August 31, 2001

Aftermath: The 2001 World’s

The 2001 World Pipe Band Championships have come and gone, with the victors, the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band (SFU) of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, taking away their fourth World’s title in seven years.

SFU, perhaps because the band takes few opportunities to compete against other top Grade 1 bands before the World’s, was a surprise winner to many who did not hear them. Field Marshal Montgomery and Shotts & Dykehead had hogged most of the attention so far in 2001, and many, including Piper & Drummer Online, favoured one of them to win. But SFU won the Medley section convincingly with three of four first placings, and a strong second placing overall in the MSR sealed the victory.

The rest of the Grade 1 prize list comprised the usual suspects, but the band that finished seventh, Alberta Caledonia, is perhaps the one to watch for the future. Alberta was third in piping from one judge and top six from three others. SFU and Alberta, like the Victoria Police before them, continue to prove that bands don’t necessarily need to face stiff competition every weekend to produce a world-class standard.

The Toronto Police, undoubtedly riding a high from their performances at the North American Championships at Maxville the previous week where they had five of eight possible first placings against the 78th Fraser Highlanders (but still had to settle for second), had to be disappointed with their last place finish in the Grade 1 final. A manually stopped bass drone in their MSR attack could not have helped their cause. Toronto Police is another band to watch.

The qualifier for the Grade 1 final seemed to be somewhat uneventful, with few bands raising concerns over the result. Lothian & Borders Police had perhaps the biggest discrepancy in judging decisions, receiving a fifth and a twelfth in piping from Allan Ronaldson and George Shepherd, respectively – a separation that has raised not a few eyebrows.

By now everyone not locked up in Barlinnie knows about the MacTarnahan’s Prince Charles Pipe Band matter, but here it is again. The band had entered for the World’s in Grade 1 in the spring, and successfully competed in Grade 1 during the summer, only to find out two weeks before the big contest that it would have to play in Grade 2 again, despite winning that event in 2000. The band saved face by placing fourth this year, but it is yet to be seen how the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) will adjust similar grading discrepancies in the future, or how the Western United States Pipe Band Association will deal with the matter. (See story.)

Ballycoan disqualified; would have placed second in Grade 2

Also in Grade 2, the highly rated Ballycoan Pipe Band of Northern Ireland was disqualified for not playing for the drum majors competition, as agreed under RSPBA rules. Ballycoan finished second at the Scottish Championships two weeks earlier, and would have finished second at the World Championships had they not been disqualified.

Many were surprised when the Ravara Pipe Band, previously undefeated in Grade 2 in 2001, just made the prize list at the World’s, finishing sixth.

In Grade 3A, the Benoni Pipe Band of South Africa arrived in Scotland for the Scottish Championships at Dumbarton on July 28, only to learn that their entry for the World’s had been “misplaced” by the RSPBA. After much haggling between the two parties, Benoni had to settle for playing first in Grade 3A against 31 other bands, but at the end of the day managed to finish a very respectable fifth.

Overall, the 2001 World Pipe Band Championship might be remembered most for the Prince Charles controversy in Grade 2. That would be unfortunate, since it clearly was the event that catapulted the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band from “three times World Champions” to one of the greatest in pipe band history.


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