November 30, 2012

Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band disbands; police force makes statement

After some 130 years, including the last 20 in a relatively constant state of flux, the Grade 1 Lothian & Borders Police Band has disbanded, according to sources close to the group. The decision was made at a band meeting on the night of November 29, 2012.

It is not yet known if the resolution was made with the police force or solely by band members.

In a statement to pipes|drums, Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band President Graham Sinclair, who is also a serving officer with the force, said:

It is with deep regret that I write to inform you of the decision taken to disband last night (Thursday 29th November, 2012) at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the band. The band will officially cease to exist on 31st March next year when Lothian & Borders Police itself becomes part of the national Police Service of Scotland.

Last night’s decision followed a series of meetings where the band members had debated their future following the loss through resignation and transfer of key playing and support personnel. Ultimately, it was unanimously decided by members that the history and integrity of the band would be best served by disbanding at an appropriate time and following a successful season. Band members did not wish to see a slow and undignified decline.

The history and tradition of this seven times World Championship band is second-to-none and I can assure all interested parties in the piping sand drumming world that the decision was not one that was taken lightly. All members present last night were very aware of the magnificent traditions of the band, of all the wonderful Pipe-Majors and players who have gone before over the unbroken 130 year history, and of the many ‘larger than life’ characters who have been associated with this great band.

It is important to note that the decision taken last night was taken by band members. Lothian & Borders Police were prepared to continue supporting the band in the coming season, through the transition phase into a single police service for Scotland. However, the loss of key personnel and the inability to parade enough players to effectively compete at the highest level was the most decisive factor.

As Band President, I had hoped to never be in this position. However, I believe that last night’s decision to disband was the most appropriate, pragmatic and dignified in all the circumstances.

I would like to honour the achievements of the many piping giants who have led and influenced this great pipe band over many years and also to pass on my sincere thanks to all members for their willingness to try to keep the band going and ultimately for their judgement in taking this sad and bold course of action.

I trust that the above assists in explaining the decision to disband this historical pipe band.

Scotland’s police forces are set to operate under a single Police Service of Scotland beginning officially on April 1, 2013, amalgamating Central Scotland Police, Dumfries & Galloway Constabulary, Fife Constabulary, Grampian Police, Lothian & Borders Police, Northern Constabulary, Strathclyde Police, and Tayside Police, five of which sponsor pipe bands.

Since the 1990s the Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band had experienced fairly constant change at the leadership positions, mostly the pipe-major’s role, with no fewer than eight taking the front-right flank. Most recently, the band lost Pipe-Major Neil Hall, a captain with the British Army, due to work commitments, after he had been in the post for just a year. The band had said that it was actively looking for a replacement and had invited interested parties to apply, and had set a late-November deadline.

The band had brought in new leading-drummer Jake Jorgensen in 2011, replacing long-time section leader and former World Solo Drumming Champion, Arthur Cook, who subsequently joined the Denny & Dunipace Pipe Band, at the time in Grade 2, but promoted by the RSPBA to Grade 1 after the 2012 season.

Founded in 1882, the Edinburgh City / Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band was one of the oldest civilian pipe bands in the world. Through its glory years between 1950 and 1975, the band won seven World Championships, including five under its most famous pipe-major, Iain McLeod.

With the realignment of Scotland’s regions, the Edinburgh City Police became the Lothian & Borders Police in 1976, which coincided with McLeod’s retirement. Harry McNulty was elected pipe-major and managed to sustain the band’s success. But when McNulty left the police force and the band to become pipe-major of the Grade 1 British Caledonian Airways Pipe Band, the band started its demise and frequent change of leaders, with Colin Forbes, George Lumsden, Duncan Smith, Kenny McBride, Les Watson and Colin MacLellan taking command.

It was MacLellan who in 1999 took over the band just before it was relegated to Grade 2 for the first time in its history. After a season, MacLellan returned the band to Grade 1, and stayed until he resigned in 2004 when Keith Dawes subsequently took over.

Other famous pipe-majors of the band include Ian Duncan, John Burgess and Donald Shaw Ramsay.

In 2010, pipes|drums reunited eight former members of the Edinburgh City Police bands of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s – Jack Abbott, Chris Anderson, Alistair Aitken, Jim Hutton, George Lumsden, Harry McNulty Duncan Smith and Martin Wilson – for an an exclusive four-part interview.

Earlier in the year the Grade 3A Pipes & Drums of the Central Scotland Police became the Bannockburn & District Pipe Band, but said that the upcoming police amalgamation did not force the decision.

pipes|drums Magazine broke the story, which was picked up and subsequently reported by major news outlets, including the Scotsman newspaper, Scotland’s national daily


  1. How convenient is this for the Lothian and Borders Police Force … get a group of people who are almost exclusively civilians breaking up one of the most storied Pipe Bands in history just because it isn’t going so well. Then you issue a statement making sure that the public know it wisnae us!” – thus when the Forces are amalgamated next year you rid yourself of any responsibility for delivering the sad and final coup de gras. I hope the other Force Pipe Bands do not acquiese so meekly. Hopefully they may think their Bands are worth putting up a bit of a fight for

  2. Sad Day” – not particulary – with the merging of police forces this would no doubt have happened in time – how can you grieve over the loss of this under achieving band who drained public resources and did little to promote the force out-with the City of Edinburgh

  3. Economic rationalism is anti humanity, culture and life in general. These decisions are being made by bean-counting ladder climbers who are all just passing through on a charter of career goals. As for the back and forth between Colin and co, I think both arguments have merit but Colin is probably more correct. My own view is that people voted with their feet and no-one wanted to step into the breach and salvage a band (one that was there already and just needing some leadership and team spirit). The ‘we did everything we could’ explanations don’t wash with me. Sounds like there wasn’t enough belief and commitment to carry on. The contemporary practice seems to be to go running to an established band and suckle on the teat, rather than rebuild and do the hard slog. ‘Hard slog’ to rebuild a band in downtown Edinburgh…? I can hear people from all over the globe having a chuckle at that line. I can say this because I did play a part in starting a band in a place far less fruitful than Scotland. One that is still going well despite all the detractors and decrepit local scene. Lothian and Borders Pipe Band” – just remove the “Police” and start fundraising! In fact

  4. It’s hard to comprehend a pipe band world without this particular band in it. With the mooted changes at least in the Scottish Police, this is likely not to be the first big name to ‘fall’ if true. – Stephen Matthews

  5. Very sad news. There will be a formal announcement in due course however it is my understanding, that although the band would have been forced to change its name come April, funding was in place for 2013. However wth the departure of the PM and other key people a catch 22 situation arose. Who would take over or indeed join a band where there is so much uncertainty about its future? At the end of the day the band just became an unattractive proposition. Hopefully if the band does indeed cease to exist there will be a formal function where its place in history will be recognised and celebrated. Kind regards Euan Anderson

  6. I’m very sad to hear it is the end of a famous pipe band who have made an enormous contribution over their history to the development of pipe bands. With my principal teacher being former long time member and Pipe Major, George Lumsden, I appreciate how many great players and characters kept this band alive and successful through it’s history. Let’s not let the desire to win competitions continue to have a detrimental effect on the amount of pipe bands competing.

  7. Really sad news for this great band. Thanks for the fantastic memories. It was an honour and a pleasure to play for and with so many great people. Gordon Stafford

  8. Colin – Yes I was a civilian but strongly object to you suggesting I and others like us broke up the band because as you say it wasn’t going well. We all tried our very best over the last few years and in my opinion did a good job in improving the band. I and my fellow civilians gave our time willing and free of charge and in fact it cost most of us a lot of money to continue with the band. (As it does almost all pipers and drummers in all bands). We did all think it was worth putting up a fight not just a bit of a fight and did so to the best of our ability. Unfortunately on this occasion that has not been enough sufficient. I do though resent the implication that we did not try or care. Gordon Stafford

  9. Gordon – It’s not hard to imagine that the band could have undergone a re-branding as a continuing entity if the willingness and ambition had existed for it to do so – it’s not as if the amalgamation has been sudden or unexpected news. It would not be difficult to adjust the name to something such as “The Lothian and Borders Pipe Band”, and continue as the Capital’s first and most important Grade One pipe band. Maybe this allied to a decent teaching programme would ensure that the future remains as productive as it has been in the past. The company may change, and the band might have a slightly different name and look, but tradition and history would continue as before. It would operate of course then as most other pipe bands do, as financially self – sufficient and relying on its own efforts in organisation, finance, and promotion. Why not?

  10. Alas, this follows in the footsteps of another Grade 1 Edinburgh Police Pipe Band. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the Edinburgh Special Constabulary Pipe Band (the part-time polis) was very successful winning prizes at the major championships.

  11. I am obviously missing something here, and ever cynical, as the story makes no sense. Why would people decide to wind up a band when it looks enivatable that it was going to be wound up when the police forces merge in April anyway. Even if the band just announced they could not compete next year, if the bands are allowed a final season under their regions names, so be it, (but I doubt it)

  12. Okay Andrew. You have some very strong family ties to the band. What is the opinion from the old timers”. Colin I understand your points having been in a grade one band ( Bilston Glen) that went through similar issues.”

  13. what a daft notion. no-one takes decisions like this lightly or without thinking first of the consequence. band members shouldnt be made to feel that they cant walk away or that the history of the band is a burden on their shoulders that they have a responsibility to continue. with respect colin, i am sure there is still time for you to step in and rescue the band and try retain the playing members in some form or incarnation if you care for it so much and think so disparagingly of this who have left.

  14. I’m close to getting on my soap box, but for now, I’ll make do with a sarcastic slow clap for all those SNP voters who put that bunch of idiots in charge. Now there are daft decisions that effect everything, right down to the pipe bands. Before there was competition between forces, there was pride from the individual areas…now what? One force, then they’ll trim that down. Wake up, this was politics at its foulest. It has been coming for ages. Expect to loose much more history – these people don’t care about culture or history…just a bank balance, which makes for a mighty dull country.

  15. no-one takes a decision like this lightly, but at the same time no-one in the band should feel that they have to carry the responsibility for the bands future on their shoulders, and should feel guilt free if they want to walk away. colin, no-one likes to see any band folding, but if yourself or any the other naysayers care so strongly, then there is plenty of time still for you to capture the players and keep some incarnation of the band going as you suggest.

  16. Hey, call me an old-timer, but I never got over the name change from Edinburgh Police. It was never the same after that for me and I suppose the long-term handwriting was on the wall even then. I listened to their vinyl recordings endlessly in the 1970s as a teenager. Enjoy the former Glasgow Police while we still have them….

  17. Yes, che2 (whoever you are) walking away from a band is fine, but perhaps voting to cease its very existence is something different – and while I feel I have done my bit in the past having served the Band for 5 years as its Pipe Major, I would not be averse to putting my weight behind the wheel so to speak if indeed an opportunity to have it continue in some form were to arise.

  18. putting a name to my comment wouldnt lend it any more gravitas as you wouldnt know who i was anyway. i was just pointing out – respectfully – a glaring hypocrisy in your post imho. apart from the fact certain skills are required to run a band, the time and responsibility involved makes it an unwanted pressure for most, AND its a thankless job. that cant be underestimated, is it any wonder no-one stepped forward to take control? there are a lot of people sticking the boot in who wouldnt be capable of helping the band survive, someone like yourself though could easily if you wanted have stepped in to ensure their survival. this would have better served them than having a go at the departing players? and ‘ceased to exist’ is just a term, its not a finite reality. if someone really wanted to the band could be back up and running within a week in some form as you said. nothing personal by the way, i just think your post was unbalanced and unfair towards those in the band. it would be great if you stepped in – in fact, you definetly should – a lot of people would thank you for it.

  19. @herecomethedrums Please put your soap-box away! Your facts here are inaccurate. This wasn’t driven by the SNP. It was driven by Westminster budget cuts. The bill (which affects the Fire Service also) was overwhelmingly approved by MSPs of ALL parties, 93 votes to five, with 13 abstentions. Glyn Morris



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