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.