One Great Day: Bill Livingstone recounts the day of the 1987 World Pipe Band Championships

Published: January 31, 2013
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pipes|drums kicks off a new feature, “One Great Day,” a series of articles by famous pipers and drummers who recall a particularly memorable day in their life. We will ask them to choose one day that stands out in their mind, perhaps because of its historical importance, or a personal achievement, or for anything else that they might choose.

Two-thousand-twelve is the 25th anniversary of the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band’s World Pipe Band Championship win. At the quarter-century mark, it made sense to see what Bill Livingstone remembered from that historical day in August, when he led his 78th Fraser Highlanders to becoming the first non-Scottish band to win a World Pipe Band Championship. In fact, before then, no Grade 1 band outside of Scotland had won an RSPBA major championship of any kind.  

The 1987 World’s was a watershed moment in pipe band history. The Frasers’ victory marked a new era for the art, bringing truly international appeal to the competition that, since then, has become the largest pipe band competition in the world, attracting bands from all over, injecting tens of millions of pounds into the Scottish economy.

The 78th Fraser Highlanders were one of few bands to knock the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band off of their perch. Probably the closest thing to a full-time professional pipe band ever created, the Strathclyde Police in 1986 had strung together six consecutive World Championships, still the record, and after losing to the 78th Frasers would go on to capture another four straight years’ worth of World’s wins.  

True enough, other non-Scottish bands might have deserved to take out the World’s before 1987: City of Victoria in 1979; Simon Fraser University in 1985; and even the same 78th Frasers in 1986. But winning in piping and drumming is always a confluence of luck, timing and, of course, talent, and each of those streams converged on a rainy Bellahouston Park in 1987.

To put the feat in perspective, in the 25 years since the 78th Fraser Highlanders gained the title, the World’s has been won 16 times by a band not from Scotland.

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  1. uilleannonlooker

    had been to cowal a few times as a teen and I couldn’t bring myself to buy live in Ireland as the cover just looked too naff” to me. One year

  2. StuLiddell

    Great memories Bill. That was quite a group we had. So close. Funny memory I had was running into Big Luke in the morning. As he was getting ready to catch the bus to the airport, he said, you’re up early. I hadn’t t been to bed yet. What a party!

  3. gramps

    Great memory. I was so chuffed I bought a copy of the Scottish Banner which had this as their front lead. I still have that little paper. We were so fortunate here in southern Ontario to have had the chance to see and hear the Frasers, the Clan, Guelph, McNish and so many other really fine bands that to my parochial mind it was like okay world welcome to our show”.”

  4. Tbone2

    Thanks Billy, for the memories…years of them. It was a special group and we’re all still great friends. And for what it’s worth, on the day of a major, for me, you are the best P/M in the world.

  5. MarkBowles

    After all these years I recon Live in Ireland remains the benchmark for dynamism, musicality and drive as a pipe corps and whole ensemble. Few pipe band recordings have come even close, despite (maybe because of?) advances in technology. Thanks Bill & co for inspiring a generation of pipers around the world! Certainly inspired us down under.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY:
October 31, 1987Iain Speirs wins 3 events at SPA Amateur contest, Glasgow.
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Murray Henderson, Kirriemuir, Scotland

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