Disbanded after 130 years, police pipers who conquered the world

Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band to be disbanded. Picture: Bill Henry
Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band to be disbanded. Picture: Bill Henry
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THE award-winning Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band is to be disbanded as Scotland moves towards a single police force, it emerged yesterday.

One of the nation’s great piping institutions for the past 
130 years, it will be consigned to the history books on 31 March next year.

Doubts have been expressed about the future of Scotland’s police pipe bands ever since justice secretary Kenny MacAskill unveiled his plans to merge the country’s eight forces.

So far, the Lothian and Borders band, one of the oldest in the world, is the only one to 
announce that it is to disband.

It has represented the police at home and abroad, and was a familiar sight at parades and engagements in Edinburgh. It won the world Pipe Band championships seven times and was still competing at the top level last season.

The band had recently lost its pipe major and had struggled to find a replacement. Neil Hall, a British Army captain, stepped down because of a career move.

The decision to disband was made at a meeting this week. Inspector Euan Anderson, a former pipe sergeant of the band, said: “I believe funding had been put in place for next season and the band could have competed in 2013.

“But after that, the band would have had to take a new name and be run on a purely civilian basis. The band had recently lost its pipe major and a number of other personnel, so rather than struggle on, it was decided that it was a suitable time to disband.

“It is a sad day for pipers. The band was an Edinburgh institution. All the police pipe bands face the same dilemma, in that they are going to struggle for funding at a time when costs are being cut.”

Iain Speirs, the reigning Glenfiddich piping champion and a former band member, said: “It was a fantastic band, with a 
tremendous history, and it is a very sad day.

“There are some wonderful memories for those of us who were involved in it, but perhaps this is a sign of the times.”

The Strathclyde Police Pipe Band is among others whose future has been thrown into doubt.

Two years ago, under threat from an internal police reorganisation, it was saved from disbandment by a campaign that involved lovers of pipe music and politicians.

The Strathclyde band has 
won 12 world championships, including six in record-breaking succession, from 1981 to 1986.

Insp Anderson said it was not known whether the 
new unified police force’s Chief Constable, Stephen House, will continue to fund pipers and drummers.

Profile: Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band

LOTHIAN and Borders Police Pipe Band was formed in 1882 as the Edinburgh City Police Pipers, one of the first pipe bands to be established outside the army.

Its big rival was the Glasgow City Police Pipe Band, which had its origins in the Govan Police Pipe Band formed in the Victorian era, and was later to become Strathclyde Police Pipe Band. At first, the musicians were all serving officers. But over the years, they have been joined by talented civilian pipers and drummers who were keen to play in a top pipe band.