October 19, 2015


The recent Shotts / Jim Kilpatrick developments are, to put it mildly, unfortunate for all – the band, the drummer and even the entire pipe band world.

I won’t go in to who I think is right and wrong, since I believe each party shares some right and some wrong. Based on what I know, I can see the pros and cons of each side of the situation. Besides, my opinion on who’s right and wrong does not matter one iota.

What is clear is that the timing of the developments couldn’t be worse. The return of Shotts & Dykehead from burning wreckage in 2012 to World’s winner in 2015 is one of the greatest pipe band success stories ever. To me, it ranks right up there with Inveraray & District’s rise from formation to Grade 1 contender in eight years, or Dysart & Dundonald’s redefining in the 1970s that a great pipe band could be made up of kids, taught from scratch, rather than wizened veterans slowly going through the ranks.

The Shotts move truly shocked the piping and drumming world. The reigning World Champion that seems to have done everything right suddenly acrimoniously parting ways with the greatest competitive pipe band drummer of all time?

Blockbuster, indeed.

The shock was predictable. What has been surprising to me is the fallout and public shaming on Facebook and Twitter. After nearly 50 years building them, Kilpatrick’s fans are legion, and many responded by taking his side of the story. The band’s side, despite the fact that it seems to have a golden touch when it comes to making all the right moves, seemed to be grasped, much less believed, by few.

Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia is more than 100 years old. Over its history the band has seen its share of contentious personnel changes. Greats like J.K. McAllister, Tom McAllister, Alex Duthart, Robert Mathieson and Jim Kilpatrick himself have been at the centre of band controversy, but their legend continued and continues. As ever, these things passed.

All bands make personnel challenges. It’s true that winning encourages camaraderie and “chemistry,” but even the winningest bands have their disputes, and even World Champions have to make tough decisions that, to the outsider, seem inconceivably stupid. Only from the inside can situations be understood completely, and even then complete understanding is a longshot.

Again, I appreciate both sides of the current situation, and I don’t side with one party or other. Each handled the communications of the matter as they saw fit, and no communication strategy – whether pipe bands, corporations or people – is ever perfect.

The band appears to think that the more it says the worse it will become. Despite 100-plus years of history, it knows that the here-and-now is what matters. No one will side with the 2015 version of Shotts just because they liked the McAllister-Duthart era.

Kilpatrick’s legend – in the here-and-now – is bigger than the band’s, and the band recognizes, I think, that it can’t win against the battalions of Kilpatrick supporters. Jim Kilpatrick also understands that he has a stronger and more interpersonal following, and they have mobilized in support of their hero.

But the public shaming and the figurative lynch mobs breaking out on social media are ridiculous and even embarrassing. Really? Is that what we pipers and drummers do to each other? I’ve never seen other pipers and drummers set out to destroy a band because of something it did, and it shouldn’t happen now, or ever.

Maybe I’m kidding myself, but social media public shaming of individuals is not what we pipers and drummers do. It’s unacceptable, immature and even cowardly behaviour.

It’s the quality of music that is played that matters. While people must respect others, it’s not a personality contest on the field or the concert stage. Plenty of nice people and plenty of jerks have won plenty of competitions. We are not judged on our conduct or character, we’re judged on quality of music. That said, we are just naturally nice and only in rare times do we allow emotion to get the worst of us.

I feel bad for Kilpatrick and Shotts in equal measure. Like 99% of pipers and drummers, they are good people. There might be hard feelings and upset, but I don’t believe that they want to harm anyone. Decisions and timing and communications can always be better, and if we expect perfection of anyone inevitably we will be disappointed.

Bands and people make decisions for many reasons, and unless we are there or those people, we will never know all of the details.

I hope that the Shotts band and Jim Kilpatrick can move on. No amount of hand-wringing or name-calling or Facebook grouping or public shaming by people will help.

Let’s get back to allowing the music to do the talking.


  1. Only fools and bairns should see a job half done. We must wait till all the evidence has been checked. My money is on Jim but meanwhile, the above statement says it all. It echoes my sentiments exactly. It’s a sad day for both parties and the pipe band world in general.

  2. Well stated. I also think that the unfortunate side of social media allows those who might say malicious things against one party or the next in a pub surrounded by cohorts, are now given a platform of sorts for the world to see. People are people and although I’d like to say that we pipers and drummers are somehow better and should only be focused on the music, there are still petty personalities that give in to knee jerk reactions, no matter the end goal. We just get to see what they think and say, even if we’d like it otherwise.

  3. In my opinion, this is a fair and very well-written article and I applaud the author. I wish both Shotts and Jim Kilpatrick the very best. It is time to put aside the sword (and pen) and move forward. It is also time for social media pundits/combatants to allow the waters to calm. What will be, will be.

  4. I don’t agree. Public shaming of shameful acts is nothing new. We, the pipe band movement, do not allow what we consider to be as disgraceful just continue. We speak up. That’s what the world and the legion of followers have done. I dont see any problem with people shaming things that deserve to be shamed.

  5. Who decides what “deserves to be shamed”? One person can make an innocent mistake that another sees as a “shameful event” and then goes online to ‘shame’ that person w/out consulting with the “guilty party” first. Nothing to ‘shame’. All could have been cleared up with a simple query. Who is so righteous as to decide what is shameful?

  6. There are two sides to every story, and somewhere in between lays the truth (not necessarily in the middle). Change is the only constant in our incestuous little game. Too many outsiders like to gloat and/or point or laugh or insert their opinion into these kinds of things. Let both sides get on with it, they’re adults and soon the cards will fall, maybe we can get back to business of making music and having fun – that’s why we do it, right?

  7. Spot on, Andrew.

    The only publicly known fact at this point is that JK is no longer the Leading Side at Shotts. Unless people know all the facts, their reactions and opinions can only be emotive.

    We can only hope that those who have been publicly noisy and visible about this topic do not have blood on their own hands from their own decisions and actions over the years. That would be rather unfortunate, especially if they did not speak directly to all parties involved before launching their own views in public.

    What does seem to have somewhat gone under the radar of scrutiny is the majority walkout of the Shotts drum corps just before JK went public. While some observers are rushing to applaud and characterise this walkout as a demonstration of ‘loyalty’, consider what this same corps might do if JK left Shotts of his own accord under different circumstances and took a lead role in another band….? I think most reasonable people would reach the same logical conclusion, if they were to base it on previous examples. But maybe there’s more than one kind of loyalty in pipe bands, depending on who you ask..…? Anyway, therein lies part of the challenge that all pipe bands must manage.

    Everyone needs to take a deep breath and a step back. If it’s not your fight, get out of the way. I wish everyone well. The sun will come up tomorrow. That we do know.

  8. Having now read Ryan Canning’s statement, it seems clear that Shotts has a management structure….but there’s only been one hirer and firer. JK has hired the last two PM’s and removed at least one, not management. He was also prepared to mothball the band for the 2012 season in the process, and did. That says everything that needs to be said. Welcome to the band, PM, you are now my patsy.

  9. James, your information is way off the mark. Jim Kilpatrick did not “hire” the band’s last two pipe majors. Nor did he fire anyone. The last pipe major resigned, the current pipe major was voted in by the membership after he threw his hat in the ring for the job. All constitutional and above board. Jim Kilpatrick’s removal and the new leading drummer’s appointment appear therefore to be the first unconstitutional removals and appointments in the band’s history. Feel free to go do some research.

    1. Scott, with all due respect, your loyalty and vested interests are too overt. You’re being very cute with some technicalities here. Even JK himself details how he reached out to Canning and onboarded him. Management/membership just signed-off his recommendations. As for Walker, he ‘resigned’, yes, but it is common knowledge that he was managed out. I think yourself and a number of people should remember the saying that even Samson can make mistakes. But he remains Samson.

  10. Andrew, I agree with your comments that the shaming and finger-pointing going on in the pipe band community over this is embarrassing, and I would add hypocritical. The parable of casting the first stone comes to mind. I find it sickening that this whole thing has the pipe band community taking sides. If you agree, I would encourage you to take down the poll asking “Which side do you think was right?” If it doesn’t matter one iota what you or I or anyone else outside those directly involved think, then why post this poll? Thank you.

    1. That neither side is entirely right nor entirely wrong is only my opinion. I respect the opinions of others, and the poll offers that option as well as the “Sick of it” choice. Me believing one thing does not mean that I am not interested in what the piping and drumming as a whole might think. It is interesting to see the attempts to stuff the ballot box. The poll system makes repeat voting tricky but possible if someone is so lame as to want to corrupt the vote. I have deleted large amounts of votes that come from single IP addresses. But the poll, like all others, remains for a little while yet.

  11. Why is everybody involved with this? It has nothing to do with any of us and we are only interfering and possibly exacerbating the situation.
    Let’s all go back to our own pipes or drums and improve ourselves!



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