the Beeston and District Pipe Band
    He worked closely with Ernie Gordan to organize the event

    If I remember correctly he was the lone Piper and stood on the roof of Wollaton Hall at the close of the event

    My dad passed away in 2011, As his coffin passed beyond, we played Dark Isle by the Royal Scots Guards
    He wasn’t the perfect dad but I loved him so much and miss him

  2. I was there, at the Nottingham World Championships, supporting my band, British Caledonian Airways. We stayed in a very pleasant hotel there, as I recall.

  3. I don’t think your correct
    re Triumph Street. ( overseas )
    Please look up Fintan Lalor
    from Dublin,Ireland

  4. The writer quotes that the grade 1 drumming was won by an overseas band for the first time is incorrect. Fintan Lalor of Dublin won the worlds drumming in 1956.

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