July 24, 2019

Triumphant and Victorious – 1979 a historic World’s, 40 years later


The pipe-major of City of Victoria was the legendary Jamie Troy. In fact, he was the only pipe-major the band ever had before it fizzled out in the 1990s. He describes the event as “A very major event in all our lives . . . being in the big leagues, a huge step up from our local games circuit, having the Glasgow Police stand around and listen to us play in the tune-up area with very positive comments and in the beer tent with Iain McLeod, [Muirhead & Sons P-M] Bob Hardie, Tom McAllister saying we should have won the day.”

Indeed, for many years, and maybe still today, City of Victoria held the reputation as “The Best Band Never to Win the World’s.” The group of only 10 pipers (that’s right, 10), five snares, two tenors and a bass put on a stellar piping performance, although Lead-Drummer John Fisher, fresh from playing under pipe band drumming god Alex Duthart at Shotts & Dykehead for two years, remembers City of Victoria’s drumming with humility.

“From what I recall from a drumming and ensemble perspective, we could have been better,” Fisher recalls. “The pipe section was the star. I remember there were people on the field saying we could have or should have won, including a pipe-major from one of the top-five bands.”

It was the famed Edinburgh City / Lothian & Borders Police Pipe-Major Iain McLeod who was the most outspoken advocate for City of Victoria being hard done out of the big award. He was adamant for decades that they should have taken the title.

Even though the band was sixth, Troy says it was a let-down: “From a band perspective, it was shock and disappointment, especially to the drumming prize, as we were one of the first bands in addition to Shotts to present the Duthart style of drumming at that time with John Fisher. With the rivalry between Triumph Street and ourselves, we thought we should have placed higher than Triumph Street.”

Triumph Street Pipe-Major Hal Senyk recalls his band of 14 pipers, four snares, two tenors and bass being happy with their fifth prize. “City of Victoria, who I had a huge respect for, had a great sounding pipe section that day and could have easily beaten us. Our drumming prize brought us up the prize list to fifth. Our pipe section didn’t have a great day on the field, although it was a respectable performance. We sounded very good in tune-up but lost a lot of tone through nervous blowing in the contest itself.”

With Triumph Street not simply doing well in drumming with only four snares, but actually outright winning the coveted Sash as best drum section under Lead-Drummer Willie McErlean, there’s little doubt that it catapulted the band up the overall rankings. We couldn’t track down a copy of the hand-written Scottish Pipe Band Association summary sheet, but it’s likely that the band would have been out of the list with anything but a first in drumming. That’s just pipe band competition.

[Editor’s note: we subsequently sourced a copy of the original SPBA summary sheets, which you can find here.]

In a 1980 interview with McErlean, who died in 2014, he said, “When they announced the Grade 1 drumming prize, I thought it was best overseas band. I was up at the podium and some lady was handing out prizes. I said, can I ask you a question? Is this the main drumming prize? She said, ‘Wait.’ Over came a wee man from the RSPBA who asked what the problem was. I explained my question. He said, ‘Son, you won the lot, what more do you want?!’ ”

Triumph Street Pipe-Major Hal Senyk and City of Victoria Pipe-Major Jamie Troy. [Photo Allan Skalazub]
“I was a teenager and it was my first experience at the World’s,” recounts Aumonier. “It was actually a two-day event. There were no qualifying heats. Grade 1 played on the Saturday. There was one event only – Medley. We submitted two and had one drawn at the line. We played our ‘Morrison Avenue’ medley which was the name of the opener and was composed by Iain MacCrimmon, formerly of Edmonton, now Scotland. Interestingly, at least to me, our other medley ended with ‘The Mason’s Apron’ hornpipe. In the early 1980s the 78th Frasers had their iconic ‘Mason’s Apron’ medley, but City of Victoria had presented the tune a few years earlier.”

Similar to Troy, Aumonier wasn’t exactly overjoyed with his band’s sixth.

“At the time I did not think making the prize list was a big deal,” he continues. “As far as I was concerned, we were there to win and, when that didn’t happen, I was disappointed. Perhaps it was youth and inexperience on my part, but that’s the way I felt. I suppose now, in its full context, it was an accomplishment – to make the list in a first appearance, but it’s still not winning. It was quite special to be there when Willie McErlean and his corps won the drumming prize. But at the same time, we were fierce rivals and any success they had was not necessarily welcomed by us. Fortunately, age has a way of making us more sensible. Willie was a wonderful musician and a good friend, and he loved drumming and drummers. I’m happy he won that prize.”

City of Victoria coming into the competition arena. The band played with only 10 pipers. [Photo Allan Skalazub]
Bruce Gandy was another young City of Victoria piper who, like Aumonier, went on to enjoy a great career that he continues to build upon today.

“I didn’t hear all of the bands, so it’s not fair to say if we deserved sixth or not,” Gandy says. “We went there to conquer the world, so to speak but, really, we had not played against these guys week in and out, and we could have been anywhere in the list. I remember many people coming up and congratulating us. Hell, it wasn’t the end of the world, it was sixth, and not like we actually took the big prize away. I’m sure there were a lot of disgruntled people. I either do not remember them or have grown enough to know that I don’t have the disc space in my head to store useless stuff about who didn’t like us. I do know that we were shown around and generally treated very well as I remember.”

Whether politics were at play with the City of Victoria result will be, like virtually every top-level pipe band competition, the stuff of intrigue and conjecture.

A typical band of the time band walks off after competing at Wollaton Park, Nottingham, England, with Wollaton Hall in the background. [Photo Allan Skalazub]
When asked if his band had to play politics to do well, Troy is matter of fact: “We had none to play and stood on or own merits.”

Aumonier agrees: “I doubt we even considered anything other than being good piping citizens. We just worked incredibly hard and put it out there. We thought, and still do, that the only thing that leads to winning is great playing.”

According to Hal Senyk, Triumph Street was in the same boat. “[We] didn’t really have any political friends in high places, nor do I think we had any adversaries in the RSPBA. It was simply a matter of getting recognized. Our first trip to Scotland had been in 1976 for the World’s in Hawick. We were totally unknown in 1976, and not surprisingly buried at the bottom of the list. I thought we had played very well at Hawick and we were pretty annoyed at that result. However, we must have turned a couple of heads – we snagged a fourth at the Europeans that year. That was a huge step. We had also taken a fourth at the Intercontinental Pipe Band Championships [in Toronto] in 1977 against a full complement of UK and North American bands, so I think by 1979 we were given a fair hearing.”

Perhaps the bands were naïve to think that they were exempt from controversy hidden from the public eye.

Although he did not elaborate, Bruce Gandy stresses, “I can assure you with my own ears, I heard political cards being played after that event that day about our band.”




  1. This also was the year that Triumph Street brought home The Sash!
    Quite an accomplishment and I believe the first time it crossed the pond.

  2. What a fantastic article. Brings back brilliant personal memories. My first World’s. First time I got drunk. My own band had a terrible performance which in hindsight was not a surprise when the standard preparation was to drink all night, the night before the competition, and then to wonder why the judges placed you nearly last. It took a few years for the penny to drop, when we eventually had enough sense to actually perform well enough to win a world title. As for 1979, my first ever journey on a plane, stayed at Nottingham University, being starstruck by Strathclyde Police, something that continued up until recently, how exotic it was to hear this Canadian outfit called Triumph Street, recording and listening and then learning to play in our own band Kilworth Hills, and I’m sure many other bands did.. A simple but very effective tune. Also hearing their strange accents around the park. It was an innocent time! You are so right about Dysart, the Sex Pistols of the pipe band world. The urban rumours about these lads out of care homes and juvenile prisons who could play like demons. I remember listening to banjo breakdown over and over on the following years LP. You may not have liked them but they were the first band in my opinion that you could describe as innovative and have surely been influential to some who came after them. McLellan, the Bruce Springsteen of pipe bands, “The Boss” was just at the beginning of complete domination of the pipe band world culminating for me in the greatest MSR of them all, Hugh Kennedy, The ewe wi the crookit horn, Mrs McPherson of Inveran. Hairs standing to attention. Then back to Wollaton Park Nottingham. I’ve never returned to Nottingham by the way. A two day world’s? Whoever thought that would work? As far as I remember Boghall won Grade 2 that day and have remained in Grade 1 ever since. Some achievement. Loved all the info on the tunes the Canadian bands played and the programme cover. Some memories. I was 16 by the way. Far too young to get drunk for my first time! Thanks.

  3. Great article and great memories of hearing City of Victoria and Truimph St- what a sound off their Hardie Chanters. Slight correction for Howard- Monktonhall won Grade 2 that year, although Boghall won all the other majors that year,



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