History of the Worlds Pipe Band Championships – Part 3

Only 21 Pipe Majors have won the Grade 1 World Championships title since the competition has been run under the auspices of the RSPBA. 

In that time only 14 different bands have won the title as some of them have been led by different Pipe Majors at different times. 

By Alistair Aitken OBE,
former RSPBA Adjudicator

These statistics illustrate clearly the extent of the challenge of winning the title, and perhaps also the leadership qualities required.  In alphabetical order the pipe bands and Pipe Majors are:

227 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Regt. R.A. (TA) (1 time) – John Weatherston MBE BEM)

Bowhill Colliery (1 time) – Chris Sutherland

Clan MacRae Society (1 time) – Alexander MacLeod

Dysart & Dundonald (2 times) – Robert T Shepherd MBE)

Edinburgh City Police/Lothian & Borders Police (7 times) – Donald S Ramsay and Iain McLeod)

Field Marshal Montgomery (13 times) – Richard Parkes MBE)

78th Fraser Highlanders (1 time) – William Livingstone

Glasgow Police/Strathclyde Police (14 times) – John MacDonald and Ian McLellan BEM

Inveraray & District (2 times) – Stuart Liddell)

Muirhead & Sons (8 times) – Jackie Smith and Robert Hardie

Simon Fraser University (6 times) – Terry Lee

Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia (16 times) -Tom MacAllister Snr, John K MacAllister, Tom MacAllister Jnr, Robert Mathieson and Ryan Canning. The victorious Shotts band of 1952 is pictured top.

St Laurence O’Toole (1 time) – Terry Tully

Victoria Police (1 time) – Nat Russell

By 2019 the Championships had been won by both Pipe Major Ian McLellan BEM of Strathclyde Police and Pipe Major Richard Parkes MBE of Field Marshal Montgomery on 12 occasions. 

That record was broken in 2022 when Pipe Major Richard Parkes MBE won the Championships for the 13th time.  Pipe Major Ian McLellan still holds the record for winning 6 Championships consecutively between 1981 and 1986.

Other multiple Pipe Major winners in alphabetical order are:

Robert Hardie, Muirhead & Sons 5 times

Terry Lee, Simon Fraser University 6 times

Stuart Liddell, Inveraray & District 2 times

Tom MacAllister Snr, Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia 2 times

John K MacAllister, Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia 4 times

Tom MacAllister Jnr, Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia 4 times

John MacDonald, Glasgow Police 2 times

Iain McLeod, Edinburgh City/Lothian & Borders Police 5 times

Robert Mathieson, Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia 5 times

Donald Shaw Ramsay, Edinburgh City Police 2 times

Robert T Shepherd MBE, Dysart & Dundonald 2 times

Jackie Smith, Muirhead & Sons 3 times

Ireland’s delight…SLOT win in 2010

Since 1947 the top winning bands have been:

Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia 16 times

Glasgow Police/Strathclyde Police 14 times

Field Marshal Montgomery 13 times

Muirhead & Sons   8 times

Edinburgh City Police   7 times

Simon Fraser University   6 times

Other Worlds facts: The World Pipe Band Championships have been held in Northern Ireland on one occasion (Belfast in 1962) and in England on two occasions (Corby in 1975 and Nottingham in 1979).

The Cowal Pipe Band Championships became one of the SPBA/RSPBA’s five annual Major Championships in 1948.  This arrangement was sustained until 2013.  From 2014 the fifth RSPBA Major Championships became known as the UK Pipe Band Championships, which have since been held in Northern Ireland. 

The SPBA also held the first Scottish and British Pipe Band Championships in 1948 (in Blairgowrie and Renfrew respectively).  The European Pipe Band Championships were first held in Dundee in 1949.

Only one RSPBA Major Pipe Band Championships has been held outwith the UK (the European Pipe Band Championships, which were held at Alden Biesen Castle, Bilzen in Belgium in 2003).

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4 thoughts on “History of the Worlds Pipe Band Championships – Part 3

  1. I recently unearthed a programme from the 1980 World’s. Was this the first year that Grade 1 bands played a qualifying round with the top 10 going into a second round? If it was, then they managed it all on one day, not spread over two as currently organised.

  2. Your right Hugh. It was held in Belfast in 1956. I was playing with the Renfrew Pipe Band, under Pipe Major Tommy Shearer. We came in 2nd to the Muirhead & Sons Pipe Band, under Pipe Major Jackie Smith. A memorable occasion for me as it was my first year playing with a Grade 1 Pipe Band,

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