October 23, 2015

Shotts-Kilpatrick story continues: band offers an apology

When Jim returned from his holiday, I contacted him to arrange to go for a coffee to discuss everything. Whilst the three-hour meeting was for the most part very friendly, Jim had reached the conclusion that there was a plot to put him out of the band. He told me of comments he’d heard from members of his drum corps that backed up his theory of this plot – that Glenn and Blair both had had chats with other members as to what they would do when Jim retired and if they’d stay to play under Blair. Both Blair and Glenn wholeheartedly deny that this was the nature of these conversations but as I was not there to witness, I can only take their word. What I do know though is that no “coup d’etat” or anything of the sort was planned or even considered. Whilst yes I certainly was thinking of what the next step would be, and wished for the person I’d hopefully spend 10/15/20 years working with to be Blair, I was not going to force Jim out before his time. Whilst I am completely open in saying I felt a change was going to be needed sooner than originally expected, I was never going to force Jim out before he was ready – especially given that he himself had indicated he wanted just one more year. I ask anyone who doubts this to ask why I would go to such an extreme for the sake of one year? At this stage Jim was firm in what he said, and that the transition year as I had understood it was not accurate. I explained that my view of how it would work would include Blair working on concert scores that would be needed in 2017 (since Jim would have retired by that point) and hoped that Jim would give feedback on these scores to Blair in order to help him refine what he does and thus better prepare him for the position. In terms of control over personnel, I only asked that he and Blair have an open line of communication. My reasoning being that if Jim has one more year but wants to create the best environment for a hand over, it makes sense that they discuss this so that Blair has the people he wishes to have, come the time Jim retires. Whilst this is what I encouraged, at no point did I say that Blair would have any such power to overrule any of Jim’s decisions. This meeting ended amicably but with our differences becoming clearer, and I promised to call Jim again in a few days.

The following day, Jim met with band manager Ewan McAllister to discuss further. I was not present so cannot comment in detail on the meeting. Later that evening, Ewan came to my home and told me bits and pieces about their conversation. Sadly the overall impression was that no solution to the impasse was in sight and that Jim had informed him that he felt he had to leave the band.

One day later, whilst out for a drive and trying to take my mind off things, I got word that rumours of Jim’s departure had arrived in Canada. It’s important to point out that no such decision had been reached at this stage – although I knew what Jim’s thoughts were and what I could see occurring. This hastened my decision to speak to Jim again sooner rather than later to decide one way or another, what the conclusion would be. I contacted both Jim and Ewan and arranged for us to meet together on Sunday 11th October at the Newhouse Hotel outside Glasgow.

At this meeting, Jim and myself discussed back and forth all the same kind of details we had went over previously, but it was clear that no solution could be reached, resulting in Jim saying he felt no option but to leave. At this stage I asked Ewan to interject to discuss how we move forward from here. Ewan suggested the idea of a joint news release, something which Jim rejected immediately. He stated that he was going to do his own release after the World Solos but we were free to do what we wanted. As Jim has mentioned in his recent statement, he wanted to hold back on releasing the news publicly until after the World Solos to protect his players from distraction or interference on the day. I disagreed, stating that I felt it was better to get the news out now as it was clear the rumour mill was already in full flow. Again, sadly, no agreement could be reached on this. The meeting ended with Jim stating that he was out, no agreement reached on the news release, and no ability to reverse or repair the situation available. In my opinion the emotions of that meeting could be described as a mix of frustration and anger, sometimes heated, but also huge amounts of disappointment and ultimately sadness. As the three of us exited the hotel, Jim and I shook hands and ended up hugging again. Ewan and Jim hugged too. I’ll never forget the feeling of standing in the hotel car park, watching Jim drive off, knowing that I was involved in the departure of the great Jim Kilpatrick from the Shotts band. Thinking back to when I joined the band, I knew that this day would come, but I never imagined it transpiring in a manner even close to this.

Sadly, as bad as everything had been in the lead up to this point, it was to get worse.

Following the meeting with Ewan, Jim and I, resulting in Jim stepping down from the band, we were left with the question of waiting until Jim released his news and then reacting, or putting the news out there first, for no other reason than to quell the rumours already circulating, draw a line under it, and start the process of getting the band back on its feet again. Rightly or wrongly (you can be the judge) we collectively agreed to release the news of Jim’s departure the next evening. I didn’t want our players finding out about the news from a website/Facebook etc., so I called an emergency meeting which was attended by about two-thirds of the pipe corps and two drummers. The band press release hit pipes|drums at approximately the same time as the meeting started. Being part of the planning process for the press release, we were very careful not to use the word “retired” but unfortunately this is a word that was used in the actual article that went live on pipes|drums. This was later changed to “stepped down” which is how the band had originally presented it. In the article itself, we did not go into details of the disagreement, preferring to thank Jim for his (still) huge contribution to the band over 29 years – something which we are still very grateful for. The public response to the article was an outpouring of well wishes and congratulatory messages for Jim upon his “retirement.” No doubt partly due to the incorrect wording printed initially, using “retired” instead of “stepped down,” but also I believe to be the natural reaction of people hearing of a 59 year old, iconic leader leaving a band. I think most people’s initial reaction would be that it was a retirement rather than anything more complex. For the mix-up of wording, although not written by the band nor in our initial press release, I certainly apologise to Jim. This was not intentional nor calculated in any way. I hold myself to a higher standard that to stoop to as low a level as has been suggested since. Later this night, Jim sent a message to the whole band submitting his formal resignation and that of a number of other drummers also.


  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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