Poor Support is Undermining Minor Pipe Band Contests

Last Sunday at Ardrossan, five bands in G4 MSR and two in G3; this Saturday at Lochore three in G4A, four in G3, four in G2, two in G1; Aberdeen on June 19 a bit better: seven in 4B, three in 4A, five in G3, six in G2, three in G1…….

Looking at Markinch summaries and once again I find myself bemoaning the lack of bands in attendance. It has now become normal for most of these non-major contests to be attended by only half a dozen bands – something that needs addressing urgently.

By lain McAlister

Elsewhere on Piping Press we read about innovative and modern thinking regarding medley structure and judging by the likes of Robert Mathieson, but this will not solve the problem of non-attendance at minors – a trend first started by Shotts and Dykehead when P/M Mathieson was their leader, all be it for perceived legitimate reasons.

We must now be near the point where promoters/games committees must be thinking ‘why put up a prize pot for six bands scattered across four grades for them to come along and grab their share regardless of their performance?’

Often there are only two bands in a grade with four prizes available. Play up a grade and you are guaranteed two pay cheques!. Something needs done drastically; so what’s the answer?


RGH-Heritage-pipingpress-800x300
MacRaeBanner '19
wallace-smart-slider
naill-banner-source
Ayrshire Bagpipes Nov 2020
Greig-Canning-Banner
Kintail-Template
G1-2022-banner
shepherd banner '22
annual-conference-banner


You could limit the minor contests to only one per weekend. This would of course deprive some games of bands, but these events could engage bands to play small sets of tunes throughout the day and pay them a fee.

You could compel bands to support all, or a certain number, of branch contests. But in a way that is why we have the branch championships and branch Champion of Champions awards and that system of encouragement isn’t working particularly well!

Perhaps one option would be a ‘Scottish League’ where we use points from the majors and five designated Scottish league events (minors) with prizes for those who come top the league.

How would it work? Take the current five majors and use the Champions of Champions table. Filter out non-Scottish bands for Scottish League purposes.

If Grade 1 had two non-Scottish bands in the top six and two Scottish bands in 7th and 8th, the bands in these places get 2 and 1 point respectively.

You hold five Scottish confined competitions which, with the majors, makes 10 contests in total for the Scottish League. You would of course have to ensure good prize money and a final pot for the champion at the end of the year.

A variation could be holding half the grades at one minor and half at the next, say Juv, 4b, 3b and 2 one week and Novice, 4a 3a and 1 the next.

This could be spread over 10 minor contests, providing support for them outwith the majors.

Ultimately something requires to be done urgently – malaise is not an option!

5 thoughts on “Poor Support is Undermining Minor Pipe Band Contests

  1. I can’t agree more with the comments regarding the decrease in interest and attendance at Minor Competitions. Ian, Andy and Iain and the many others of like mind, you are so right, at the present rate it won’t be too long before the Minors will become part of history. Yes the elite, big bands whether they like it or not, are part of the demise that we see in the popularity of Minor Competitions but you must also include societal changes. Furthermore our representatives at Branch and Association level have failed to grasp the nettle by seemingly ignoring the issue.
    Still what seems to be an impossible task can begin to be rectified by the Bands:-
    1. Making their combined views known at Branch and RSPBA meetings, where I understand each band’s vote still counts.
    2. Where it is not happening already, each band redoubles its effort to recruit children and young people in learner groups.
    ‘I suggest if the door is almost shut,………..put your foot in it and keep it open.’
    “The trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” – ERIC JONG

  2. Good point. I remember back in the 80s while playing with Clan Campbell/Britoil in Grade 1 going to minor contests at Lesmahagow, Rothesay, Bearsden, Balloch, Pitlochry and Dunbar year on year. Pitlochry was seen as the end of season day out for the Grade 1 bands. We enjoyed these minors as well as the majors.

  3. I cannot think that Iain McAlister’s proposed ‘Scottish league’ would be a satisfactory for those bands outwith Scotland. Would there be also another ‘league’ for Military bands, English Bands, Irish Bands, Welsh bands and or Canadian/American or Australian/New Zealand bands? The buzz word so often heard these days is ‘inclusivity’ and perhaps Iain idea could be very devisive.

  4. I wrote, to PP editor, about poor local attendance some years ago and we’re STILL doing nothing.
    I can remember Markinch games of past years the then named Glasgow police ALWAYS attended and all grades had a healthy band entry, Evan Ceres games (THE oldest known Highland games) had competition for bands now all we have is a handful of solo pipers. A crying shame and shame on the big G1 & 2 bands who, it seems, can’t be bothered to support their local games.

  5. I agree fully with the author of this article. We can not and should not allow the slow death of the minor contests. Of some relevance, I submitted an analysis to the RSPBA around 40 years ago indicating that the system did not reward bands that turned out week after week at the minor contests – which was the norm in the 70s and 80s, and the increasing trend of (elite) bands that turned out only 5 times a year at the majors was an unsustainable situation for the future of pipe band contests. Unfortunately, this suggestion fell on deaf ears, and the current bleak situation continues. Now is the time for action, and there are many options as noted above.
    As a side note, it is interesting to observe that uniquely for a G1 band, FMM still attends most of the minor contests on the island of Ireland.

Leave a Reply to Iain White Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *