Were Wallacestone Pipe Band the First World Champions 120 Years Ago?

We have received this intriguing information from expert piping historian and author Jeannie Campbell: ‘In 1903 a contest was held in the Waverley Market, Edinburgh.

‘Thirteen bands took part and the contest was reported in the papers as the World’s First Pipe Band Championship. The winners were Wallacestone and their opening march was Bonnie Anne.’

The band is pictured above with the handsome trophy with all the personnel clearly named.

Wallacestone are certainly one of our oldest civilian bands founded as they were in 1887. Perhaps someone in the band has more on this historic event?

Wallacestone in 1990 when they were Grade 2 Champions of Champions

In her message Jeannie goes on:…’In 1907 the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, known as the Haldane Reforms, merged the Volunteer Force, the Militia and the Yeomanry to form the Territorial Force, which came into effect in 1908.

‘This caused the re-numbering of many of the Volunteer battalions. So the 1st HLI was re-numbered as the 5th HLI but it was the same band, with John MacDougall Gillies as the pipe major.

‘I’m not sure when the title World Championship was first used. Newspapers were certainly reporting Cowal as the World’s Championship by 1921 and Cowal was using the title in 1932. All this is in my book ‘Pipe Bands’.’ 

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Reader Spencer Veitch has the evidence that Cowal were using the ‘World Championship’ title for their main contest from 1906.

He writes: ‘I have a copy of the book Cowal produced for what was called 1932 World Championship contest.

‘It was given to me a number of years ago and I only re-discovered it recently whilst ploughing through a pile of old music books and hand written bagpipe music I had acquired over the decades.

‘I found the book very interesting and, hopefully, this will see an end to any dispute that 
the World Championships were not established at Cowal.

‘The book lists the World Champions from 1906 and clearly states that it was considered the premier event from that date onwards saying ‘Established at Cowal in 1906’:

‘I am no great historian of pipe band matters, but I was particularly interested to see that the Maclean band won the Grade 1 contest on several occasions.

‘Their Pipe Major, Willie Sloan, was a neighbour of mine many years ago and I was given lessons by Willie back on the early 1970s at his home on Sunday afternoons. By that time I was the Pipe Major of the 278th Glasgow BB band. 

Willie Sloan BEM, one of the founding fathers of the RSPBA, fought on the Somme, lost his pinkie (look closely at the photograph) and had to learn to play left-handed as a consequence

‘My first few sessions involved Willie demonstrating basic exercises from scales, grace notes, doublings etc. at astonishing speed, which I had to replicate, before the question of attempting tunes was even considered.

‘As has been recorded elsewhere, Willie served in WW1 and was badly injured at the Somme. His injuries included damage to his right hand. The fifth ( pinkie) finger of this hand was amputated and Willie overcame this disability by playing left handed!’

  • Spencer has kindly forwarded this book to the editor and he will be having a closer look at it in a future posting. Jeannie Campbell’s book ‘Pipe Bands’ is currently sold out but she is taking orders for the next run. Email her at jeanniecampbell@talktalk.net

1 thought on “Were Wallacestone Pipe Band the First World Champions 120 Years Ago?

  1. I don’t wish to quibble as this may just be down to semantics but does the headline, ‘World’s First Pipe Band Championship,’ necessarily mean to claim that the 1903 Edinburgh competition was the First World’s Pipe Band Championship?

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