I had this message from Ken Stewart, Northern Ireland, the other day: ‘I just stumbled on an old programme of the European Championships in Stranraer 1989. There were 24 bands playing in Grade 1 and 34 in Grade 2. It is startling just how many of these bands are on longer operational.’
Indeed it is Ken. There is a decline and it is creeping up on us. And don’t use the convenient excuse of covid. Pipe bands are on a downwards slope.
By The Editor
One issue is size. Giant bands of 14 side drummers (14 I ask you!) and 20 plus pipers. It is just ridiculous. They are starving out of existence bands in all grades. You could create two from one.
Yes, there will be other reasons, but who can deny that these monster bands are having a detrimental effect?
Something needs to change and the push for change will not come from the FMMs and the Inverarays. They are winning. They like the feeling of striding up to the line like some frontline force ready to do battle, mega-handed. No one can blame them. Their job is to win not to change rules.
So the initiative to restrict band sizes has to come from Washington Street. Before going any further, I would like every RSPBA director to have a look at the pages from the 1989 programme Ken has supplied. Scroll through it and be concerned – very concerned:
You have it your power to sort this. Issue a limit on piper and snare numbers in any one band. Twenty and ten is plenty.
The knock on effect of such ruling? Join SLOT or FMM or Fife Police and find you are not getting a game, well you’re not going to hang around for long are you? Some other band will very quickly have the benefit of your services.
And if you were vying for a slot in any of these bands then you are a pretty good player. Your presence in your new band is going lift everyone and power it on.
Now dear director, have a close look at the programme pages for Grade 1 in 1989. Again they will tell you all you need to know:
Directors, you need to be tough. The RSPBA is run for the bands but sometimes they do not know what is good for them. Look at this issue and address it.
The Association’s prime responsibility is for the welfare of the pipe band movement. It has to have a view of the bigger picture – and the bigger picture here is not edifying.
Yes, any cull will be difficult, but bear in mind the need to ensure that there are still enough bands out there to make running a championship worthwhile in the years ahead. The reduction in band numbers in the last 30 odd years is frightening. If that decline continues at that rate? Well you don’t need me to say the rest.
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