The elevation of Buchan Peterson to Grade 1 after finishing as high as second and as low as sixth at the five major RSPBA championships in 2016 might have surprised some, but the band is ready to represent the north of Scotland in the pipe band world’s top-tier for what they hope will be a very long time.
It might have seemed more logical for the association to upgrade Buchan after the 2013 season when it won Grade 2 at the World Championships and gained the Champion of Champions aggregate award. Since then the band has consistently finished in the top three in the annual aggregate Grade 2 tables, demonstrating a consistent level of commitment.
The Peterhead, Scotland-based Buchan Peterson becomes the first Grade 1 band from the Aberdeenshire area since 2013, after the Grampian Police Pipe Band ‘s relatively brief spell in the front rank, and potentially resumes a tradition in the north of Scotland.
The challenges of Grade 2 and Grade 1 bands to maintain large enough numbers to be competitive and, more importantly, sustain themselves has always been true in the Aberdeenshire area. Buchan Peterson, Johnstone and Police Service of Northern Ireland were each at the top of Grade 2 and were promoted to Grade 1, and each currently feature large numbers in each section.
Buchan Peterson learned of the upgrade while holding its annual end-of-season barbeque, when Pipe-Major Scott Oliphant announced the news to the band.
“I feel very blessed to be able to work with such a great bunch of guys,” Oliphant said, “in particular my leading-drummer Brian ‘Mooner’ Martin who has kept the drum corps right at the top throughout, and Peter Carter who runs the bass and tenor section. Without their input and ability none of this would have happened and it is down to their hard work that we have gained the promotion.”
Since 2013 Buchan has won as a band or a pipe section or drum section at no fewer than 15 major championships.
“We have had a very consistent run of results over the past four years and I’m sure that was taken into consideration with the upgrading decision,” Oliphant continued. “The north of Scotland is a tough place to try to run a competitive band, as we seem to lose so many of our rising stars to the Central Belt bands. The allure of playing in Grade 1 is sometimes too strong for a lot of guys and there is also the fact that so many of the young guys head down south for university.”
While sustaining numbers is a considerable challenge for top grade bands in order to remain competitive, Oliphant, who took over Buchan Peterson in 2011 after many years with the Grade 1 Vale Atholl, indicated that hard work and strong commitment are the best recipes for retaining and attracting members.
“As for the future of Buchan, it’s now down to hard graft during the winter period. In Grade 2 our aim was to go out and try to win every competition we entered. Now the emphasis is to go out, play our best and try to push our way up the grade.”
And, as is true of just about every pipe band in the world, Oliphant said that he encourages any potential new members “who are up for the challenge” to get in touch with the band.