By Stuart Letford

I arrived at Paisley around noon yesterday and after taking in the Novice Juvenile A contest (a critique will appear tomorrow), headed over to the Grade 1 arena, notebook in hand.

These notes are my own and readers should bear in mind the judges – whose opinions, unlike mine, actually matter – are, of course, closer and can pick up small imperfections that may not be clear to the crowd standing that bit further away. I must also stress that, being a piper, it was the piping I focussed on and not the ensemble. I stood in the same spot throughout.

The judges were Maurice Rhodes and Bob Worrall (piping), Paul Brown (drumming), and Cameron Edgar (ensemble). There were 12 bands in this contest.

Field Marshal Montgomery. First on. Superb tone. A very musical Lord Alexander Kennedy. First-class integration. Drones resonant. Exemplary strathspey; great ‘lift’. Reel not together totally. A confident performance that screamed, “Beat that then!” to the rest of the pack.

Steady as she goes from SLoT.
Steady as she goes from SLoT.

St. Laurence O’Toole. One piper dropped as the band marched over to the arena from final tuning. Lord Alexander again. Very good sound albeit bass drones not quite as ‘full’ as FMM’s. Strathspey good but could be expressed better. Well phrased reel. Steady throughout.

ScottishPower. Very good sound. Don’t know this march [93rd’s Farewell to Edinburgh]. Great clarity. A fuller sound than SLoT. Very well pointed strathspey. Slick break to reel. Reel perhaps a shade fast; untidy fingerwork creeping in. Superb overall; contenders.

Police Scotland Fife. Bright sound. Well expressed/phrased march. Strathspey well expressed overall. Sound drifting slightly in reel; high A’s going a bit shrill. Two mistakes in reel.

Police Service of Northern Ireland. Early E. Bright sound. Lack of clarity apparent as march progressed. Strathspey well expressed. Reel fine.

Lomond and Clyde. ‘Clean’ chanters. Excellent drone sound, esp. bass drone. Very musical march and strathspey. Reel a bit untidy in places. Sound not sustained to the end. A very commendable debut from Messrs Bradford and Hoy.

Johnstone. Temperature dipped noticeably. Early E. ‘Full’ drone sound; well set. March nicely expressed but could ‘lift’ tempo slightly. Strathspey well played but high A’s not quite right and Low G’s in reel not right (blowing?). Drones drifting. Loud jet took off in reel: off-putting.

Boghall marches into the circle.
Boghall marches into the circle.

Boghall & Bathgate. Great start. Very good unison playing in march. No lack of clarity in chanter. Low G’s spot on. High A’s excellent. Drones well set; a ‘full’ solid sound; best in recent years. Strathspey well expressed. Nice break to reel. Another loud jet taking off!

Emmet Conway marked his debut as Shotts Pipe Major with a decent run.
Emmet Conway marked his debut as Shotts Pipe Major with a decent run.

Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia. Solid intro. Drone sound excellent but perhaps a lack of ‘depth’ due to having less pipers than preceding bands. First class unison playing in march; very good tempo but could ‘let it go’ a bit more. Chanters well set. Nice ‘lift’ in strathspey; well expressed. Steady throughout.

Inveraray. Another airing for his lordship (LAK). Excellent drone sound esp. bass drone; full yet mellow. Steady march. Solid strathspey; great ‘lift’. Terrific break to reel. Sound maintained to end. A very musical MSR played very well. Lovely balance. Top three for sure.

Glasgow Police.
Glasgow Police.

Glasgow Police. Band playing debatable type of tune over from final tuning to the arena; the Power played Killiecrankie for a good reason. March nicely expressed. Strathspey a bit sluggish. Two skirls in reel. Making hard work of the reel.

Glasgow Skye Association. Last band on. Quite a few new faces. Bright sound but lack of clarity. Drones well set but more bass drone needed. Good unison playing in march. Dora MacLeod expressed well. Reel good but tone drifting. A good run nevertheless.

As ‘the Skye’ left the arena I scribbled what I thought should be the result: 1. FMM; 2. Scottish Power; 3 Inveraray; 4. SLoT; 5. Boghall; 6. Police Scotland Fife. As I said earlier, I focussed mainly on the piping.

The actual result was: 1. SLoT; 2. Scottish Power; 3. Inveraray; 4. Boghall & Bathgate; 5. Field Marshal Montgomery; 6. Police Scotland Fife.

SLoT’s drum corps took the Best Drum Corps prize. Drummers listening tell me the Power and Inveraray’s respective corps were close behind, and this was reflected in the summaries later.

Evidently, most Pipe Majors and their assistants managed to keep on top of the weather conditions but a few struggled.