June 01, 2009

Grandest finale

Flock-truckerMassed bands and march-pasts are necessary penance for those who play in pipe bands. After a day of anxious competition, relaxing over a drink or two is all everyone really wants, and to be pulled out of the beer tent for the grand finale (for spectators, anyway) is an inevitable duty.

I haven’t played regularly in a pipe band for some time now, but I can’t remember many awards ceremonies at which the result wasn’t fairly well known, including last year’s World’s. Leaks happen, and the well connected will have their sources.

Memorable prizes and celebrations aside, funny things often occur at massed bands and march-pasts. I’ll never forget in the 1980s at Cowal on a bright, sunny day, as the bands filed on interminably long, a few bandsmen who’d had one or two pints before going back on the park couldn’t hold it any longer so executed the canny one-knee-on-the-ground maneuvre, shielded on one side by the bass drum and empathetic bandsmen on the other to get some relief right on the parched Dunoon ground. I posted something about it last year, actually.

Another memorable time was maybe 1989 at the World’s. The prizes were being announced in the usual tedious manner. They came to Grade 3, and went in order. I could hear a Scottish band just behind us clearly disappointed not being announced first, with some groans after anxiously awaiting the announcement.

And when they learned that they weren’t first-runners-up either there was more grumbling, which grew a bit louder when they weren’t even third, and even more contentious when they weren’t fourth or fifth. A few oaths were murmured from their ranks.

But when the Grade 3 band wasn’t even sixth – out of the list entirely when they thought they might even have won the thing – it really took the cake and someone from the group just couldn’t take it any longer and let out an almighty scream at the announcer. It can’t be printed here, but, let’s just say sounded something like, “Truck my flock!!!”

Yes, fond memories of some of our grandest finales and finest moments.


  1. The Worlds in 2000 was one of the last years they had all the bands do the full march past and salute. After the first 1.5 hours standing in the rain waiting to start awards, a band from NI laid out all their rain capes on the walkway that crossed in front of them and started using it as a makeshift slip-&-slide. Ahh if we only had YouTube nine years ago!!

  2. Actually Andrew, i’ve seen bandsmen not bother with the protective bass drum or blocking band mates! How do you spell relief?

    I changed my mind about the rain several years ago. You can carry a lot more beer and ale in an Inverness cape then without one. Of course NO ONE drinks in massed bands, it’s against RSPBA rules!



  3. I think the worst one I have seen was in the beer tent at the worlds last year. A gentleman standing against the bar simply lifted his kilt slightly and proceeded to relieve himself from a day of post competition drinking. Nice.

    The worst bit is that the beer tent has that covering on the ground that can get a little wet and slippery…

  4. Does anybody remember the “Dungeater” who used to hang around the Scottish contests back in the sixties and early seventies – He would always wear an Inverness cape rain or shine and when he would approach people he would always be smiling nobody would every see his arms – A true weirdo!

  5. Does anyone remember the wee guy that used to hand around the UK championships with the purple velvet kilt outfit with all the lace and a parasol?

  6. I was there with you. One of the most hilarious moments in my piping career. The sheer Scottish outrage in the face of perceived injustice, marked by a wonderfully vulgar invitation to the assembled dignitaries on the podium, none of whom seemed inclined to take up the salacious invitation. Actually, not really an invitation I suppose, so much as heartfelt expression of contempt. We laughed for a long time….and I still do…and dine out on a terrific true story. God man, don’t you miss those moments? You must, or you wouldn’t have played last year with S o S.

  7. I can think fondly (if not a bit embarrassed as well) of our trip to 1998. We had been playing well in the grade 3a contest and were pretty stoked about our chances of winning, when we all learned valuable lessons that day. You don’t leave the field if you think you have a chance of winning (member heard our result in the port-o-let, and came running out kilt barely strapped on screaming). It’s ok to drink off of the drum head, that’s why they make the rim so high, incase you spill. And the most important rule of masses bands at the Worlds…..DO NOT let a steward catch more than 6 of your band mates hanging around together outside the beer tent. Otherwise you pay the price of standing there listening to 2 hours of 6/8’s. Good times. I’ll be waiting for you all at the tent.



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