February 28, 2009

Update 2: Strathclyde Police force to pull plug on competition band: sources

As of February 17, 2009, the one of the world’s most famous bands as we know it may be no more, after the Strathclyde Police force made a decision to halt the traditional activities of the Grade 1 Strathclyde Police Pipe Band.
According to sources who spoke to pipes|drums on condition of anonymity, the decision was made by the Chief Constable with little advance warning to band members, which previously operated as the Pipe Band Division of the force. The source said that the future of the working police officers within the band is uncertain, and they will each learn on February 18th what their assignments, if any, might be.
“The band is as of now an Operational Police Unit,” the source said, meaning that the working members of the band will take on strictly police work, assigned to shifts.
The Chief Constable is Stephen House, who took the post in 2007 after many years working in England, was “never a fan of the band.” The new Divisional Commander, Anne McGuire, is also not a supporter of the band, according to the source. The well known piper and judge John Wilson was the band’s Divisional Commander for many years until he retired in the early 2000s.
McGuire had been increasingly strict with the band, stating that all requests for public performances would have to be approved by her, according to another source close to the band. She had allegedly rejected nine requests for the band to perform or compete so far in 2009. Of the engagements McGuire had approved, several were only for a quartet of pipers, when the full band had traditionally played.
McGuire had reportedly had next to no face-to-face communication with any members of the band, leaving the group confused as to its status. She allegedly once asked, “Well, once you have learned your songs, why do you need to practice?”
In a message to pipes|drums, Strathclyde Police Chief Inspector Iain Murray said, “The band is not being disbanded and will continue to meet its engagements this year.”
Murray did not indicate whether “engagements” includes the full slate of pipe band competitions that the band has traditionally entered.
Murray went on to say that pipes|drums is “not permitted to use the Force logo without express permission and and it should be removed from your site.” Although the logo had been provided several years ago and has been used with numerous good-news stories about the band and its success, pipes|drums honoured the request and removed it.
The Strathclyde / Glasgow Police Pipe Band has won a total of 14 World Pipe Band Championships in its history, which dates to 1883. The band is the oldest continually running civilian pipe band in the world.
The band has continued its legendary success since its greatest Pipe-Major, Iain MacLellan, retired in 1993, rising to take multiple championships under James Wark and later Donald Mackay. Mackay resigned in the middle of the 2008 season, Don Bradford taking over the top-spot. Bradford successfully maintained the standard of the band for the remainder of the year.
In addition to MacLellan, Wilson, Bradford and Mackay, the list of current and former members of the band is a virtual who’s who of pipe band and solo piping personalities, including Angus J. MacLellan, Ronald Lawrie, John MacDonald, Angus Lawrie, Eric Ward, Alex Connell, Harry MacAleer, Willie Grey, and many more.
Stay tuned to pipes|drums for more on this story as information becomes available.


  1. Interesting article in the Motherwell Times. I also have to deal with mid and upper level administrators that continualy come and go…..they have NO institutional memory and NO true gut level connection with the organization or the people they serve. Because of that, we are forced to continualy relive past failures and to reinvent the wheel over and over again. One has to ask, what is unique and special about the Strathclyde Police Department over and above any other in the UK? Well, one thing I can tell you right now is their Pipe Band. If one is looking at Quality Indicators” and “Benchmarking” of the organization……I would think the Pipe Band has to be one of the highest achievers. What’s really sad is that the “bottom line” on the balance sheet won’t look any better in 5 years if the Pipe Band goes or stays. But if it goes

  2. It is sad, that there are more than a handful of people that seem to not care about tradition and or the history of things. Talk like So they change the name or something

  3. Wow! A truly sad day for the piping world. Hopefully the band members will form another band either using the old name in association with the Polis, but receiving funding in another way, similar to the way some other police pipe bands do. Best wishes to everyone caught up in the present situation.

  4. although too young to have been there to witness firsthand the polis in their prime, through the recordings and stories of others its not hard to understand why this band is held in as high reverance as it is, and for such a successful and iconic history & tradition to come to an end is very sad indeed. even with as much success as it had been enjoying these past few years, the band looked like it was ready to step up another gear with don at the helm and enter into an even greater era, and i would sincerely hope these guys hold together and find a way to continue as a group.

  5. More information below. This paints a slightly different picture to the article posted on here, it really is a jaw dropping moment in Pipe Bands, shows how far the financial crisis is hitting everybody, article says it’s not a financial decision but come on … it’s government cash, all business are trying to save money and this is a prime target to not only save thousands but also gain in personnel which in turn will provide a better service, I’m assuming that is the Police high heed yins train of thought.

  6. This is indeed sad news. Even the Victoria Police didn’t go that far. At least they still have a small high standard band albeit non-competitive, who perform as a PR and ceremonial group for the Victoria Police, Australia. Unbelievable !!!

  7. A poor reflection on an institute that doesn’t appreciate how much that band has done for their PR over the years. The effect on the whole piping community will be felt.

  8. Times are changing. Police departments don’t need Bands doing PR any more when there is financial pressure to reduce taxes as the puplic doesn’t want to see funds being diverted to anything other than police work. Also Cultures are changing and i know of Police bands in Ontario that used to play at every graduating Ceremony and now they are no longer invited because its no longer representative of the cultural makeup of the force. Pipe bands are a huge part of tradition in Police forces but now unfortunately it’s the beginning of the end.

  9. To whom do we write to express our grievances? I really want to send a letter to these people. It’s a shame to see this happen to such an iconic band. I feel sorry for all the members of Strathclyde Police who have been putting in such hard work in the off-season only to find that plug may be pulled from underneath them. As a young piper I was first inspired by The Polis when I bought my very first piping recording of any type in June 1991; I had just started out on pipes in April of that year It was The World Pipe Band Championships 1990. No one told me that it was a must have and I had not listened to any other piping recordings of significance. It was The Polis’ playing of The Rant” that year really jump-started me to take my playing more seriously. I really hope that this band will be provided the funding to continue to be around in it’s current incarnation to inspire future pipers and drummers.”

  10. Being a member of a Police Pipe Band that was stopped from competing by the hierarchy of its Police Force. I know how devastated Don & the Band must feel. Here’s hoping they bean counters come to their senses and realise that the PR a Band of this quality can bring them is not measured in Pounds alone.

  11. hmmm….shades of Vic Police perhaps…? I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and let the dust settle. There is a new person in the top job, obviously not at all in touch with pipe bands, and certainly not with the tradition, reputation and history that this world-famous band has. What sort of profile would the police force have if not for this band? Arguably the most famous pipe band in the world. This new person wants to be seen to do something, to affect some change. Well, she’s going to do that for sure if this goes according to plan. But…..if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t mind waging that she gets a tap on the shoulder and told to pull her head in from someone higher up the food chain and pro-band. Everybody is right to be up-in-arms over this but it is early days. This is very sudden because I was in contact with a band member just 2 days ago and there was no mention of it at all.

  12. It’s a shame that Don get a position with a band that is heading nowhere but up, and it be swiped away. My feeling is that some one if not some people will comethrough, the name will be maintained and the Polis will be as good as ever. I can’t see wee Eric playing under someone. As for the financial changes through the world…… there is still no louder no prouder bit of PR than a pipe band, and usually at quite a steal compared to other avenues of advertising.

  13. Make no mistake. This is a serious move to eliminate the band by people who have no understanding of the background of the public love of the polis band. The culture of Scotland is being undermined by this decision which is not based on knowledge as no reports or meetings or consultations have been sought. This is not cost based. The band members have done and are still doing very serious police work the great majority of its working time with one or two half shifts spent on practice a week and the rest on police work save for engagements which over the year form a small percentage of working time and provide great return in the form of positive feedback for the police image. This is pure blind prejudice. I would beseech all of you out there to attempt to save this institution by writing in the strongest terms to the Chief Constable and MPs and Local government and the Govt of Scotland at Edinburgh. These people will pass in the night but what has been destroyed cannot be rebuilt. Had this not happened I would have predicted a wonderful enhancement of the Competition season by Strathclyde Police Pipe Band who under DonBradford have put in a very hard and focused winter’s practice with 2 concerts at Frankfurt and Celtic Connections to set them up as very serious contenders for honours this year. Get writing NOW before it’s too late Allan Hamilton

  14. Gutted to hear this, have always been a fan of the polis and have enjoyed competing against them. Hopefully this can be resolved before we lose a truly iconic band. Maybe an online petition would help – much more likely to get people to put their name to that than an individual letter. Would also be pretty hard to ignore that many signatures and may make the powers that be wake up and realise the significance of this band. All the best guys

  15. To those responsible for this decision, One of the world’s most famous, if not THE most famous, pipe bands may be no more as it has come to be known around the world. The pipe band has been an inspiration to me (from Australia) for the past 30 years. Had the band not existed, I’d have never known of the Strathclyde Police Force and it’s links to the former Glasgow Police Force. This would be the case in tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of similar accounts around the world. In a Scottish context, there can be no more apt and effective PR vehicle than a world-class, world famous pipe band that puts your Force fairly and squarely on the map. This highly questionable decision – to reassign band members, albeit on an ‘operational’ (budgetary basis) to the beat etc., will see a wave of complaints and negativity towards the Force on a global scale. This is testimony to the legion of admirers and followers the band has accrued over decades of success at the absolute pinnacle of their field and over a century of history, dedication to their craft, community respect and a high profile. To simply wrap things up, as it were, and put the critical mass of this magnificent band ‘on the beat’ is going to result in a PR meltdown, in my opinion. It is obvious that the global standing of this band has been severely under-estimated, if not fully disregarded, and is not even close to being appreciated by those making this decision. I implore those involved in such decisions to consider the long-term and strategic consequences of such a short-sighted decision. New management may have its own views, but the Police Force is there to serve the community on a number of fronts. While a pipe band might not be your cup of tea, it is the epitome of excellence, dedication and all things Scottish to countless people both in Scotland and around the globe. A flagship. The ridiculous scenario that will result is that your Force will eventually not have a pipe band of any note, as opposed to the countless number of Police Forces around the world……and you’re in Glasgow – the heartland of piping! I urge those responsible to reconsider, please.

  16. As a member of one of Strathclyde’s competitors, I’m appalled by this. We were and are looking forward to going toe-to-toe with them this coming season. Financial reasons? That doesn’t wash, not one bit. The band will easily cover their costs from performance fees, and as for the officer’s salaries, the PR impact is far higher then the proportion of time they spend on it. As far as protest goes, you can write to the Chief Constable and Anne McGuire at the forces HQ address, which will be on their website (I see Sean has given it above). In terms of heirarchy, the Chief Constable is the CEO of the organisation. He is the one who runs it and calls the shots. He is answerable only to the Police Board, which is made up of local councillors from the Forces area. Their names can be found here (you will find contact details on local council websites): As well as contacting these, get in touch with the media. A succession of journalists demanding information is a force multiplier above and beyond individual voices of protest. If you’re in the force area, also get in touch with your local MP and MSP. They have a fair bit of clout with the police and the police board.

  17. In 2004 I watched the Grade One contest at the front of the fence and stood beside the Strathclyde Police Chief’s driver. We had a really nice chat about piping and how the Chief loved the band and made it a point to come watch the band compete at the Worlds every year. I remember feeling quite impressed at that level of support from the top. I am very sad to see this end.

  18. For varying reasons (too many to go into) I’m very firmly of the opinion that there’s no way that financial pressuers have forced this. This is a move Ann McGuire to abolish something because she simply doesn’t like or understand it. I’ve seen it ‘almost’ happen in other force bands, only to be saved by a change of the Chief Constable or the officer in charge of the band. The reason has been the same every time – for whatever small-minded, ignorant reason, they have a dislike/hate for pipe bands and don’t want to see time, effort or cost put into a band. If the woman is so out of touch with the global presence and adoration of this band and the massive PR it provides for the force, then I suggest she’s pretty damned out of touch with the community in general and her position within the force should be reconsidered. I’m utterly disgusted by her actions and sheer ignorance and equally, those of Stephen House.

  19. For varying reasons (too many to go into) I’m very firmly of the opinion that there’s no way that financial pressuers have forced this. This is a move Ann McGuire to abolish something because she simply doesn’t like or understand it. I’ve seen it ‘almost’ happen in other force bands, only to be saved by a change of the Chief Constable or the officer in charge of the band. The reason has been the same every time – for whatever small-minded, ignorant reason, they have a dislike/hate for pipe bands and don’t want to see time, effort or cost put into a band. If the woman is so out of touch with the global presence and adoration of this band and the massive PR it provides for the force, then I suggest she’s pretty damned out of touch with the community in general and her position within the force should be reconsidered. I’m utterly disgusted by her actions and sheer ignorance and equally, those of Stephen House.

  20. it must be a joke? first the balls up with the rspba/judges,now this.grade 1 needs the strathclyde police.the band will be sadly missed.there is only 1 way the rspba and the worlds is going and thats down hill.

  21. Not good news at all. I am wondering why people are so surprised. Glasgow needs all the police on the street that it can get. The people of the city don’t care about the band. They care about crime and safety. People want their tax money going to police work not a pipeband. Sorry but that is the truth. Trdaitions can come and go. Theres no reason why the members of the band cannot stay together and compete as the same band. Goodness knows Bradford knows how to make a successful band!! We will get over this news as well and move on.

  22. Calum… do the band make money for the force? They make great music, but what money? When was last time they caught a criminal at a band practice during working hours??!! I love this band but reality is reality and we can either accept it or live in a dream. Sorry!

  23. The Royal Ulster Constabulary had an excellent ‘full time’ regimental style band and for many years a top class Grade 1 Pipe Band. I think the ‘PSNI pipe band ‘ may exist in some form or other but the regimental band was axed when the PSNI came into existence. You only have to look at what has happened within the British Army – financial cuts, all the ‘regimental’ type trimmings gone. The modern Chief Constable’s and their senior officers unlike the late Jack Hermon of the RUC dont care about bands especially if it costs money – some maybe a lot dont know anything about them and couldnt care less. ‘once you’ve learnt your songs why do you need to practice’ about says it all. Maybe the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band was a rarity in that it got substantial funding to operate but it looks like if its going to continue to exist its going to do so as a ‘recreation group’ within the force. When there are budgets to be cut and jobs to be saved then it will be the luxuries that will be the first to go. Lets hope that the current membership of the Strathclyde Police Force will provide the funding – my late father who was in the RUC reserve was proud that he paid something towards the starting and running of the RUC Pipe Band. Are there any other Police bands in Scotland or elsewhere likely to get the same treatment

  24. Shocking news, absolutely unbelievable. Considering the amount of money that is spent on beaurocrats etc in the police, the pipe band should be one of the last things to be cut. I can’t imagine it costing Glasweigan’s more than a couple of pennies each per year to run. Calum – do you think this band does Celtic connections, rugby internationals etc for free? I agree with those saying this is simply an ignorant new chief on a mission to prove some sort of point.

  25. Is this some sort of sick joke!!! Strathclyde Police Pipe Band is the best PR tool the force has ever had. The junior solo piping competition on saturday is only one example of that. 126 years of class and pride effectively destroyed by small minded people who will disappear overnight. SHAME ON YOU !!!

  26. All the best to all involved and I hope that something gets done that stops this great band from simply ceasing to exist. From spending some time recently employed in a police pipe band who were threatened with the possibility of having the plug pulled, it’s nervous times for everyone, and not at all pleasant. Hopefully with a bit of a push from the global pipe band community we will be able to help this great band to continue.

  27. OK, bad news, no arguement here. But doesn’t this just make them like most other bands in the world? So they change the name or something, practice at a new site, I’m sure they won’t have a lot of trouble finding new sponsors… I mean come on, how many bands do you know of where your full time employer gives you full sponsorship, practice time etc… Sorry it’s bad news for them, but welcome to the real world fellas. How bad do they want to remain a world class pipe band? The police can’t stop them from practicing on their own time…

  28. Excellent comments and observations there Doc. I have sent an E-Mail in support of the band and also expressing my thoughts on the matter to the band website…..seemed like the right thing to do……I’ll also be writing to Glasgow city council and the local MPs to express my thoughts…..again it just seems like a good course of action to take, however small it is on my part. Regards Daz

  29. It’s always been a struggle in that band. The highly acclaimed and successful MacLellan era saw a limit of 10 pipers, with a couple having to be brought in as padding from other divisions, and often without the time to practice. The ideal pipe band model has never existed, nor has it been gifted to the members of this band. Many current members are required to perform full-time police duties. Some on here wish to make this seem like these guys are living the rock star lifestyle, and only now are they getting a taste of the ‘real world’. Give me a break! We all live in the real world. What an arrogant and ignorant statement to make by those who seem to be trying to play devil’s advocates. These guys are not making a fortune, I can assure you, and in many cases are sacrificing more financially rewarding careers elsewhere to be as close to a full-time musician as possible. Civilian bands often have it so much better because they report only to their constitution and management, which usually consists playing members (or a high percentage). Some of the comments on here are just idiotic and vicious. This has very little to do with money and a lot to do with philosophical differences on what the priority of this band should be. The band has always struggled to keep its standing, even when there were senior people in their corner. It appears that two people stand in the way of all this. I encourage anyone who wants to have a voice to write to the various people who have been identified and can deliver the message. And to those who want to try and sprout the ‘real world’ and ‘economic rationalism’ message, get back to us all when you lose your jobs or have them severely altered. We can then ‘welcome to the real world’ to you guys.

  30. This would be a very very sad day in the pipe band world. I hope they revisit this and understand the impact this has on the pipe band world. I wish all my friends in the band the best of luck with this. THIS CAN’T HAPPEN! Cheers, C & K Barr



Forgotten Password?