Trailing Drones

Harry’s 2015 World Pipe Band Championships Glossary

Published: September 1, 2015

The World Pipe Band Championship is an event that might be hard to understand for first-timers, and for those who have only been there through the magic of the live feed (thank you, BBC . . . now show us the money). Harry presents his glossary of 2015 WPBC terms that will come in handy when trying to understand the nuances of the big days.

Let’s get started, shall we?

A is for Ahem. As in, let me clear my throat before we begin. (Or, alternatively, Attack: Can’t anyone do one well anymore?)

B is for Beer tent. An improvement on previous years. Rather than a corral of dropped cups and cans with no room to move and little chance of getting a drink, this year’s effort was an open area with several large canopy tents, lots of tables, some chairs and it was much easier to navigate. Add to that the move away from the blanket-sized tickets and accompanying queueeueueu in favour of straight cash transactions (who cares if every fifth pound goes into staffers’ pockets!), this was state-of-the-art service.

C is for canny Canning. As in Ryan. No UK pipe-major in history has advanced a Grade 1 band so far so quickly. Without fly-ins. Without gaming the system. With nothing but pure determination, talent and guile. No joking. He resurrected the ashes of a nearly burnt-out band and produced a World Champion in less than three years. Unreal.


D is for Drumming. Drumming results played a big role in the championship results this season, and no more so than at the World’s. Kudos to SLOT for their clean sweep of drumming events at the World’s and also Champion of Champions for the 2015 season. Very competitive field, with lots of great corps in contention.

Muirhead and sons (and sister, Liz) . . .

E is for Embelton. Okay, with all respect, hand the mic over to a professional. You’re doing your best but it could be so much better. Are you reading this you silver-haired, silver-bearded, silver-tongued Fergus Muirhead? (Also, E is for eBay – as in eBay’s legal department will come down on the RSPBA like an anvil on Wile E. Coyote if they see the copyright breach in the organization’s “RSPBay” logo appropriation.)

F is for FMM. Field Marshal Montgomery. Everybody (except them) loves it when a perennial winner slips down the list, but FMM will be back to challenge. Great band, great leadership. Look out.


G is for Gouging Gourmets. I spent 12 quid on a “gourmet” hamburger and “gourmet” Irn Bru. The tiny “gourmet” coffee was £4. Go gourmet yourself.

H is for Hipster beards. Facial hair seemed to be getting lots of big screen time at the Grade 1 circle. Vote for your favourite beard at

I is for Inveraray & District. IDPB was one of the crowd favourites, and one of the four bands that played to win it all. Outstanding musical delivery. Incomparably innovative.


J is for Judging. In general, a scan of the judges’ placings gives you a sense that things are going smoothly in this department. One exception: check out the Grade 2 final, where a whopping piping marks’ discrepancy makes you say, Huh?

K is for Kitsch. “Kitsch generally includes unsubstantial or gaudy works or decoration, or works that are calculated to have popular appeal.” Did anyone else feel this about the merchandise for the World’s? Will anyone but a new band member’s granda wear those ballcaps? Did you buy a few keychains, pens or lanyards? How much of that will end up in RSPBA raffles?

L is for Losers. There weren’t any among the 12 bands who made the Grade 1 final. It was a solid contest start to finish, with every band bringing something worthy to the circle. Haven’t witnessed a better final.


M is for Merger. Perhaps this year’s results will see more chat about the oft-proposed merger of Ontario Grade 1 bands to make a world-beating super band. Or not.

N is for Naebodies. Sorry, but if you’re judging Grade 1 at the World Freaking Championships, you have to have done the business. If you haven’t been a player for at least 15 years with a top-tier band, you have no business being there. Sure, you might get it right, but nobody takes you seriously. Then again . . . see J.

O is for Organized. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: the organization of the World’s is astonishingly good. Bands are timed to the second. The RSPBA stewards are the best in the biz at getting bands to the line on time. Their band-side manner might need a bit of work (not the friendliest folks out there), but credit where it’s due: this event runs like a Rolex.


P is for Porta-loos. The organizers are really flushing out the problems here. Lots of loos available in different parts of the park, and well maintained throughout the two days. Lots of bogroll and bathroom. Well done. You’re #1 !

Walker before his Zimmer.

Q is for Quiet. What some people are unable to achieve in the stands at the Grade 1 circle. It’s hard enough as it is to hear any detail from the stands, but add to that a couple of half-cut “experts” regaling each other with misinformation throughout every performance, and you’ve just paid a premium ticket to watch Grade 1 bands with the volume almost off. Maybe get some of those British Open “Quiet” signs for stewards or security to hold up when bands are competing?

R is for Retirement. It seems that World’s week or thereabouts is always good for retirement announcements, and this year it was long-time Boggie’s Boss Ross Walker who announced his departure. He’ll be missed. Walk on, sir.


S is for Stovies. That stall from Inveraray (town not band) got Harry’s tongue salivating what with the heaping, steaming lamb-stovies-and-oatcakes lunch for the price of a thimbleful “gourmet” coffee.

T is for Tight. As in air-tight. As in no one but no one except a few zipper-lipped RSPBA officials appeared to know the result in advance. No leaks. No tipping off the media. Even the usual reliably blabby judges (and there are a lot of them) weren’t sure of anything apart from deducing (those drumming scores will do that) that FMM wasn’t winning.

U is for Ubiquitous. That’s a fancy word for everywhere, can’t escape it . . . stop it, already! As in the now-played-out custom of arranging classic tunes in different time signatures. Okay. We get it. Uncle. It’s an attempt to be familiar but new. But for the love of God, stop. Any judge today who can’t get his or her head around a brand new tune has no business being there.


V is for Victory March. That moment when the winning band straps on the banner and marches off the field. No matter who wins, no matter what year, you have to savour the thrill that that brings to the band. Bittersweet to watch as a competitor, it’s what everyone plays for. (Oh, that and the glorious £1,500 first prize, of course.)

No, Leonard, love IS a victory march . . .

W is for Weather. Sayings abound to describe how bad and changeable Glasgow weather can be, and the forecasts for Saturday were dire, but in the end it was a mostly dry day for the Grade 1 bands. Tank tunderin’ feck, as they might say in SLOT. (Also, W is for World’s. It is World’s. Apostrophe S. It is possessive, as in “Championship of the World.” Worlds with no apostrophe means more than one world. So, FFS’s, lets get it right, people’s.)


X is for Xenophobia. That’s a fancy word for “the unreasoned fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.” The World’s is very good, but it could be great. Time again for a new format. Split off the top eight Grade 1 and put them in a concert hall. Oh, and start sharing the licensing proceeds with the artists. Change is good.

Indoors. Concert hall. Neutralize any changes. Get it going.

Y is for Youth. Scotland has it going on with developing youth bands through schools. Add to that the developmental opportunities through exams, school credits and eventually university programs, and you start to understand why Scottish pipe bands in several grades are able to produce both numbers and excellence.

Z is for Zilch. Zilch, Zip, Zero . . . continues to be the share of the license proceeds the artists receive for creating the music that the BBC purchases. They don’t invest a dozen tractor trailers, 30-odd staff working overtime hours, and a high-paid anchor if it’s not of great ROI. The value of the licensing right is high. It cannot legally be given away. I have a feeling all the details will eventually be disclosed, and it won’t be pretty.

Like Michael and his four brothers sang, ABC. It’s easy as 123. Do-re-mi. Baby you and me.

Are you a person of letters? Use the comments features below to give us your own glossary terms!

And be sure to send me, Harry Tung, your latest scoopage, and I’ll promise to keep all sources confidential.

  1. Carmine Russo

    Everyone in a pipe band works hard; I too, thought the comments about the mid section were a bit condescending by talking about waterproof cosmetics, and comparing them to the ‘hard working pipers and snares.’ You may not have meant anything by it, but there it is for all to ‘read as they will,’ …and they will.

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