November 30, 2006

Polkemmet disbands

The few remaining members of the 89-year-old Polkemmet Pipe Band of Whitburn, Scotland, have decided to shut down the band after the group met at the band’s annual general meeting on November 19. Uniforms and drums have been placed in storage.

The move marks the potential end of one of the world’s oldest civilian bands, and would have marked its 90th anniversary in 2007. In the fall, the band’s Pipe-Major, David Barnes, left to take over the Grade 1 Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band, and numerous members of the pipe section followed. Most of the drum section subsequently departed for other bands.

Polkemmet, along with Shotts & Dykehead and Boghall & Bathgate, had been one of the three top West Lothian bands during the 1980s and part of the 1990s. Its Whitrig Juvenile band was the learning-ground for many now-famous pipers and drummers, including Robert Mathieson and Jim Kilpatrick, who subsequently together took the band to the height of Grade 1 before leaving for Shotts after the 1986 season.

Polkemmet then went through a number of leadership changes, including Ronnie Lawrie, David Barnes, and Steven Young, slipping to Grade 2 under Young. The only Grade 1 championships that the band won were in the early 1990s under Barnes and Leading-Drummer James King.


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  1. What a shame how the once mighty have fallen. Yet another Scottish grade two band bites it. I can only imagine what bands might populate the M8 corridor if there was a limit placed on the size of bands. RIP Polkemmet. We’ll remember you well.

  2. Very sad to hear about Polkemmet. I think it was 1991 that they won Grade 1 at a major in my home-town Alness, Ross-shire. They played with something like 21 pipers that day if I recall correctly, having a great sound. Also 2nd at the Worlds the same year with an inspiring medley. I’m sure they’ll be back!



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