Future of Dysart & Dundonald in doubt with early cancellation of 2014 season
Only 13 bands in history have been official World Pipe Band Champions, and the future of one of them, Dysart & Dundonald, is in jeopardy after announcing cancellation of its 2014 season.
The band suffered a double-whammy last fall after Pipe-Major Greig Canning resigned after the 2013 World’s, and then the RSPBA relegated the band to Grade 2 after a sustained run of 35 years in Grade 1, that included back-to-back World Championship wins in 1977 and 1978.
Since September the band had tried to attract new members under Andrew Downie, who had come in as pipe-major, but efforts were unsuccessful and “undermined by a well-publicized downgrading of the band to Grade 2,” according to a statement from the band.
“While [the downgrading was] not in itself entirely to blame, the uncertainty and lengthy appeal process made it more difficult to retain and attract players to the band.”
The RSPBA apparently rejected an application to be reinstated to Grade 1, resulting in more players departing, and “others reluctant to join.”
The Dysart & Dundonald organization openly informed remaining members that they are free to join other bands
Despite enduring unstable times over the last two decades, Dysart & Dundonald if it disbands will be remembered mostly for its glory days under Pipe-Major Bob Shepherd and Leading-Drummer James King. The band quickly rose to Grade 1 through an intensive teaching program by Shepherd at Ballingry School in Fife, with a relatively ragtag group of pipers and drummers taking on and beating established former-World Champions in the Strathclyde Police, Lothian & Borders Police, and Muirhead & Sons.
By the mid-1980s, Dysart and Dundonald became inconsistent and never came close to its late-1970s World Championship form. If the band dissolves, its last performance will have been on August 17, 2013, in the Grade 1 Qualifier at the World Pipe Band Championships.
Knowing the management of the band and the tireless efforts they have made to retain and recruit players since the end of the 2013 season, this outcome was exactly what they were striving to avoid. They certainly did not sit on their hands awaiting the inevitable. Poor, if not non-existent communication and consultation over the band’s status did not help. It’s always sad to learn of the demise of a band, particularly a world champion band. Hopefully this is not the end for Dysart and Dundonald and I wish everyone associated with the band the best.
It is probably a sign of the times also. I mean this respectfully: is that a surprise? Look at the coverage, attention, financial endorsements, etc. bestowed upon Gr 1 bands. Why would any player who has talent and wants to compete not play along with the game. When was the last time someone reminisced about that great medley from the 3A finals in 2003? Or went to see a well attended grade 2 concert? Or gave a financial endorsement to a grade 4B band? As long as our community puts such an emphasis on the top grade (for mostly legitimate reasons) there will be those who will shoot for the stars and that glory. I think its only a natural, if not intended, response. Yes, there are players who will “free-agent” themselves from band to band in hopes of a moment of glory and yes, loyalty to one band or another seems to be waning. But, again, we have to ask ourselves “why?”: what situation was created that makes such activity so attractive?
While [the downgrading was] not in itself entirely to blame, the uncertainty and lengthy appeal process made it more difficult to retain and attract players to the band. This statement is so disappointing for a number of reasons. It highlights a selfish attitude and is almost justifying the fence-sitting, as if it is understandable and acceptable behaviour. Surely the retention of players and influx of new talent would have assisted the appeal, or made any stint in Gr2 just a short one??? One can only assume that many saw the band¡¯s grading as the only thing that mattered. If that is the case, that is really sad and not admirable in any way. It is probably a sign of the times also. There was an opportunity to get in there and do the right thing and be part of a resurgence, making any downgrade almost immaterial because the standard would have trended the right way. Instead, they have probably all played a hand in ensuring this bands demise w
I am sure part of the issue for most bands in grade 1, is the trend to have 20 plus pipers, 10 plus sides, bass and 5 plus tenor drummers. Yes nothing is more powerful than bands as big and powerful as FMM, SFU, Boghal ETC. But it for sure is making it hard all around the world today to sustain bands of that size. The financial and time commitment needed to make these bands a long term success in grade 1 is 100 percent the biggest challenge, unfortunately the strong keep getting stronger. If the remaining members of the band can get back to the basics of being a pipe band and building and playing for the love of the art. It might just survive. Can’t live on the past but only look forward to tomorrow.