My Apology to Cowal and Disruptive Forces Within the SPBA

City of Glasgow Police under P/M John MacDonald were the last band to win the Worlds when held at Cowal

We continue with the strongly worded article from 1948 by SPBA Secretary Mr RC Whitelaw defending his actions following the Association’s schism with Cowal and his attempts at getting the World Championship moved to Glasgow….

The move was arranged by the issue of a circular letter to all the bands on 22nd June, 1948. Many of my very clever strategist critics completely lost their heads when they read that circular and immediately bawled out that I had ‘spoiled everything’.

Poor souls. They were not quite capable of understanding strategy nor were they quite capable of understanding the real issue of the dispute. I won’t be so aggressive as to say that they did not want to understand, but I will go so far as to suggest that many of them were quite prepared to use the so-called ‘spoiled everything’ circular as a means of escape from the Association and the throwing in of their full weight with the Cowal Committee.

Someone may ask ‘why should anyone wish to escape from the Association?’ The answer is simple: because certain people wanted to continue a policy of exploiting the bands and furthering their own selfish aims.



They wanted back to the ‘good old days’ when scheming with promoters (out to make money) and hobnobbing with judges (who knew nothing about pipe bands) enabled them to keep right on top of the pipe band world.

Such people are a menace to the Association. Nevertheless they are there and must be reckoned with, not because of any harm they can do, but because of the sinister influence they can perpetrate on the other fellow and thus create dissension.

To put it briefly, I mean the saboteurs. Yes, my dear critics, we fully grasped the significance of your opposition to my circular. It provided a wonderful opening; just the very thing you had been waiting for. But you forgot that we would only allow you to use it up to a certain point and then we would damp down on it and leave you standing speechless.

Yes, you were completely flabbergasted when I tendered an open apology to the ‘spoiled everything’ circular. When I look back I still remember seeing my friends and critics jointly clapping their hands when I apologised. They even told me that I was a brave man to apologise.

I had apologised to the Cowal Committee. Not one person had remembered the real issues of the original dispute. All eyes were centred on the apology. This is just exactly what was expected. We had made the original dispute with Cowal dwindle into insignificance and the road was now wide open to make a complete settlement.

Remember, however, I did not apologise because I wanted to. On the contrary, I apologised because you compelled me to. It coincided with my receiving all the information I wanted. The main lesson we learned proved to me just how weak our Association really is.

Yes, I had to attend several Branch meetings and give all kinds of explanations. I was obliged to pursue a policy (temporarily) of appeasement just because my critics were incapable of understanding my actions. In fact, the situation was so serious that I was actually made the victim of a test on one occasion by the humiliating experience of a vote of confidence.

Did it never dawn on anyone that all the while I was being subjected to such nasty criticism – both inside and outside the Association – I was busy making the detailed arrangements for the World’s Championship at Scotstoun [Glasgow] on September 4th?


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The strategy had been successful. No one could possibly resist the apology I made. If they did, they were clearly demonstrating to the world the fact that they did not want a settlement.

Before passing on, let me just refer for a moment to this apology stuff. I see no reason why anyone should not apologise if, before doing so, a definite object has been accomplished. My dear critics, a definite objective was accomplished. Unfortunately, you lacked the power of understanding the accomplishment.

Many lessons were learned from the ‘spoiled everything’ circular. Here are a few points of interest. Firstly, we learned that certain bands were definitely leaning towards support for Cowal; secondly, Cowal had taken full advantage of the circular to attract public sympathy: thirdly, we learned that Glasgow Town Council were quite prepared to ‘wash their hands’ of support for the Association.

Fourthly, we learned that certain bands were actually preparing to break away from the Association; fifthly, we learned that the circulars which were issued as ‘Confidential to the Bands’ were actually being given to all kinds of unauthorised persons and even to a section of the press.

Finally we learned that the Association must broaden its outlook. It must put an end to the selfishness of Executive members and Branch officials for the benefit of the one individual band to which they are directly attached.

We must stand together and work for the benefit of all bands – the weakest as well as the strongest. We must stand solidly together for the binding of all bands into a closely knit brotherhood and make our Association perfect in the struggle to further pipes and drums.

  • To be continued. Third instalment here.

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