August 31, 2010

Update 3: Mathieson resigns as Shotts PM; Gavin Walker new leader

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.


  1. I think he realised that they just cant compete at the minute and that the status quo just isnt working. Takes a big man to stand down like this. Some may say it is a stunt and he was always going this winter, but this statement is designed to get them a top six place on the 14th….after all, dress it up as you will, the judges wont want to see one of the top p/m’s go out on a low… ….I dont think its as sinister as that, but it will motivate the band to give the performance of their lives. I think the band can go back to the top, but its not just Rab that needs to look at their position. The whole pipe corps needs a shake up, and I think they seriously need to look at pipe set-up. Well done Rab, 23 years successful leadership and a shed load of titles…lets see if the young’uns can match that… Good luck

  2. Rab had a formidable record as PM by anyone’s standards with around 30 championship wins. I’m sure he’ll enjoy his retirement. Good luck to Gavin and the rest of the band for the remainder of the season Stuart Shedden

  3. Stark lack of comments? Perhaps because there’s no controversy. Rab decided it was time to go, a worthy replacement was waiting in the wings, everyone is happy. All you can say is good luck to Rab and the band.

  4. Wow! Complete congratulations to Mr. Mathieson for his time searved as PM of one of the first bands that inspired me when I was younger. Hope he enjoys his reitrement, and hopefully this means that there will be a new judge to help out with all of the ideas he has helped put into place as far as music and performance goes.

  5. …but why do it 9 days before the worlds? thats why when there was no comments it got me thinking, and perhaps others thinking too. why now? why not at (or after) cowal…its a medley competition this year… timing is everything as they say…..

  6. Just went shopping for a few hours, and when I came back Mathieson has resigned what the h… happend????? Having said that, Rab has always been on the forefront of doing things and this time he’s done it again. What a brilliant way to stand down as PM. Just shows his format.

  7. why right before the Worlds? Maybe his band mates want to send him off in grand style, literaly, ALL his friends can be there. So yes, timing is everything, and besides he said he actually still hopes to play with the band, so we might still have to wait for the judging.

  8. The bottom line is the people who count in this I.E. the band members and committee of the Shotts band are 100% supportive of the decision and the outcome. As for the timing, it’s no problem.

  9. WOW! What an exit! Now I have real excuse to stay up and watch the Worlds on my computer. Good luck Rob. You’ve been a great influence on our band’s direction and philosophy here in Alaska. What a legacy!

  10. well ultimately as scott says, if the band is 100% behind the decision and announcement, then the rest of the world can get set for a treat of a performance. I was in shock when I seen this….but it makes sense when you think about it. Go’wan Rab, one last hurrah! Just one question….it says he would like to play on with the band, is this gonna happen?

  11. Considering how challenging and tough the job of a successful Gr1 PM is, it’s amazing how long the good ones stay in the job. They are truely a select group of remarkable, talented people. Shotts turned outward in the circle last year, I wonder what they’ve got planned for his encore performance at the Worlds. I would guess something memorable! Cheers, Doc

  12. A real surprise. Mathieson is a great PM who has contributed not only to the success of his band, but to moving the art form forward on so many levels. Continued success to him, and to Shotts under their new leadership.



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