Kenny Forsyth
Kenny Forsyth.

Scotland’s Vale of Atholl is once again going ‘back to the future’* as it takes steps to rebuild after its Grade 1 band took a “sabbatical” six months ago. The Perthshire-based outfit has secured sponsorship for a tuition programme and is to become a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO). SCIO is a legal form unique to Scottish charities which allows them greater flexibility and freedoms for example to be able to enter into contracts, pay staff, own property and manage liability. The Vale is believed to be the first pipe band organisation to do so.

The Vale’s new chairman, Kenny Forsyth, said: “We are looking to the long term. What has happened in the last six months has been mostly internally focused for us. We took action to meet the requirements of a modern organisation as set out by OSCR [Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator] and these mainly related to governance and key policies and procedures. We now have a new constitution for the organisation and the coming change of legal status to SCIO. This will put us in a much stronger place generally.”

As part of the sabbatical most Grade 1 members have chosen to retain their uniforms and kit against the expectation of future G1 leadership in the coming seasons.

Mr Forsyth said: “We remain completely committed to re-establishing the Grade 1 band. We want to be in a position to make a really strong offer to the best leadership talent available – both piping and drumming. This is no small task but the offer will be a combination of:

Vale of Atholl logo, bass drum

• A growing development programme providing talent, in the medium and long term, into the senior competing pool including the expected establishment of novice and juvenile bands;

• The dedicated resources and commitment to build and sustain the senior competing band.

• A strong underlying organisation providing a professional support structure;

• A whole organisation approach that values the triangle of members from the youngest beginner to the most senior player with all elements acting as a single coherent whole.

“As it stands, we cannot commit to a timescale for re-forming the senior band. We have a few dependencies still to work through but it is important to stress we are completely committed to making it happen and doing all of the work necessary to get there.

“Alongside this, a development programme under Ross McNaughton has progressed. The Land Rover Experience sponsorship is working well and a recent recruiting effort through local schools has grown the numbers of beginners significantly.”

With a nod to its past, the organisation is also fundraising to return its bands to the Murray of Atholl tartan. The Vale wore its own setting of the tartan before changing to the distinctive Muted MacNaughton tartan through a now long-gone sponsorship. When the band was founded in 1906 the Marquess of Tullibardine (wife of the Duke of Atholl’s eldest son) was its patron.

The Vale of Atholl has almost a legendary status in the pipe band world. Under the leadership of Ian Duncan the band rose from being a non-competing band to a highly influential Grade 1 band within a short space of time. It also had Novice Juvenile and Juvenile bands as part of its much copied teaching system. The Grade 1 band became known for its inventive arrangements, medleys and concerts.

*’Back to the future’ was the name of the band’s 2006 centenary concert at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.