Even among we Scots, there are those who would view the prospect of 176 pipe bands gathered together in one place as a distinctly unwholesome prospect - there are others. myself included, who genuinely love the sound of the pipes being played well. That is exactly what will be happening at Glasgow's Bellahouston Park on Saturday August 16 when the city once again hosts the World Pipe Band Championships. Organised by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, these competitions have been running since 1947 and attract Pipe Bands from countries such as Holland, Eire, Canada and America as well as the UK. According to Robert Nichol, Executive Officer of the Association. the standard of these foreign bands can be very high indeed. ‘We send instructors abroad to teach the pipes and there are boys in places like Frankfurt who love getting dressed up in the kilt and playing the pipes Clan Pipers they call themselves and some of them are very good.‘

Good or not, they have not been good enough in the past few years to beat the Strathclyde Police Band who have been World Champions for the past five and this year‘s contest sees them going for a record of six consecutive wins. ‘Asking what makes us so good is like asking why the Celtic team of the late 60's were so good,’ says Inspector John Wilson of the Strathclyde Police Band. ‘We are fortunate in that we have a very strong nucleus of players; the old piping adage is that you play to your weakest player and we have enough very good pipers and drummers to get over this.‘ Strathclyde Police incidentally, the Championship is almost entirely made up ofcivilian bands which Police bands are reckoned to be - are unique in that their band is made up of operational police officers only. Other Police bands such as Lothian and Borders, Tayside and Grampian include ‘guest players'. About seven years ago, all the members of the Strathclyde band were grouped together under ‘A‘ Division at Glasgow‘s Stewart Street Station where they now divide their time between band duties and police work. ‘lt‘s a matter of cost effectiveness', says Inspector Wilson, ‘we have to be seen to be doing ajob of policing and we divide it up about 20% band work and 80% police work, which is fine.‘

One of the drawbacks of being a police band is that Strathclyde cannot accept all the invitations they receive as World Champions. Recently they returned from a visit to British Week at Canada‘s Expo '86 but they also get

The World Pipe Championships take place in Glasgow on August 16. Graham Caldwell talks to

the man behind Strathclyde Police’s attempt at their sixth championship.”

‘innumerable invitations to go to exotic places which we have to refuse.‘ Being World Champions also means that a few keen youngsters, and good pipers. apply to join Strathclyde Police but they have to measure up to the same rules as other applicants and some are turned down because their eyesight isn't good enough or they fail in some

. m!.v0"*'

other respect.


‘They really are an outstanding

. i band', agrees Nichol, ‘but there are ‘1 others who, on the day can be as good

it all depends on how they play and whether the judges fancy it or not.‘ For

I = judging purposes, the World Championships are divided into Grades

1-5, with Grade I being the top and

I relegation and promotion amongst

themjust as in football. Each team plays two sets, the first is a set

- programme of 2/4 Marches, Strathspey

and Reel and the bands do not know

. exactly what they will be playing until

they step into the arena. The second section is a medley which is the band‘s own choice. It can be any kind of music, the only restriction being that it must be between 5 and 7 minutes long. ‘You have a lot of artistic licence', according to Inspector Wilson, ‘and you can do your own thing.’ At the end of the two sections the marks are averaged out by the four judges, two piping, one drumming and one ensemble, and the winner announced. Obviously the competition takes a lot of organising and the programme takes a lot of working out, ‘it‘s a years work‘, says Nichol and there is the added headache of putting up close to 200 bands. Luckily at this time of the year there are a few empty halls of residence about and this is where the bands stay


which is why places like Maryhill park and the Botanic gardens will soon be ringing with the skirl of the pipes as they try to get some practice in to the delight of some of the residents and, I suspect, the displeasure of many.

For all that, the pipes remain popular all over the world and there are some

fine bands as far away as New Zealand and Australia. Unfortunately they won‘t be coming, because as Nichol explains: ‘it's too expensive for them, they only enter every other year or so.‘ Another band who won‘t be coming is the one one from South Africa. Composed largely of expatriate Scots their arrival to take part in the competition in 1984 led to threats of withdrawal and the endangering of the contest before the South Africans, to their credit, withdrew, thus allowing it to take place as normal. All Nichol will really say about the episode now is that it was ‘sad‘.

As the big day approaches Strathclyde Police will be applying themselves for yet another win, having had a scare last week end when they were beaten into second place by Polkemmet Gorud (named after their oil company sponsors). Inspector Wilson sees a strong challenge coming from them again in the World Finals as well as from Boghall and Bathgate and, from across the seas, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and the 78 Fraser Highlanders, also from Canada. Executive Officer Nichol is also aware of the overseas threat. ‘Some of the North American bands are certainly capable of winning.’ but as he and Wilson agree, ‘its very much an on the day thing'. Surely, though, it would be terrible if the World Championship of Piping, of all things, were to go abroad? ‘We taught the world things like golf and football and they whack us at it now‘, said Nichol ruefully, ‘why should piping be any different?‘

The World Championships, Glasgow's Bellahouston Park in South West Glasgow, Saturday August 16, beginning 9.30 a. m. Admission £1 Adults and 50p Children and OAP's. With a massed band spectacular at about 5. 30 p. m. a good crowd is expected tfit is a nice day, last year's competition attracted about 20,000 people.


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