History of the Worlds Part 2 – the Scottish Pipe Band Association and the ‘Royal’ Title

Bowhill Colliery Pipe Band, Fife, winners of the first SPBA World Pipe Band Championship in 1947

The SPBA was formed in 1930 and ‘Royal’ status was subsequently conferred on the Association by HM The Queen in 1980.  The objectives of the Association from the outset, which still remain the same, were:

  • To promote and encourage the culture and advancement of Pipe Band Music internationally, and to sponsor a Pipe Band College;
  • To create and maintain a bond of fellowship with all Pipe Band personnel throughout the world without discrimination as to colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins;
  • To devise and operate a proper system of Pipe Band Contest Rules; and
  • To organise the World, European, British, Scottish and all Major Championships held within the United Kingdom.

By Alistair Aitken OBE,
former RSPBA Adjudicator

The first competition to be run by the SPBA was at Forthbank Park, Stirling on 18 June 1932.  Fifteen Grade 2 bands competed: Scottish Motor Traction Co; Denny and Dunipace Ex-Service; Glasgow Caledonia; Lochgelly Public; Mar; Parkhead; Barry Ostlere and Shepherd; Dalzell Thistle; Bowhill Colliery; Michael Colliery; Ardrossan Burgh; Dunfermline City; Rutherglen Rechabites; Singer; and Lochore and Crosshill Public. 

The competition format was March, Strathspey and Reel (MSR).  In the same competition in 1933, ten bands competed in Grade 3 and nineteen in Grade 2.

MacRaeBanner ’19
Ayrshire Bagpipes Nov 2020
shepherd banner ’22

Following lengthy acrimonious debate it was eventually agreed with the Cowal Highland Gathering that the SPBA would take over responsibility for the World Pipe Band Championships; and the first WPBC run under SPBA rules were held at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh in 1947 (the same year as the first Edinburgh International Festival).  This was an ‘open’ competition (i.e. not restricted to Grade 1 pipe bands) which was won by the Bowhill Colliery Pipe Band from Fife. 

The competition format again was MSR.  Twenty-six pipe bands competed: Bowhill Colliery; Pumpherson; Renfrew; Michael Colliery; Shotts and Dykehead Caledonian; Edinburgh Corporation Transport; Lowland Brigade Training Centre; Edinburgh Special Constabulary; Edinburgh City Police; Highland Brigade Training Centre; Newtongrange Lothian; The Clan MacRae Society; Bonhill Parish; Clan MacKenzie; Dalzell Highland; Rutherglen; Clan Fraser; National Fire Service (Western); Muirhead & Sons; MacLeod (Dundee); MacKenzie (Dundee); Lochore and Crosshill; Airdrie Highland; Glasgow Shepherds; Glasgow Corporation Transport; and City of Dundee. 

It was not until 1970 that Musical Medley competitions were introduced at RSPBA Major Championships, at the same time as ‘ensemble’ adjudication.


Since 1947 the WPBC have continued to be organised annually by the SPBA/RSPBA.  The Cowal Highland Gathering, however, did not lose out completely as the Cowal Pipe Band Championships became one of the SPBA/RSPBA’s five annual Major Championships, the Argyll Shield still being awarded to the winning Grade 1 pipe band. 

This arrangement was sustained until 2013, when it was decided that the pipe band Major Championships competitions had outgrown the limited facilities at Dunoon Stadium.  As a consequence a reduced pipe band competition was retained at the Cowal Highland Gathering as an RSPBA-supported local event; and the fifth RSPBA Major Championships became known as the UK Pipe Band Championships, which have since been held in Northern Ireland.

Since 1947 the WPBC have been held in a variety of Scottish locations, ranging from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Ayr, Aberdeen, Stirling, Paisley, Kirkcaldy, Inverness, Dumfries, Forfar, Oban, Grangemouth, Perth, Lanark, Hawick, Glenrothes and Hamilton. 

The Championships have also been held in Northern Ireland on one occasion (Belfast in 1962) and in England on two occasions (Corby in 1975 and Nottingham in 1979).  Since 1986 the Championships have always been held in Glasgow.

The WPBC were unable to be held in 2020 and 2021 due to the worldwide COVID pandemic.  2022 represents the 75th anniversary of the WPBC under the stewardship of the RSPBA.

WPBC Winners Since 1947

YearPipe BandVenuePipe Major
1947 Bowhill Colliery Edinburgh Chris Sutherland
1948 Shotts & Dykehead CaledoniaGlasgow Tom McAllister Snr BEM
1949City of Glasgow PoliceEdinburgh John MacDonald
1950Edinburgh City Police Dundee Donald S Ramsay
1951City of Glasgow PoliceEdinburgh John MacDonald
1952Shotts & Dykehead CaledoniaAyr T McAllister Snr BEM.
1953Clan MacRae SocietyEdinburgh A MacLeod
1954Edinburgh City Police Aberdeen Donald S Ramsay
1955 Muirhead & Sons Stirling Jackie Smith
1956 Muirhead & Sons Belfast Jackie Smith
1957 Shotts & Dykehead CaledoniaPaisley John K MacAllister
1958 Shotts & Dykehead CaledoniaAberdeen John K MacAllister
1959 Shotts & Dykehead CaledoniaKirkcaldy John K MacAllister
1960 Shotts & Dykehead CaledoniaInverness John K MacAllister
1961 Muirhead & Sons Edinburgh Jackie Smith
1962 227 A &SH Regt.R.A. (T.A.) Belfast J Weatherston MBE
1963 Edinburgh City Police Dumfries Iain McLeod
1964 Edinburgh City Police Ayr Iain McLeod
1965 Muirhead & Sons Forfar Robert Hardie
1966 Muirhead & Sons Inverness Robert Hardie
1967 Muirhead & Sons Oban Robert Hardie
1968 Muirhead & Sons Gr’mouth Robert Hardie
1969 Muirhead & Sons Perth Robert Hardie
1970 Shotts & Dykehead CaledoniaAberdeen Tom McAllister Jnr
1971 Edinburgh City Police Lanark Iain McLeod
1972 Edinburgh City Police Hawick Iain McLeod
1973 Shotts & Dykehead CaledoniaAyr Tom McAllister Jnr
1974 Shotts & Dykehead CaledoniaStirling Tom McAllister Jnr
1975 Lothian & Borders Police Corby Iain McLeod
1976 Strathclyde PoliceHawick Ian McLellan BEM.
1977 Dysart & DundonaldAberdeen RT Shepherd MBE
1978 Dysart & DundonaldLanark RT Shepherd MBE
1979 Strathclyde PoliceNotti’ham Ian McLellan BEM.
1980 Shotts & Dykehead CaledoniaGlasgowTom McAllister Jnr.
1981 Strathclyde PoliceAberdeen Ian McLellan BEM.
1982 Strathclyde PoliceGle’othes Ian McLellan BEM.
1983 Strathclyde PoliceGlasgowIan McLellan BEM.
1984 Strathclyde PoliceGlasgow Ian McLellan BEM.
1985 Strathclyde PoliceHamilton Ian McLellan BEM.
1986 Strathclyde PoliceGlasgow Ian McLellan BEM.
1987 78th Fraser Hders (Canada)Glasgow William Livingstone
1988 Strathclyde PoliceGlasgowIan McLellan BEM
1989 Strathclyde PoliceGlasgowIan McLellan BEM
1990 Strathclyde PoliceGlasgowIan McLellan BEM.
1991 Strathclyde PoliceGlasgow Ian McLellan BEM.
1992 Field Marshall MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
1993 Field Marshall MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
1994 Shotts and Dykehead CaledoniaGlasgowRobert Mathieson
1995 Simon Fraser UniversityGlasgow Terry Lee
1996 Simon Fraser University Glasgow Terry Lee
1997 Shotts and Dykehead CaledoniaGlasgowRobert Mathieson
1998 Victoria PoliceGlasgowNat Russell
1999 Simon Fraser UniversityGlasgow Terry Lee
2000 Shotts and DykeheadGlasgowRobert Mathieson
2001 Simon Fraser UniversityGlasgow Terry Lee
2002 Field Marshall MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
2003Shotts and Dykehead GlasgowRobert Mathieson
2004Field Marshall MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
2005Shotts and Dykehead GlasgowRobert Mathieson
2006Field Marshall MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
2007Field Marshall MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
2008 Simon Fraser UniversityGlasgow Terry Lee
2009Simon Fraser UniversityGlasgow Terry Lee
2010St. Laurence O’Toole (Dublin)Glasgow Terry Tully
2011Field Marshall MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
2012Field Marshall MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
2013Field Marshall MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
2014Field Marshall MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
2015Shotts and Dykehead GlasgowRyan Canning
2016Field Marshall MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
2017Inveraray & DistrictGlasgowStuart Liddell
2018Field Marshal MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
2019Inveraray & DistrictGlasgowStuart Liddell
2020/21 Not held due to COVID pandemic
2022Field Marshal MontgomeryGlasgowRichard Parkes MBE
  • To ber concluded.

2 thoughts on “History of the Worlds Part 2 – the Scottish Pipe Band Association and the ‘Royal’ Title

  1. Very interesting historic analysis by Alistair. I would add one additional comment: following the SPBA assuming responsibility for the Worlds, many bands throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s continued to regard Cowal as the pinnacle of the pipe band calendar. In particular, many of the great Irish bands of that era (e.g. Finan Lalor, Robert Armstrong Memorial, St Patricks) who could only afford 1 trip to Scotland each year chose to attend Cowal, and achieved many great and historic successes there.
    The demise of Cowal as an RSPBA major was a huge blow to the pipe band community, and the reason of “limited facilities” could equally be applied to a number of other venues on the pipe band competition circuit. With the right cooperation between the Cowal Organising Committee and the RSPBA, I am sure that Dunoon could re-appear as a major venue on the pipe band competition circuit.

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