A Personal Look at the Edinburgh Pipe Band Contest

Inveraray take the field at Edinburgh

As already reported on Piping Press, the annual pipe band competition in Edinburgh, arranged by the Lothian and Borders Branch of the RSPBA, took place at the Newfield playing fields of Edinburgh Academy on Sunday 18 June, 2023. 

By Alistair Aitken OBE

The weather was very warm and ideal for playing, although a colder breeze was encountered later in the afternoon.  The venue was ideal for a pipe band competition in terms of space but it is probably fair to say that it did not have the atmosphere of the contest’s former location in front of the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens, or the same numbers of spectators. 

The Ross Bandstand, Princes Street Gardens

The central Edinburgh location, overshadowed by Edinburgh Castle, was always a magnet for tourists at the event but I can only assume it is currently unsuitable for such activities due to plans to reconstruct the Ross Bandstand. 

Some readers will remember that Princes Street Gardens was at one time also the venue for the annual Scottish Pipe Band Championships, now held in Dumbarton.

MacRaeBanner ’19
Ayrshire Bagpipes Nov 2020
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The 2023 competition at Newfield attracted 19 individual band entries and across the seven grades of competition there were a total of 29 performances, with some bands also playing up from their normal grade.  The winning bands, with some pictures, were as follows:

Grade 1 MSR: Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia
Grade 1 Medley: Inveraray & District
Grade 2: City of Edinburgh
Grade 3: City of Newcastle
Juvenile: George Watson’s College
Grade 4A: George Watson’s College (Nov. Juv. A)
Grade 4B: George Watson’s College (Nov. Juv. B)

George Watson’s
City of Newcastle
City of Edinburgh

This was the first contest I have attended this year and it was good to meet up with friends and former colleagues.  Unfortunately I missed the Juvenile and Grade 4 competitions in the morning as I decided to travel by public transport, which proved to be somewhat of a challenge. 

It was encouraging to see that the Grade 4B competition had a total of 11 entries which illustrates the extent of teaching in some of the eastern parts of Scotland (nine of them school pipe bands). 

I particularly enjoyed the performances in the two Grade 1 contests, with Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia continuing, in the MSR competition, their winning streak over Inveraray & District from the previous week’s UK Championships in Northern Ireland; only for the placings to be reversed in the Medley competition. 

Both bands proved that they will be strong contenders at the remaining Major Championships this year.  It was also good to see the Inveraray, City of Newcastle and Turriff bands taking the trouble to make the long journey to participate.

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