Pipers left deflated as Lothian and Borders Police Band set to split

The pipe band were an impressive sight in full flow.
The pipe band were an impressive sight in full flow.
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ONE of the world’s oldest piping bands will sound no more in what has been hailed “a sad day for Edinburgh”.

The Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band is to disband in March after 131 years when the force is amalgamated into the Police Force of Scotland.

The death knell was sounded after an extraordinary general meeting of the band on Thursday night when it was decided there were not enough players and key personnel to continue.

Assistant Chief Constable Graham Sinclair, who is president of the band, said members voted unanimously in favour of disbanding in order to avoid a “slow and undignified decline”.

He said: “The decision was taken by members following two recent emergency meetings called to discuss the band’s future, in light of the departures of a number of key playing and support personnel.

“Following much discussion, members concluded that the band did not, and was not likely to attract, sufficient numbers to continue to compete.

“On this basis the decision was taken that the band would officially disband on March 31 next year, to coincide with the end of Lothian and Borders Police.” Mr Sinclair said he was proud of the band’s history and had hoped never to be in this position. But the decision to disband under the circumstance was “pragmatic and dignified”.

“At this time I would like to extend my thanks and gratitude to all former members for their commitment and dedication over the years,” he added.

The band begun as a military or brass band in 1882. A concert at the Waverly Market on Saturday June 2 1883, is the earliest record of a public performance.

It took part in a victory parade in Princes Street at the end of the Second World War with other police bands and was inspected by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It went on to win seven world championships, with famous pipe-majors including Ian Duncan, John Burgess and Donald Shaw Ramsay. But it had an unsteady period of changing membership in the last 20 years.

Bill McMorran, president of the Lothian branch of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, said it was a sad day for the city.

He said: “They’ve been going since the year dot so I’m very sorry to hear that. They were one of the top 20 bands in the world. In the last few years they were at the bottom of the league but if they got a good lot of pipers and good young pipers, there’s no reason they couldn’t have come back up.

“It’s a surprise as these things happen and then the next thing you know, they bounce back.”

A historic and illustrious past

THE origins of the Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band can be traced to the early 1880s when the idea of band was discussed at a meeting of the Lord Provost’s Committee of the town council.

It was recommended that it should form in February 1882 making it one of the oldest civilian pipe bands in the world.During its glory years between 1950 and 1975, the band won seven World Championships, including five under its most famous pipe-major, Iain McLeod.

The realignment of Scotland’s regions meant the Edinburgh City Police became the Lothian & Borders Police in 1976 with the band following suit.