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.