History: Pipe Band Association Meeting that Marked the Beginning of the International Movement

This article is based on the minutes of a meeting held on Sunday, June 30th, 1968, at the Leapark Hotel in Grangemouth, Stirlingshire. The industrial town had been the venue for the World Pipe Band Championships the day before. The picture above shows the Robert Armstrong Memorial Pipe Band, Northern Ireland, on the contest field that day.

All the big names from the then Scottish Pipe Band Association were in attendance at the International Forum along with overseas representatives. Present from SPBA were President Major A Hamill, Chairman Robert Black, Secretary Willie Sloan and Drum Major AD Hamilton. From overseas – Pipe Major Angus Graham, Australian Federation, Pipe Major Duncan McCaskill, United States Pipe Band Association and Pipe Major Alex Robertson, Canada. This meeting established the international conference of pipe bands which continues today and was the forerunner of the meeting still held during Worlds Week at Association HQ. 

Major Hamill opened the meeting by extending a most  hearty welcome to the delegates from overseas and saying he would have been happier to have seen more than three countries represented in view of the universality of the business. 

He hoped the proposals drawn up and presented by the SPBA as a basis for discussion would be adequate and lead to an international platform for Associations throughout the world and that the meeting in reality wouId be the inaugural one. 

Mr Robert Black said that, while he was fully aware of the exploratory nature of the meeting, he felt confident that its underlying principles would have a strong universal  appeal to all pipe band enthusiasts.  The appearance of overseas bands at the Worlds’ Championship contest year after year was a sure indication that the link was there and only required strengthening. 

He personally could not think of a better means of doing this than through the proposals before the meeting and hoped they would be accepted and an annual meeting coinciding with the Worlds’ Championship, which had now assumed international proportions, agreed upon. 

Pipe Major Sloan outlined the birth and growth of the SPBA and the pipe band movement in general contending that the main motivating forces were, a) Love of the music and b) A strong innate urge to demonstrate ability through competition. 

He further contended that, while competition in itself was a great stimulant, its full implications could not be realised without an authoritative body, musically endowed, to point the way to greater appreciation and higher musical standards. 

He was under the impression that the SPBA through its Pipe Band College productions and practices had already sown the seed, the time now being opportune for an internationally-appointed body to further nurture it and bring it to fruition. 

Willie Sloan of the SPBA…’the seeds had been sown’

Pipe Major Angus Graham (Australian Federation) made it clear that while he personally was much impressed and agreed in principle to the proposals put forward, he had no mandate whatsoever to commit his Federation in any way. 

He said he was very conscious of the honour and responsibility bestowed on him as representative for his Federation and would give a full account of his stewardship on his return.  He sincerely hoped his report would be favourably received.  He thought that top Australian bands always had Scotland and the Worlds’ Championship in their sights and hoped someday to reach  their target.

Pipe Major Robertson of Canada also agreed that the ideas underlying the proposed Forum were sound and well-conceived.  He would do his utmost to expound them on his return.  He realised the geographic spread was no mean hazard, but thought it could be overcome provided the will was there. 

In the course of this discussion the rising status of the SPBA was touched upon, the uplift being attributed to the recognition of its Pipe Band College activities by The Scottish Education Authority and the acquisition of Headquarters premises at 45 Washington Street, Glasgow. 

The President and the Chairman further enlarged on the draft proposals before the meeting hoping that a Forum or Convention of Pipe Band Associations would ultimately come into being, each member association being self-supporting and having equal status round the Convention table.  In such a setup they thought progressive musical and administrative ideas could be pooled, international liaison considerably strengthened and the possibilities of Inter-Continental contests fully explored. 

On this note Pipe Major Angus Graham, Australia, moved that ‘The draft proposals as submitted to the meeting be adopted in toto and a copy sent with a minute of the meeting, to parties concerned’.  The motion was unanimously agreed to. 

Angus Graham was the Pipe Major of the New South Wales Police Pipe Band. In this iconic promotional picture from 1966 he is seen piping at the front of a police launch whilst in the background Sydney Opera House is under construction

It was further agreed unanimously that all secretarial work connected with the project be carried out pro tem by the SPBA and all known interested bodies encouraged to send a delegate (or proxy) to the next meeting proposed for 29th June 1969, coinciding again with the Worlds’ Championship.  Full details to be furnished in due course. 

It was regretted that P/M Duncan McCaskill was called from the meeting prior to its conclusion, owing to unforeseen circumstances, but later he picked up the threads of the business transacted in his absence and found himself in complete harmony with same.   He also looked forward to making a full report to his association at the first available opportunity. 

The meeting closed about 5.00pm with a vote of thanks to the chair. 

Proposals in full:

Draft Proposal 

a)  The objects of the International Conference shall be to provide a forum for International Pipe Band Associations throughout the World for the interchange of views and the better promotion of mutual benefit and interest. 

b)  To develop policies and regulations for the advancement of Pipe Bands throughout the World. 

c)  To establish and operate a proper system of rules by which Pipe Band Contests shall be conducted. 

d)  To encourage high standards for teaching of Piping and Drumming. 

e)  To foster International Contests among Pipe Bands and to ensure impartial, competent and consistent adjudication, 

f)  To encourage and facilitate visits by Pipe Bands to other countries in an endeavour to increase fellowship among Pipe Bands throughout the world. 

Each National Association shall be represented by one nominee and/or by one proxy representative resident in Great Britain who shall maintain full liaison with the National Association he is representing. 

The Annual General Meeting of the International Conference shall be held in conjunction with THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP.

To permit the efficient functioning of the International Conference a secretariat shall be set up in association with the SPBA.

The operating costs of the International Conference shall be financed by the National Associations by a) an entrance fee of £10 or 30 Dollars or equivalent and b) an annual subscription of £5 or its equivalent, for the first year, the figure thereafter being determined by The Annual General Meeting. 

2 thoughts on “History: Pipe Band Association Meeting that Marked the Beginning of the International Movement

  1. There are many references to “proposals” in the article but nothing about the proposals themselves. Am I missing something?

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