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

Published: January 31, 2013
(Page 5 of 5)

the bag inflated enough to keep the drones from sounding, and then he dropped the bag when the expected roar from the crowd would cover it. Others may scoff at the story, but he tells it with complete conviction and sincerity, so I believe it to be true.  

We didn’t have long to wait for the results as we had been last to play. The sick tension before the announcement and the joyful relief after it will never been forgotten. Before the word came out, the band was itchy with rumors. Who had talked to whom? Who had passed it on to so-and-so? Who says we’ve won and who says we didn’t? Not productive at all but that’s the nature of pipe bands.

I so well recall Reid Maxwell running towards me, leaping on me, and wrapping his arms and legs around me like a monkey. And with good reason too, for his drum corps won the top prize in that section as well.  

Kenny Eller found his way over to me, lifted me up, and planted a hairy, bearded kiss on my lips.

The bus ride to Woolfson Hall was marked by ridiculous behaviour and joy. The after-party was memorable, although to be candid, much of it does get lost in the fog of the celebration. We partied with the guys from St. Lawrence O’Toole, and listened gobsmacked to Terry Tully playing forever, a seemingly endless repertoire of tunes we had never heard before, with the most stunning rhythm and musicality. One of our pipers, who had to be dropped because of a suddenly chirpy squeaky chanter, was in tears, unable to come out of the bathroom and join the fun.  

Mike Grey was trying to speak with a voice completely lost to laryngitis from shouting and screaming, saying, “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

An amazing day; a triumph against terrible odds, and as it turned out, a watershed in pipe band history. A one-off experience and one that no other pipe band can have, the mold having been broken on that day. I will cherish it, and all the guys who were there, forever.  

Bill Livingstone is he only piper in history to win the Clasp at the Northern Meeting and lead a band to a Grade 1 World Pipe Band Championship. Now retired from solo competition, he is currently a member of the Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band. Semi-retired as a lawyer, he lives in Whitby, Ontario.

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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.

July 1, 1951John Wilson wins all three events, Embro, Ontario.
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Pipers: Need to manipulate your pipe chanter reed? – use a pen knife or Xacto knife instead of sandpaper. You have much more control on the amount of cane you take off with a knife vs. sandpaper. And it is much better for the cane itself; other woodworkers call this technique “feathering.”
Donald MacPhee, reedmaker, Alexandria, Scotland