September 21, 2019

RSPBA promotes St. Thomas Alumni, Closkelt to Grade 1

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association has promoted member band Closkelt of Northern Ireland to Grade 1, and determined that two non-member bands, St. Thomas Alumni and City of Dunedin, both US-based and members of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, will also have to compete in the UK in the top grade.

St. Thomas Alumni won Grade 2 at the 2019 World Championships, while Closkelt won the RSPBA’s 2019 Grade 2 Champion of Champions award for most aggregate points across the association’s five major championships.

City of Dunedin was promoted to Grade 1 by the EUSPBA after the 2018 season, following the band’s win of Grade 2 at the World’s. The band won the Grade 1 2019 North American Championship in August of this year, but did not travel to the UK to compete. City of Dunedin would have had to compete in Grade 2 this season, and it had appealed to the RSPBA to be officially anointed as a Grade 1 band in the UK.

The RSPBA had agreed several years ago not to regrade non-member bands, and instead respect the grade assessments of sister associations. No other pipe band association in the world regrades bands that are members of other associations, and instead honours gradings through mutual reciprocity.

“While I am disappointed in the RSPBA not upgrading the City of Dunedin Pipe Band last year when they won straight firsts in the [Grade 2] final, it feels right that they acknowledge the accomplishments of this last season,” said Jim Dillahey, president of the EUSPBA and a piper in City of Dunedin. “I am relieved that St. Thomas didn’t have to ‘go the extra mile’ after their win at the World’s. Seems right that both bands get their crack at the Grade 1 arena next summer. I am confident that our music board will upgrade St. Thomas to Grade 1 during our upgrade process in December.”

City of Dunedin is planning to compete in the 2020 World Championships.

Under Pipe-Major Jamie Gattinger, St. Thomas Alumni is affiliated with the St. Thomas Episcopal School pipe band program based in Houston. The band is made up of mostly former students of the school.

Closkelt, led by David Chesney, has had two substantially successful seasons in Grade 2, notable for winning fielding a precisely set pipe section as small as 12 or 13 against pipe sections often twice the size.

No Grade 1 bands were demoted, but St. Mary’s Derrytrasna of Northern Ireland and St. Josephs of Ireland were promoted to Grade 2 from Grade 3A. Wallacestone & District and Scottish Fire & Rescue, both of Scotland, were sent down to Grade 3A from Grade 2.

The RSPBA regraded several other non-member bands in lower grades, including groups from the USA and Australia.

Malaysia-based Sri Dasmesh was upgrade to Grade 4A after winning Grade 4B at the World’s.



Related articles

World Champions 2019: Inveraray & District
August 17, 2019


City of Dunedin promoted to Grade 1
December 1, 2018



  1. It seems utterly pointless to upgrade two bands who are clearly nowhere near good enough, just to prop up grade 1, in order to make the grade look bigger. Grade 1a and 1b cannot be far away.

    1. You don’t think winning both Georgetown and the North American Championships makes them qualified to be in grade 1? They beat a former champion and annual worlds qualifying band. I mean, sure, the top 3 or 4 bands are going to be the same every year for a while, but you need more than 4 grade 1 bands for contests.



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