December 29, 2019

The 10 most-read pipes|drums articles of 2019

Phew! Where did those 12 months go? They went by so fast, as they say, that we must be having way too much fun.

pipes|drums brought you more than 350 articles in 2019 alone, adding to our archive that now reaches more than 6,000 stories, plus thousands other pieces.

(Hey, by the way, about 300 of those stories were free. So, if you don’t already subscribe, maybe you’ll do that. It’s just a few pennies a day. Just click here for options. Thanks.)

Which stories from 2019 were the most-read? For our annual round-up, we excluded Results, Interviews and Reviews.

But let’s have a look back at the 10 stories, in reverse order, that statistically enjoyed the most views by you, our faithful readers.

Click on the headlines to revisit the full original story.


Have we reached Peak Pipe Band?

Our tenth-most-read article in 2019 was out January 31st piece that considered whether it’s possible that what we heard in 2018 was the very best that pipe bands could be. Could it be that bands could get no better? Is there still room for improvement? Some might say that the answer to those questions came later in 2019. Your opinions will vary. Have a re-read and think for yourself.


Wilton, Graham leave MacKenzie in post-World’s shake-up

Maybe a surprise entry in our most-read 10 stories, but at number nine was the August 18 news of the departure of the two leaders of Grade 2 MacKenzie Caledonian of Dundee, Scotland. After a year, Pipe-major David Wilton decided to move on, and, along with the departure of Lead-Drummer Steven Graham, the band immediately set about building back to its previous championship-winning form.


RSPBA upholds appeal, but Grade 2 band told to get another medley ready

Coincidentally, our number eight most-read article was also about MacKenzie Caledonian. On April 14th we broke the news that the RSPBA might decide to promote the band to Grade 1, with only about six weeks left before the first major championship. The band appealed and the upgrade never happened, and the 2019 season showed that it was the correct decision to leave the band in Grade 2.


Field Marshal Montgomery bolsters ranks with new personnel, including top-tier pipe-majors

Never underestimate the interest that the world’s elite pipe bands garner, and the April 25th news that the then reigning World Champions expanded their roster with the addition of Grade 1 band pipe-majors Ian K. MacDonald and Sean McKeown from Ontario, as well as Peter MacGregor from Ullapool, Scotland, Jake Walker  from Portavogie, Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland’s Ben Gibson. Interestingly, 2019 was the first year in many when FMM did not win a major championship, though it did place first in one of the events at the World’s.


Opinion: Clean Break – a call for change – Part 1

Scott Currie’s May 28th pointed and outspoken piece on the RSPBA got major eyeballs. His detailed and thought-provoking analysis of many of the issues facing pipe bands in the UK and beyond due to the association’s perceived problems has attracted nearly 25,000 reads . . . and continues to attract interest and lively debate. Be sure also to read Part 2 of Currie’s extensive article in which he offers possible solutions.


Editorial: How could two judges be so far apart?

Our May 19th editorial expressed thoughts that may were thinking but no one else was courageous enough to express on the record. The 18-band Grade 2 competition at the British Championships saw extraordinary variations of opinion between the two piping judges, including a 12-band separation with the eventual winners, Closkelt. Out editorial called once again for consultative judging as a means for adjudicators to find potential commonality and mutual enlightenment. At the very least, competing bands deserved some kind of explanation for the disparities. To our knowledge, the RSPBA has never publicly reported back to its members about the discrepancies, much less defended their adjudicators’ decisions.


Inveraray celebrates with unbridled joy and . . . getting Sloshed

We love this. Just a great bit of unbridled fun with 2019 World Champions Inveraray & District leaving a darkening Glasgow Green, and finishing with a bit of dancing while playing. It’s a reminder that all this pressure, hard graft, and constant consternation is, paradoxically, all really just about having a good time.


World’s Grade 1 probably only 15 bands

On February 16th it dawned on us that 1. Four Grade 1 bands had been downgraded by the RSPBA, and 2. Several non-UK bands had said that they did not plan to travel to Scotland in 2019. So, pipes|drums simply canvassed pipe-majors and did a count. We determined that the Grade 1 event could be as few as 15 bands. It appeared that the RSPBA had not itself realized this, and within a few days the organization scrambled to address the matter, since the entire event was built around accommodating a large number of top-grade bands with a two-day event. The association polled bands, judges and unidentified “others” for their preference for a one- or two-day event, and pipes|drums asked Grade 1 pipe-majors for theirs. While pipes|drums’ survey found that a strong majority wanted a one-day event, the RSPBA for still unexplained reasons stuck with a two-day competition.


Bob Shepherd, 1938-2019

When all is said and done, a case might be made that Robert T. Shepherd of Fife, Scotland, is for many the greatest pipe-major of all time. When we reported his death on October 25th there was a massive outpouring of interest. The man, who had a strong opinion about just about everything, left a legacy of innovation, teaching, new products, infamous judging, competition creativity and sheer cult of personality. Safe to say, there will never be the like of Bob Shepherd again, and his presence now that he has passed is still as strong as when he was alive. This will continue for a long time.


Opinion: The World’s needs a shakeup

The day after the World Championships, we published an editorial with a bold call for change in the biggest pipe band event of the year. Once again, pipes|drums built a strong argument for improving the competition with a clearer vision for the sharing of music royalties, listener experience and, most of all, equitable conditions for the musicians who make the event what it is. While pipe bands stitch together every available penny to get to the competition, they’re often received with arrogance and presumption that they should just be grateful that they even have a place to play. It’s now 2020: this disrespectful treatment simply has to stop.


Statistically, those were the 10 most-read pipes|drums articles of 2019. We hope that you enjoyed revisiting them, and we encourage you to keep poring over our archive of online stories going back now more than 20 years.

Stay tuned for pipes|drums 2019 New Year’s Honours!



The 20 most-read pipes|drums news stories of 2018
December 28, 2018


The most important stories of ’17
December 29, 2017


The 10 most-read pipes|drums stories of 2017
December 22, 2017


The Top 10 news stories of 2016
December 30, 2016


The top 15 p|d stories of 2015
December 26, 2015


pipes|drums’ Top 10 news stories of 2014
December 28, 2014


The year in news: the Top 10 pipes|drums stories of 2011
December 31, 2011





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