The brand new Highland Granite Pipes & Drums have been put straight into Grade 2 by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association. The band was formed following the departure of then Grade 1 Buchan Peterson’s Pipe-Major Scott Oliphant and Lead-Drummer Scott Niven in late August 2018. A number of members of Buchan Peterson also joined the new band. Buchan Peterson was subsequently relegated to Grade 2.
Highland Granite has already received a £6,000 sponsorship from Fraser Fire & Security and The Skinner Trust, helping them to find their legs with a new set of Ceòl chanters and brand new kilts in their own Highland Granite Blue tartan from McCallum Bagpipes. The group is planning to make their competition debut at the RSPBA North of Scotland Branch competition in Banchory in May 2019.
Named for the stone that is synonymous with Aberdeenshire, Highland Granite’s leadership team is rounded out with co-pipe-sergeants James Houston-MacMillan and Scott Rhynas, and Lead Tenor Marteen Nicoll.
When asked about Highland Granite receiving Grade 2 status by the RSPBA before being heard as a full band, spokesperson Margaret Rhynas said, “This is obviously an RSPBA decision, but clearly, given the amount of pipers and drummers that moved from the Buchan Peterson band and the regrading of Buchan Peterson at the end of the season, it wasn’t a surprise that [we] secured Grade 2 status.”
With Highland Granite and Buchan Peterson joining established Aberdeen-based Bucksburn & District and the Grampian Police in Grade 2, and the RSPBA recently elevating Portlethen & District from Grade 3A, the area will try to support five groups aspiring for competition success at the penultimate level.
Buchan Peterson resolved its leadership crisis with the addition of Peter Morrice as pipe-major and Lead-Drummer Muir Gregor, both of whom joined after holding the same roles with the Grade 3A 2622 (Highland) Squadron R.A.F. Pipe Band. According to sources, several pipers and the “majority” of the drummers from the 2622 (Highland) Squadron reportedly have moved over to Buchan Peterson, allowing the latter band to remain strong.
“In relation to the situation in the northeast, it’s difficult to comment on other bands, but [Highland Granite has] healthy numbers, both from the local area and from the Highlands and the Central Belt,” Rhynas added. “This is obviously not uncommon in modern bands these days and seems to be working for us.”
Grampian Police Pipe-Major Pamela Whyte said that rumours of a proposed a merger between Grade 3A Deeside Caledonia and her band are not true, but confirmed that “there has been significant departures from the band.” Similarly, Robert Grant, pipe-major of Deeside Caledonia, vehemently stressed, “There are no truths whatsoever in these supposed rumours.”
“There is no way in hell that this area can sustain this for a long period,” said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Like for all bands in the north east, there are a lack of drummers, so there is no way five bands can survive long-term.”
Among other strong results, the Grampian Police achieved a second at the Scottish, but did not qualify for the World’s Final. The band was founded in 1907, making it one of the oldest non-military bands in the world.
The Bucksburn & District organization was founded in 1947, supporting a Novice Juvenile band in addition to the Grade 2 group. Bucksburn has implemented a successful teaching program that has played a big part in the organization’s continuity. The Grade 2 band finished sixth in the RSPBA aggregate Champion of Champions table, just behind the Grampian Police, its strongest showing being a second at the European, but slipped to twelfth in the Grade 2 Final at the World’s.