Robert Mathieson of the House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band has announced his resignation as Pipe-Major and Gavin Walker, a former member of the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band, will take over the storied position before the Cowal Championships on August 28th. Walker was formally appointed to the pipe-major position at a band meeting on August 5th by unanimous vote. According to sources, the meeting was “emotional.”
In a statement to band members before the meeting, Mathieson wrote: “It is my intention to stand down as pipe-major of the band. This is entirely my own decision. I feel after accepting the post in 1987 the time has come for someone younger with a fresh approach to take the reins. Hopefully my successor will come from within the ranks of the current band with the full support of the members. This has been a very difficult decision to make in terms of timing. I feel the current team in place are in a position to continue running the band without causing any disruption in moving forward.”
He went on to say that he would like to continue as a player within the band, or even in a minor management role, but that he would take “a back seat and distance myself during the start of the winter schedule to allow my successor total clearance to run the band in their own style.”
Under Mathieson as Pipe-Major, the band achieved World Championships, in addition to five Scottish, nine British, six European, five Cowal, and nine champion of champions.
Mathieson added that it has been a deliberate strategy to pave a path for the future. The development of a feeder system with North Lanarkshire Schools has already produced as many as nine new young members.
“Deciding when to leave the party can be a difficult one,” Mathieson said. “Especially if you have been having a good time. It has to be instinctive. It could be said that the pipe band world is full of people holding on too long both in playing and in judging. That’s because it’s a great environment to be in, most of the time. I was once told by a previous managing director that you should never sack a manager until you have got a replacement lined up.”
He said that he looks forward to competing at the World’s for the last time, and “leading jointly with Gavin Walker.”
Walker is only the seventh pipe-major of the 100 year-old Shotts & Dykehead, a remarkable statistic in days when changing leadership is increasingly common in the pipe band world. Walker is a serving officer in the Strathclyde Police force, and played with the police band for many years until departing after the 2009 season. He is also a top-class soloist, winning many awards on the Scottish games and gatherings circuit.
“It’s a real honour to be appointed as pipe-major to such a prestigeous pipe band as Shotts & Dykehead,” said Gavin Walker. “I’m really looking forward to the huge challenge that lies ahead, and am also really looking forward to working closely with Jim. We have a lot of talent in the band which I’m looking forward to working with.”
Mathieson will lead the band for the last time at the 2010 World Championship, and then give way to the new pipe-major. Mathieson cited the reason being his familiarity with the medley that the band will perform in the final competition.
The Shotts and drum section remains intact, with Lead-Drummer Jim Kilpatrick continuing in the role.
“The one thing that strikes home most for me is the way that Rab and the rest of the band conducted themselves at our short meeting last night,” Kilpatrick said. “You hear horror stories about people leaving bands and particularly when a pipe-major or drum corps walk out on a band. The opposite is a true reflection of how this news was presented to the band and how the new pipe-major was voted in. It was warm and everybody supported the decision from Rab and at the same time were delighted to welcome Gavin Walker in as the new Pipe-Major. I didn’t expect it any other way and it is testament to the respect and dedication shown by every single member towards Rab and Gavin.”
When asked to comment on the news, Ross Walker, Pipe-Major of Grade 1 rivals Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia, said, “I’d say that it’s a real watershed moment in pipe bands. Rab is one of the movement’s highest profile individuals and it must have been one of the most difficult decisions he has ever had to take to stand down. As pipe-major of Shotts, he always provoked healthy debate with his music and his words and generated reactions that were never ‘middle of the road.’ Quite simply, his achievements stand comparison with the best of them. I wish Gav all the best in his new role as P/M of one of the world’s greatest bands and look forward to hearing the ‘new Shotts’ in the future.”
“Robert Matheson will enter history as one of the truly great pipe-majors,” said Richard Parkes, pipe-major of Shotts rivals Field Marshal Montgomery. “His record of five World Championships and more than 30 major championship wins, reflects the fantastic level of success enjoyed since winning his first world title in 1994. Over the years our two bands have enjoyed a great, but friendly, rivalry. I personally have a tremendous amount of respect for what Robert has achieved not only as a pipe-major but also as a musician, teacher and innovator. Aside from his competitive successes, perhaps his greatest legacy will be his commitment to constantly push the boundaries of pipe band music and to extend its popularity to new audiences. Tremendous progress has been made in recent years in boosting the profile and accessibility of our art and Robert has undoubtedly been central to this. I am sure Robert will continue in these efforts in the years ahead and I wish him and the new pipe-major, Gavin Walker, all the best for the future.”
pipes|drums published an extensive, four-part interview with Robert Mathieson in 2008, available to subscribers.
The news of Mathieson’s resgination was provided exclusively to pipes|drums only minutes after the band’s meeting.