October 23, 2015

Shotts-Kilpatrick story continues: band offers an apology

In October 2014, Blair spoke to Jim to enquire about how much longer he may continue to play before retiring, as this answer would affect the decision making in other aspects of his life, and thus hoped for an answer that would allow him to plan one way or the other. I knew that Blair was in a challenging time in his personal life, so actually encouraged him as a friend to speak with Jim and get an answer that would allow him to plan for his own future. At that stage, unbeknownst to me, Jim told Blair of his intention to retire on the Sunday after the World’s in 2015. This information never reached me until a meeting held with Jim, Blair and I on the week prior to the World Championships this year, when Jim admitted that this was his thought originally, but that he had changed his mind and wanted to do one more year. This was also when the first mention of a transition year was suggested to me. It was suggested by Jim himself. Part of how he saw that working was that Blair would need to be living in Scotland during the winter – rather than in Portland, Oregon, as he did at the time. Jim also stated that he’d tell the other drummers of the plan when he felt it was the right time and also that when he does finally step back, that he would ask all the players as a favour to him for all the years they had spent together, to stay and play under Blair for at least one season. He was also keen to remain in the background following this to assist with drums/sticks, etc. Other finer details were not discussed but at the end of the meeting, spirits were good and we were all seemingly happy to move on. This conversation was a difficult one anyway, but made more awkward when a group of members of The PipeBand Club (from Australia) sat at the table directly behind ours, meaning that a lot of the conversation was had in hushed voices which varied directly in line with the volume of the music playing in the background.

During the initial part of our conversation (the main reason for meeting in the first place) was to discuss a personnel issue that was occurring in the bass section. I had brought this issue to Jim’s notice in the days prior; Jim had investigated and during the meeting we were completely on the same page as to the best way to react – especially given the sensitive timing, being less than a week from the World’s. The difficult part of this conversation was that Jim had heard rumours that Blair and I were planning to oust him. This was most certainly not the case and being totally honest, tears were shed by Blair and Jim both. However after this difficult meeting, we were all settled and secure again and the meeting ended with hugs being exchanged. Not something that Irish or Scottish men are normally comfortable with it has to be said – but that was the nature of the end of the meeting.

Following the celebrations on Glasgow Green on the 15th of August, the band went on a break as is the norm. Jim and his wife Fiona, along with my wife Megan and I had tried to organise meeting for lunch and drinks together a number of days later, but sadly this was cancelled due to Megan being ill. In the days following our cancelled lunch date, Megan and I flew to the US to go to a friend’s wedding, visit family and also go to the Pleasanton games in California. Having only recently returned home, I received an email from Jim stating that he had arranged to bring two new tenor drummers into the corps and also that he had investigated the earlier mentioned personnel issue and had come to the conclusion that his initial assessment was wrong and that the issue was almost completely the other way around than had originally been thought. His message stated that he was going to make changes to the corps to improve the harmony amongst the players – something I personally understood to mean that he was going to remove two current players to make way for the two new members coming in. Regardless of the new members of who I knew nothing about nor had any time to form an opinion on, from my point of view I disagreed with Jim’s new assessment of the situation so having taken a night to think on it, emailed Jim to express my concern. This was a private email between Pipe-Major and Leading-Drummer and similar to hundreds if not thousands that happen between the leadership of bands worldwide every year. In this, I shared my thoughts on the personnel situation – good and bad – but ultimately I simply asked that he hold off making any decision until we were both able to meet in person and discuss. In this email I did say that if he removed these two players (who I saw as long term band assets), I would likely reverse that decision – the key words prior to this being, “when the day comes that you do retire . . .” I also mentioned that we should continue our discussions on how the aforementioned transition year may work. I included other worries I had in terms of how his conclusion on the personnel issue was reached and the precedent being set should we remove two players from the band because they were the ones that spoke up to say they were unhappy. This it seems is when everything started to go wrong. Jim’s reply was relatively short, the response was what I would describe as frosty, although nothing particularly alarming was said. However, I immediately felt a huge sense of dread for what was to come.


  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.



Forgotten Password?