RSPBA Northern Ireland branch at ‘crossroads’ with leadership election
The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s powerful Northern Ireland branch is reportedly set to see an election challenge for the leadership chair position with playing member Erinn McIlwaine going up against association veteran George Ussher at the branch’s online annual general meeting on Saturday, November 27th, at 11 am GMT.
The successful candidate will replace outgoing chair Ray Hall, who is leaving after nine years in the role.
Ussher is also nominated for positions in the branch’s Finance and Education committees. He is listed on the RSPBANI website as chair of the Marketing & Communication committee and a member of the Finance committee. He reportedly resigned from these posts in the spring on 2021. At publication time, this was not yet confirmed by the branch.
Ussher is also past-chair of the RSPBA’s parent organization after two years leading the organization’s National Council, which later was replaced by a board of directors structure comprising leaders of each branch.
McIlwaine is well known as the bass drummer of Grade 1 Closkelt, and has been a vocal advocate for change within the organization. Making use of current communications tools, McIlwaine announced his intention to run on Facebook, saying, “I have decided to stand for election as Chairperson of our branch and my band has kindly nominated me. The incumbent office bearer, Mr. Ray Hall has decided not to stand for re-election. After nine years in this important role as well as tackling the challenges of COVID-19, which has had and continues to have an impact on our branch activities, I wish to convey my sincerest thanks to him for his service and offer him my best wishes for the future.”
I view this election as an opportunity for reinvigoration as we continue with the challenges and changes to our pipe band association and as we get to grips with the new normal. – Erinn McIlwaine
Ussher’s candidacy was made known via the order papers for the branch’s AGM, showing that he was nominated by the Matt Boyd Memorial Pipe Band. McIlwaine was nominated by Closkelt.
“I view this election as an opportunity for reinvigoration as we continue with the challenges and changes to our pipe band association and as we get to grips with the new normal.
“If elected, I believe that with your support and involvement, I can be a positive and enthusiastic influence, one who is committed to openness, fairness, engagement, collaboration and accountability. I want to ensure that every member bands’ input and opinions are valued and heard both here at home and across in RSPBA headquarters. This is ‘our association’ and every single voice matters.”
RSPBANI was described as being at “at a bit of a crossroads in terms of what direction the members choose to take it” by one insider who spoke on condition of anonymity.
At the RSPBA’s annual general meeting, held online last March, McIlwaine debated against the organization’s directors being paid to attend championship competitions, as well debating against dormant bands having to pay previous years’ unpaid registration fees to revalidate their memberships. Both proposed new policies were defeated after a vote.
The RSPBANI branch does not permit proxy voting, branch member bands must attend the meeting in order to cast their votes in elections and proposed rule changes.
Ussher was not immediately available for comment. In 2015, he played a central role in failed proposed Spring Gatherin’ initiative in 2015, which was intended to be a series of creative pipe band competitions and workshops operating outside of RSPBA rules.
Ussher’s background as a piper or drummer is not known, and at publication time RSPBANI had not responded to a request for those details.
Ussher to step down as RSPBA chairman
January 31, 2003
Spring Gatherin’ nixes contests under alleged RSPBA pressure
March 19, 2015
Bands reject RSPBA motion to require payment of lapsed dues
March 13, 2021