After two years, UK season finally returns with Banchory and Gourock
After two long years of no full in-person pipe competitions, and only a scant few around the world, the Scottish pipe band scene is set to return full throttle on Sunday, May 8th, with events in Banchory and Gourock.
The former features mainly contestants from the north of Scotland and only Grade 2 bands planning to compete in a “Grade 1” competition, but Gourock – the traditional kick-starter for the Scottish season boast a complement of four certified Grade 1 bands plus two Grade 2 groups playing up in the event.
Of extra note in Grade 1, the contest will feature the competition debut of Ewan Henderson as pipe-major of the former Glasgow Police, renamed Police Scotland & Federation and with a new tartan to replace the band’s iconic red Royal Stewart that it wore for more than a century. The police force created the tartan, which is dramatically different, to mark its centenary.
Also marking his first event as leader is David Wilton, pipe-major Grade 1 Police Scotland Fife. Wilton took over in July 2021 from Douglas Murray, who had been pipe-major of the band for seven years.
It seemed like a day that would never come. – Police Scotland Fife P-M David Wilton
“It seemed like a day that would never come,” Wilton said. “To get back on the grass after such a long time will mean so much to so many and provide a bit more normality to everyone’s lives, something we have all been desperate for. I can’t wait to hear all the bands and see old familiar faces again.”
Also in the grade are Johnstone and Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia, both bands that were just hitting their stride when the pandemic hit.
“It means everything to me and the band getting back out on the green,” Shotts Pipe-Major Emmett Conway said. “The band have been giving me their everything at practice and we’re excited for what the future holds. It will be good to see and hear other bands in the green again, and I wish them all the best of luck.”
The weather forecast for Gourock currently calls for sunshine and a high of 18 degrees, while Banchory is also expected to see a warm and sunny day, only a few degrees cooler.
Northern Ireland is set to open with a full band competition at Bangor on May 14th, where Closkelt will make their Grade 1 debut, and all three events are a warmup for the British Pipe Band Championships on May 21st in Greenock. Entry for the British is down overall, as anticipated, with only 10 bands in Grade 1 after both Glasgow Skye Association and Lomond & Clyde decided to sit out the season as they work to build up numbers and, in the case of Glasgow Skye, find leaders, and look to 2023. There are 15 bands entered in Grade 2.
The second RSPBA major, the UK Championships at Lurgan, Northern Ireland, features 10 in Grade 1 but 12 in Grade 2, with three Scottish bands not making the trip.
Stay tuned to pipes|drums for results as they become available.