Sun setting on Cowal as RSPBA championship (updated)
Since 1906 the Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, Scotland, has offered a major pipe band competition, and until the formalization of a separate event in 1947, was the de facto World Pipe Band Championship, but according to sources within the organization the RSPBA has
decided accepted a proposal from the organizers of the event to make that 2013 will be the last year that Cowal will be offered as one of the year’s five majors. Specific reasons for the elimination of championship status are not known, but f For decades RSPBA member bands have complained loudly about the relatively poor conditions for tuning and competing, and a location that is costly and lengthy to reach by bus and ferry.
A statement from the Cowal Highland Gathering issued to pipes|drums on January 21, 2013, said:
Cowal Highland Gathering has taken a key decision aimed at making its pipe band competition more fun and better-suited to the overall event.
While this was not an easy decision to take, the Gathering Board agreed that it was more important to secure the future of Cowal Highland Gathering than to maintain the â€˜major’ status. The Board stressed that the move would provide an opportunity to improve facilities, introduce new attractions and promote the Cowal Highland Gathering as a traditional highland games.Cowal Highland Gathering chairman, Ronnie Cairns said, ‘We recognise that the increasing competitiveness of the event and numbers of bands attending were putting a strain on the space and resources we had available and that this was leading to unhappiness amongst some of the bands.’
Car and bus ferry service between Dunoon and Gourock was stopped in 2011 due to a single company being given monopoly status on the route, forcing most bands to travel around the Cowal Peninsula, adding hours to their journey. A proposal to add a car and bus ferry service was rejected in early January of this year.
Self-described as “the biggest, most spectacular Highland games in the world,” the Cowal Highland Gathering also offers the World Highland Dancing Championship and a significant solo piping competition. To allow spectators to be closer to the pipe band contests, organizers eliminated the track and athletic competitions in 2007, the same year that a large ceilidh tent was added.
The event has a tradition post-contest march down Argyll Street, where bands were compensated for taking part in the often rowdy parade.
The then Scottish Pipe Band Association made an official World Pipe Band Championship in 1947, taking away from Cowal its unofficial World’s status. The primary reason at the time was that a World Championship would move locations each ear. Except for one year, since 1981 the event has been held in Glasgow.
Cowal was not only traditionally the last major championship of the UK season, but also the event where band bust-ups would occur, with many pipe-majors and leading-drummers over the years immediately following competing announcing their intention to leave.
One of the most historic instances was in 1986 when Robert Mathieson and Jim Kilpatrick, then pipe-major and leading-drummer, respectively, of the high-flying Polkemmet Pipe Band revealing that they were returning to Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia, a band that was on the brink of collapse. Under Mathieson, Shotts would be resurrected and go on to win five World Championships.Cairns added in the statement, Far from being the end of the Cowal Gathering this is an opportunity for us to not only improve the facilities for the bands that attend but to also introduce new attractions and elements for the public and by doing so to secure the future of Cowal Highland Gathering as a traditional Highland games. We will continue to host the Highland Dancing World ChampionshipsGet the Newsletter!
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