St. Laurence O’Toole finally gets to defend British Championship title in Greenock
The last time the British Pipe Band Championships were held, it was May 18, 2019, in Paisley, Scotland, 12 bands competed in Grade 1, and St. Laurence O’Toole of Dublin walked away with the trophy, ScottishPower were runners-up, and Inveraray & District placed third.
On May 21st, two fewer Grade 1 bands will vie for the Grade 1 title at Battery Park in Greenock, Scotland, and Grade 2 will see only 15 compete, compared with the 18 that played in 2019. Entries at the British in 2019 were already the lowest seen in some grades for decades.
During the two-season shutdown of pipe band competitions Grade 1 Glasgow Skye Association and Lomond & Clyde suffered enough attrition to make competing in 2022 unrealistic, and other grades are seeing similar numbers of bands either in “rebuilding” mode or folded altogether.
With the challenges of the pandemic, eyes will be on the size of competing bands. The first contests of the season at Gourock and Banchory in Scotland and Bangor, Northern Ireland, saw most Grade 1 groups competed with between 17 and 19 pipers and eight to 10 snare drummers – on par with 2019 numbers.
Closkelt of Northern Ireland will make its Grade 1 major championship debut. The band won Grade 2 at the 2019 British and made its first competitive appearance in Grade 1 at Bangor, finishing second to Field Marshal Montgomery in a three-band event, with Grade 2 Manorcunningham playing up.
As usual in Scotland, weather will be a factor, and the forecast in Greenock calls for a high of 12 degrees Celsius (54 Fahrenheit) with intermittent showers and a moderate breeze.
The Inverclyde town of Greenock won the competitive bid to host the RSPBA’s British Championships after the town of Paisley dropped out following many years of presenting the event.
The return of major championships is a huge monetary relief for the RSPBA, which relies on sizable licensing payments from the towns and cities that host the events, which in turn injects tourist revenue into the local economy.
Stay tuned to pipes|drums for results from the 2022 British Championships as they are available.