ReMeMber 2 much

The news that Robert Malcolm II has applied to move back to Grade 2 after being upgraded by both the BCPA and RSPBA is at once alarming and not surprising at all.

Alarming: isn’t the band’s reason-to-be competition success? If a Grade 2 band wins just about everything at home and abroad, and the overall standard in both regions is good, then it follows that it should make the leap.

Not surprising: RMM2 is a “feeder band” for SFU. It’s not supposed to compete with the big band, but instead groom and supply members so that the ultimate goal of SFU winning the World’s is realized. At least, that’s what I understand.

Other bands have faced the same dilemma, where their feeder bands were potentially competing with and threatening the parent band, rather than nurturing it. Boghall and Toronto Police’s solution was to dissolve the feeder band and let the players go where they may. Seems to me that that solution was overall better for their pipe band scenes.

So, if RMM2 goes back to Grade 2, what will its mandate be? Will it still be competitive success, even knowing that there’s not much point in trying to dominate Grade 2 since it will never stay in Grade 1? If competitive success isn’t the core goal of RMM2, how would players be groomed for the Grade 1 band?

If it were me (and stop here if you don’t give a toss what I think), I would either dissolve the band or break away from the SFU organization. Anything else doesn’t seem to make much sense.


I was thinking back to 15 or so years ago. Grade 1 bands had pipe sections of between 11 and 15 pipers. Twelve or 13 were considered optimal numbers. Today, of course, a Grade 1 band without a pipe section of at least 18 is unusual. I know of one top band that plans to hit the 2007 contest field with 26 pipers, choosing from a pool of 32. Explosive.

But, back to 15 years ago. I remember sitting around many times with pipers in bands I played with reviewing potential new members for the section. It tended to be an elite club. One way or another, it was difficult to get in and, if a candidate didn’t have a great track record in Grade 1 and an additional solo piping record and an acceptible personality he/she didn’t have much chance. Not only that, but if they did get in, chances were that he/she often would have to serve at least a year of being dropped before they got to know “the style.” What bollocks.

How times have changed. Now there’s a much bigger talent pool of pipers with professional-calibre hands and a desire to commit to the band completely. They can play whatever material is thrown in front of them. And they don’t make blooters.

Time was that if a piper had not made a name for him/herself, they wouldn’t get a game. Today one wonders every new season, Just who are these pipers and where did they come from? It’s remarkable too that, while the standard of Grade 1 bands goes up, up, up, the standard of top solo piping holds steady.