A Review of the Worlds Day 2

Triumphant…the 2023 Worlds Champions, Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia

My plan for the Saturday was to listen to the whole of the Grade 1 MSR and then to try to take in some of the performances in the other grades.

Grade 1: I thought Inveraray were the outstanding band in the morning, again fluent and finger perfect. Boghall were good but a shade careful, though the technique in the strathspey was outstanding. FMM had a poor run with one piper not getting away and the band lacking precision in the double D, double B, double low G runs in the Argyllshire Gathering – at least from where I was sitting.

By the Editor

Has the Worlds 2023 final result put paid to the mega band? I have been calling for some time for a cap on numbers. Imagine if six pipers and a couple of drummers from FMM joined Closkelt. Result: two brilliant NI bands.

But it may be that natural selection will obviate the necessity of a rule change. There can be no doubt that this year the ‘smaller’ bands at the top end, Inveraray and Boghall, demonstrated a clarity of technique and perhaps even a better purity of sound. We’ll see.


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Throughout the morning there was a lull in proceedings between bands. The RSPBA should cut the 10 minutes given to each performance to eight. Most MSRs took only four or five. I used the time to cast my eye over the G1 arena.

Those new chicken shack seats are really not worth it. When the rain came on, as it did frequently, there was no protection at all for those who had forked out for a berth, excepting those in the back two rows. Worse is the fact that promoters Glasgow Life have positioned them open to the prevailing weather and miles away from the centre circle. I am sure a few people felt shortchanged.

Let’s follow the example of the Scottish at Dumbarton, admit things could be better and re-locate the arenas and the seating – with the audience and elements uppermost in the mind. Glasgow Green is a huge space with plenty of room to work with, the needs of ‘Elf and Safety’ and the BBC wagons accepted.

Seating was too far from the circle and exposed to the elements

Now to the Nat Russell business. His assessment, which I understand placed Boghall 14th in the first day’s MSR, was clearly an aberration, a germ in the petri dish of perfection this band displayed. The RSPBA showed decisive leadership in refusing to accept Mr Russell’s rogue result, dismissing it completely.

Not one of his 15 adjudicator colleagues in Grade 1 had Boghall anywhere other than in the top three, except one who had them fourth. Let there be no doubt that Peoples Ford Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia are the deserved winners of the World Championship 2023.

There now needs to be an inquiry, with Mr Russell, a Worlds winner who deserves our respect, asked to account for his auditory deficiencies. The reputation of the Adjudicator’s Panel, a body which operates independently of the RSPBA, hangs in the balance. They must act quickly to restore respect and confidence. Remember, the RSPBA need not stick with the current arrangement for judging. The Board of Directors must demand a detailed report from the AP as soon as is practicable and all outcomes shared with the bands.

This may also be an opportunity to do something about the basic adjudication method. Let’s have more consultation and how long have you been reading my rants at the walkabout system employed by judges? They should be seated at a table facing the band, judging it as a whole not poking around between pipers determined to find some bad blowing on one side whilst missing entirely a wrong note on the other. (By the way, credit to the drumming judge Mr Dinsdale who spent some time listening to the drums through the pipes.)

The joy of winning, Boghall piper Derek Boyce seconds after the result was announced

My last word on dress. Judges should set an example to bands, not the other way round. Trews are fine if they are real trews. Properly cut and paired with the shorter jacket, they look very smart. But they are expensive, hence the ever-growing tartan breeks brigade. (Whilst on the subject of dress I am happy to point out that the judge wearing the unusual headgear mentioned yesterday had been given permission to do so because of a medical issue.)

At the end of Day Two I returned to hear the last two runs in G1, Police Scotland and Inveraray. It meant I had listened live to 50 of 64 performances in the grade. Two bands emerged as contenders for the crown: Inveraray and Boghall. The latter’s Medley, which I missed, seems to have been the deciding factor and those of us who have championed this band and their community foundation for many years could not have been more delighted.

Before leaving Grade 1 I want to pay tribute to the bands that travelled so far to compete. Canterbury were the best of the Kiwis for me, their sound just edging out the highly musical Manawatu. St Thomas Alumni are clearly the top band in the US and certainly number two in North America after the inspiring SFU.

Closer to home, congratulations to Ewen Henderson and the improvement he has wrought at Police Scotland. Elsewhere, I repeat, look out for Shotts next year. To Johnstone and Fife Police I say this: you are class bands, well worth your place in the grade. Keep the faith, keep at it, witness the Boggies.

In the other grades, Annan were outstanding in winning Grade 2. Will they want G1? Good G2 playing from Manorcunningham, good sound from Ravara, and also MacMillan from the US. And how pleasing it was to see senior officers from Peel Police there to support their band. So far from home, the band was smart and dignified; gentlemen, they did not let your force down no matter the final placings.

Officers of the Peel Regional Police, Canada, at the Worlds to support their band

I heard some of G3A as well. Clogher: a very musical band. Coalburn: musical too but maybe the sound could have been better. And there was my old mucker from the Piobaireachd Society Bill Wotherspoon in a starring role with City of Newcastle!

Overall a superb Worlds masterminded by the RSPBA and its huge cadre of volunteers. Well done to everyone and in particular to Colin Mulhern the Chief Executive who is quietly growing into the role left by the legendary Ian Embelton.


17 thoughts on “A Review of the Worlds Day 2

  1. in all my 57 years competing and spectating i seen Nat Russell do something l never seen any other judge do he stood behind every piper for a few seconds so he may have heard something that Mark Faloon didn’t.l feel had it been the FM the sheets would have stayed as it did a few years ago when a judge had them 12th

  2. Re. the worlds judging debacle.
    I hope there was more behind the reason to ignore 1 judge’s scores, other than there was an “outlier” in his assessments.
    Yes, the 14th placing for boghall was clearly unwarranted, BUT it sets a dangerous precedent if the RSPBA and or AP can decide which results count and which can be ignored.
    There have been countless examples in the past of massive discrepancies with judges scores, in all grades. Yet they have all stood.. To interfere with the judging process retrospectively, however much it is warranted, sets a very dangerous precedent

    1. In response to Ian’s point about the 14th place for Boghall. What about the Grade 2 results, a band had an 18 and 18 in piping, an 18 in drumming and a 2nd in ensemble. Go figure that one out. Yet, his results were allowed to stand. Were the piping and drumming so bad together that they actually blended together very well? And a piper’s chanter fell out during the performance. I ask you?

      1. I haven’t found any evidence indicating that he placed Boghall 14th anywhere. As far as I know, this is a baseless assertion made by Pipes Drums but if you know where I can find any hard evidence supporting that claim, please point me in its direction.
        If there isn’t evidence for this claim, people should stop believing it until sufficient evidence emerges. Regardless, the RSPBA should be far more transparent and explain what actually happened- and what they intend to do to make things better for future contests.

        1. Even if the putative 14th placing for Boghall turns out to be inaccurate, the situation over the removal of 1 judge’s scores is completely unacceptable and untenable for a professional body (i.e. RSPBA) that claims to look after member bands interests.
          The RSPBA will be hoping that this “issue” will disappear over time, but the collective piping and drumming community should not allow this disgraceful and unexplained situation to be forgotten.
          P.S. at least I have the decency and honesty to attach my name to all postings on Piping Press

          1. I don’t see the need for personal attacks when all I did was point out the fact that there is no evidence to support what has become a widely spread rumour.
            I agree with you on your other points- it just bothers me that people are willing to believe a claim made with no evidence presented. It bothers me because Nat Russel’s reputation is being negatively impacted when this could be a case of human error exacerbated by RSPBA incompetence (or something else, it would help if the RSPBA made a statement). He likely isn’t able to defend himself by making any public statement without facing repercussions from the RSPBA (which is wrong by the way) so for him to be pilloried by the community without any evidence is simply morally wrong.
            This is but one of the laundry list of RSPBA failures this year and serious reforms are needed in my opinion, including but not limited to a complete change in leadership.

  3. Perhaps the judge who had permission to wear the hat for medical reasons also had a medical reason for the ‘administrative shortcomings’ on his MSR score sheet on Friday? People shouldn’t be too quick to judge (if you’ll forgive the pun). The man might have had issues that we don’t know about and, once disclosed to the RSPBA, meant they felt his judgement could not be relied upon on this occasion? I think the breeks he was sporting also show he maybe wasn’t in full command of his faculties? Or perhaps again there was a medical reason why he couldn’t wear a kilt? If (as rumoured) he had Boghall at 14th then something was clearly not right with either his ears or his mind. I applaud the RSPBA for doing what they did, as it would have been much easier for them to stay silent and allow his scores to stand and have a stitch up. Still puzzling why the same judge was allowed to adjudicate the next day though.

  4. Thanks for a very balanced review. On Saturday due to the blustery winds, the G1 bands were at times almost inaudible unless you were right up against the fence, this may have caused some issues for the wandering judges. It was good to see a wide range of countries represented across the grades, and I made a point to see several of them in between the G1 bands. A good weekend which has spurred me to pick up my pipes again after a long break this year.

  5. Great and true reports as always
    You’re various points mentioned are always things that are basic things that have to be corrected and been happening periodically

    Well done to all the band’s and everyone involved
    Another great World Pipe Band Championship.

    Thank you all John Paton

  6. > Imagine if six pipers and a couple of drummers from FMM joined Closkelt.

    Which six? Field Marshal must have gone through fifty or a hundred pipers in the last thirty years – where are they all now? Why do we think that any piper sacked from the finest pipe band in the world would want to go and play for an also-ran?

    If big bands are better, they are better. If they are worse, let the judges say so. And if there are not enough pipers, your local grade 4 band will welcome teaching assistance.

    1. Come over to Northern Ireland and have a look at a pipe band association that is absolutely decimated in terms of numbers. So while it looks as if it is in healthy shape with some of the biggest and most successful bands in the world, in reality you have a pipe band scene that is on its knees, FMM are the exception, not the rule. It is utterly depressing and no one seems to want to face reality.

  7. Further to the comments you make about the seating etc., the PA system was awful. Could hardly hear a word that Fergus was saying when introducing the bands, and the results announcing at the end was almost completely inaudible from the top of the field. I also think some sort of gate needs to be installed at the top end for bandsmen (and women) to access the toilets during a 2hr march past (having probably spent at least a few minutes in the beer tent after performing). Less said about the beer tent the better! Queues were ridiculous (especially when bags are searched on the way in and everyone who wants a wee refreshment is effectively forced to use it). Running out of beer is a cardinal sin!!

    Finally, I also heard nearly all the performances on both days (I had to nip away at some points as my son was playing with a Nov band), but no doubt Boghall are well worthy of the title.

  8. Great review as always. Your comments on the winners hopefully puts the matter to bed. Boghall, worthy winners

  9. hello and thank you for your always very interesting article: I wanted to bounce back on two things; do you think that the difference in pipers and drummers (17/24 and 10./13) between Inveraray and FMM and Boghall ,had an influence on the perception of volume, power and therefore felt by the judges? and then, like what is being done in brittany with the bagad 1st category competition, wouldn’t it be necessary and wise to increase the number of judges for this event? three pipe judges and two drums and two d ensemble (in Brittany 6 judges for the ensemble and then two per desk and in front of the group for example) I do think that the judges are not numerous enough for a “world grade 1” thank you

    1. Ensemble has aways been a problem
      with judging.
      They can destroy a bands chances of winning.
      Look back over the years.

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