A Historic Worlds for Everyone and in Particular Ian Embelton, Retiring RSPBA Chief Executive

Tomorrow we’ll witness the first World Pipe Band Championship for three years. It will be a pared down event with the local authority sponsors, Glasgow Life, understandably keen to save money.

There will be no Highland dancing, no heavy events and no hospitality tent. Band numbers are down to around 150; usually we break the 200 mark. However this should not be seen as a lack of enthusiasm for the great day that Glasgow Green has become.

By the Editor

More it is the fact that bands simply could not commit the cash to travel without knowing for certain it would not be wasted by a last minute cancellation.

Taking a band to the Worlds from overseas is a long-term plan – and costly. Those not making it this year have made an absolute pledg to Washington Street that they will be back for 2023.

As far as RSPBA Headquarters and Glasgow Life were concerned this year was all about getting the show out there once more. With the BBC onside and good weather forecast – the Worlds 2022 are all set for a hugely successful couple of days.


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The weekend will also mark the end of an era – the Era of Embelton. It was in 2000 that a fresher faced Ian of that ilk took over the reins of a beleagured Association. The finances were a mess; the future of our major championships uncertain.

Within a few years Ian – with the help of others he would be the first to admit – had whipped the whole operation into shape. The money started to come in. Lucrative deals were signed with local councils around the country.

The surplus led to such a war chest that the Board of Directors were able to embark on a complete refurbishment of Headquarters. Yes, there were doubters over the years; the usual conspiracy theories from the usual suspects. Through it all Ian and his team stayed strong; did the right thing, dignity and respect never lost.

Ian in his office in 2000

But that’s enough from me. I think we should hear from the man himself; don’t you?

‘I should have retired in 2020 but stayed on to tide things over during the pandemic,’ he said. ‘I am pleased to say I have a first class man to take my place, Colin Mulhern, and he will be in charge at the Worlds. I will be very much in the background.’

What no deadpan delivery of the results? ‘No, that will be Colin’s job and I am certain it will go like clockwork.’

I asked Ian about this announcement technique. It has, after all, become something of a cult among pipe bands. ‘It is not something I’ve ever thought about but it is really amazing you know. I was going on holiday with some friends and whilst at the airport luggage carousel I shouted to one of them that I’d found his suitcase. A young girl approached me and asked if I was Ian Embelton. She played in a Canadian band and said she’d recognise that voice anywhere!’

‘Wherever I go in the pipe band world people are extremely welcoming. My great advantage in the job was that I did not have any favourites, nor was I aligned to any band. I genuinely was not concerned who won. Whoever it was I wished them well and to the losers it was better luck next time.

‘I feel I am leaving at the ideal moment. 20+ years is quite enough I think. The Worlds next year will be back to full strength as will all the majors. We have a state of the art building at Washington Street and I am able to hand over a sound balance sheet to my successor. What more could I ask for?

‘I would like to say a huge thank you to all those who have helped me on this journey. I have met some fantastic people. To all the bands, our officials, our trustees, our adjudicators, the office staff Aliki, Gail and Rachel and not forgetting the pipe band public, I want to say how grateful I am. You have made my time in office a pleasure through good times and bad. I will forever have a soft spot for the pipe band fraternity and feel privileged to have been welcomed into your world.’

  • If you would like to leave a message for Ian please do so in the Comments section. Stay tuned to PP for our in depth critique of both days of the Grade 1 championship. Get tickets here.

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3 thoughts on “A Historic Worlds for Everyone and in Particular Ian Embelton, Retiring RSPBA Chief Executive

  1. Ian, yours has been a true and steady hand on the RSPBA’s tiller these last twenty or so years. Simply, you were the right man at the right time and we, as an association, were lucky to have you steer a steady course through the good and sometimes difficult times. From a personal point of view, I have always been grateful for your advice, help and support, even as recently as today. Thank you very much for your service.

  2. Congratulations Ian enjoy your retirement as I told you in Newcastle last Saturday you look after Jeanette and she will look after you. You have time now for holidays and golf days out so enjoy thank you for being a friend.

  3. Nice to see a positive article regarding the Worlds this year, rather than the negative, RSPBA bashing drivel from another publication. At least you have stated the real reason for the reduction in number of attending bands, financial commitment, rather than lack of enthusiasm or need to cap number of players.

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