Bob Worrall reviews ‘Pipe Bands’ by Jeannie Campbell

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You get together with a group of your pipe band friends for a ‘pipe band’ trivia night. First question: Which Grade 1 pipe band won the World Championship in 1955 at Stirling, but was disqualified for playing the wrong MSR?

Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia is the correct answer, with John K. McAllister as Pipe Major. Second place Muirhead and Sons – under the leadership of J. Smith – were then crowned World Champions. This is the kind of amazing historical detail included in Jeannie Campbell’s recent publication, simply titled Pipe Bands

The detail included in this 850 page historical overview of pipe bands is nothing short of astounding. Campbell has organised the book according to logical chronological divisions as she traces the evolution of pipe bands over the last 150 years. I found the section on early (1878-1900) civilian bands to be quite fascinating. Likewise, the sections dedicated to the War years and the period between the Wars reflect the impact resulting from the growth of military pipe bands and the legendary players and composers within the ranks of these bands.

The period after the Second World War is covered in five separate sections. The detail in these sections is delightfully overwhelming, not only with results at major championships, changing pipe band leadership, but also with fascinating anecdotes that Campbell has gathered over years of researching pipe bands. Those of you of my vintage will probably have great fun digging into the minutiae compiled for the last three time periods. Tunes played in MSR selections are listed for several championships. Today’s leading contenders could well afford a look at this compendium if wanting to break free from the monotony of the small number of tunes being played yearly on Glasgow Green.

Muirheads Pipe Major, Jackie Smith receives the Worlds trophy in 1955.

Truly, the pipe band movement today is a global phenomenon. The author has created separate sections that cover the history of pipe bands in all the expected countries (Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and USA). The section that would be most educational for most readers would be the one dealing with pipe bands in Africa, Asia, Central and South America.  Campbell covers the rich pipe band histories of all these countries and continents.

A separate section is devoted to Ladies bands. There are over 40 pages with great global coverage of ‘women only’ pipe bands. While most of this could have been woven into about five of the time periods mentioned earlier, I’m glad that she gave this important part of our pipe band history its own standalone chapter. The key personalities associated with these bands and the inclusion of such wonderful pictures make for very educational reading.

The author pictured in 2015 after receiving her MBE.

Each chapter of the book is full of great pictures. In fact, the photographs alone constitute an extensive pictorial history of pipe bands. Nine pages of Appendices covering the winners in all grades of the World Pipe Band Championships plus the full list of World Solo Drumming Champions are a bonus addition. This outstanding piece of pipe band research is a must for pipe band aficionados throughout the world. Congratulations to Jeannie Campbell for yet another lifetime achievement. 

And, one more piece of trivia that you should all know: what pipe band won the first World Championship in 1906 and who was the band’s Pipe Major?

Answer … the 1st H.L.I. under Pipe Major John MacDougall Gillies. Now get the book and start planning your own Pipe Band Trivia Night.

Pipe Bands is available directly from Jeannie Campbell or from The Bagpipe Shop.