October 23, 2015

Shotts-Kilpatrick story continues: band offers an apology

Before you start reading, I apologise for the length of this message. It certainly is not a work of classic literature or even a carefully worded statement. It is simply my thoughts as I sit here at 3am trying to come to terms with what has happened and the world I see around me right now.

When I assumed the role of Pipe-Major in August 2012, Jim Kilpatrick made me all the guarantees a new P-M could wish to hear, insisting that I will have full control over all aspects of the band, that he will play what I want, how I want, and when I want it. He also stated that he would continue as leading-drummer for as long as I wanted but that if I ever wanted to “bring in my own people” he would willingly step aside. Everything was exactly what I wanted to hear and although I knew that Jim’s playing days would in all probability come to an end prior to mine given our age difference, I had no thought as to when that may be. My job at that stage was simple – to get the band back on the right track again. This was a huge challenge given that the band wasn’t able to compete at the World Championships in 2012 primarily due to not having a Pipe-Major and that most of the piping personnel had already departed. Since that time, huge amounts of hard work went in by the entire band and the result as everyone will know, led us to the World title in 2015.

In the past two seasons, whilst working hard towards a common goal I will admit that I started to think what the next step for the band would be, given that it appeared Jim was approaching the end of his competitive life. I am close friends with a number of top drummers and admittedly spent time thinking to myself as to who the best successor for Jim may be. I considered many people in my mind and even if I knew some names where highly unlikely, I owed it to the band and our members to consider every option. For me, when I weighed up all the variables including age, experience, track record both in bands and in solos, teaching experience and just as importantly, management style and ease of communication with myself, my decision was that Blair Brown is who I wanted to work with next, whenever Jim’s time was done. Of course I was aware that when appointing any person to any major role, there is no guarantee of success. Just as there was no guarantee of success when Jim asked me to become P-M of Shotts during a phone call in 2012.


  1. It seems that being a Pipe Major or Lead Drummer is no different to any other leadership role. You apparently need to act with diplomacy, tact, and respect, while being containing, boundaried and secure in your own skin, but also have clear communication channels, properly conducted ‘business’ meetings and take seriously the role of looking after the welfare of band members who invest a huge amount of ‘professional/musical’ and personal selves, in a band. All this, as well as attend to the music !! No mean feat for anyone taking on either the piping or the drumming role. It seems that a degree of ‘confidentialty’ or at least ‘care’ is required around ‘tittle tattle’ or talking about a band outwith said band. As evidenced here, word of this or that happening can spread across the world like wildfire, igniting all kinds of things in its wake. Strange though, in all of it, what an individual can find themselves dwelling on. I’m wondering for example what the Canadians are thinking about ‘their’ guy Blair Brown, and what the people of Shotts are feeling for their guy Jim Kilpatrick. It seems something has been spoiled, but like all ‘falls’ in life (bands or people I guess) some good learning usually ensues. Though Archibald the Grim seems to have made a return visit to the area of late, surely all concerned will soon take up the old slogan “Shotts lights the world”, just as the gas lamp standards made there, were exported throughout the British Empire and beyond in past times.

  2. The “Shotts” articles have reminded me why I left my first band and probably will never return to one again. A few years ago, the night before the Worlds, I asked the ‘leader’ what the departure time from the hotel, for Glasgow Green, the following morning. As usual I was there 15 mins before, booted & spurred ready to go, only to find the transport had gone. Imagine how physically sick I felt on arrival at GG, to find the band had been there practicing for over an hour. The negative actions of a nasty piece of work.

    I met PM Ryan Canning twice over the last few years. Short ‘chats’ that Ryan probably may not even remember. But my gut feeling throughout these short meetings were, what a thoroughly nice guy and utter professional he is. I have never met the previous LD JK, therefore have no opinion. But reading both extremely sad articles, 3 thoughts came to mind:
    1. Shotts needed a new approach to get away from the old regime. Anyone disagree??
    2. How many times in recent years have stories circulated that bands were having issues, a drummer would leave, the rest would follow, the band has no drum corps?
    3. Could someone remind me why Shotts could not participate in the latter part of a recent season and/or why ‘Mathieson’s’ replacement Pipe Major resigned his position?

    To be sending hate mail in these circumstances, only underlines to me why, the pipe band world does in fact have a self destruct button.



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