After changes, Grampian Police set sights on Grade 1 success
Most bands that change both pipe-major and leading-drummer would be looking at a classic case of “rebuilding,” when the coming season is written-off so that new personnel can be sourced, repertoire learned and identity regained, but the Grampian Police Pipe Band has rebounded well, and is taking advantage of their promotion to Grade 1 after the 2011 season with abandon.
With new Pipe-Major Colin Walker taking over from Drew Sinclair, who voluntarily retired the post after leading the band for the last 15 years, and new Leading-Drummer Ian Thompson, who took over from Marc Johnson who quit the band last August, the band looking to consolidate and secure its position in Grade 1.
Walker has been through transitional years before, playing with several bands that have made the difficult move from Grade 2 to Grade 1 with the Grampian Police, Bucksburn & District, the Tayside Police and the Gordon Highlanders.
“I am under no illusion as to the challenge ahead,” Walker said, “however, I am confident we have the foundations of a band that can move forward in the grade given time. The pipe corps has been consistently at the top of Grade 2 for several years now and we have retained the majority of the pipe corps throughout this period.”
Colin Walker, a chief inspector in the Grampian Police Force, said that with strong numbers in both pipe- and drum-sections the band has held practices three times a week over winter with a new practice structure.
Drew Sinclair stepped down as pipe-major following the band’s promotion to Grade 1, but remains a piper with the group, after a total of 26 years with the band. Walker had been Assistant Pipe-Major for several years under Sinclair.
After a search for a leading-drummer to replace Marc Johnson, who left the band abruptly after the 2011 season, Grampian Police settled on Ian Thompson, a veteran of Grade 1 with Polkemmet and ScottishPower, leading-drummer of Lomond & Clyde, Turriff & District and Culter.
Higher grade bands in the northeast of Scotland have typically struggled to maintain personnel, who are often tempted by bigger bands in the “central belt” Glasgow area.
“There have been previous occasions when bands in the northeast have made the transition to Grade 1, but unfortunately have been unable to sustain their place in the grade for a variance of factors,” Walker added. “There is no lack of quality players . . . however they tend to be dispersed within a variety of bands or travel further south to progress their own personal goals. The ideal position would be to have the majority of appropriate and capable players co located within one band and this is a goal I would seek to achieve.”
Walker said that the Grampian Police has developed all new competition material, and has attracted new players, with 35 now on the roster. “I believe that we have the firm foundation on which to build upon and do not require a significant influx of players to progress.”