The Association’s History

This section of the website is intended to provide a brief insight into the history of The Scottish Pipe Band Association/Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association; and also to provide information about some of the key individuals who have influenced the development of the Association over the years.

The content of the section represents primarily the work of the Association’s Historical Research Group. Additional historical information about individuals, events, Pipe Bands etc will be added as and when available.

The Association was founded initially as The Scottish Pipe Band Association (SPBA) in 1930 to meet the need for an authoritative governing body to organise and grade Pipe Bands, and to draw up rules and regulations for the effective running of Pipe Band competitions. Pipe Band competitions had been on record from as early as 1905, held in localities throughout Scotland and Ireland in particular.  Competition was seen as an effective way of raising standards of performance, but there was no recognised mechanism for co-ordinating the activities or for setting standards.

The person with ideas on how improvement could be made was Pipe Major William Sloan BEM of the Maclean Pipe Band in Glasgow. On the ferry returning from the Cowal Highland Gathering in 1930, he broached the subject of a Pipe Band Association when in friendly conversation with two of his contemporaries –  Pipe Majors John MacConnacher of the Anchor Mills Pipe Band in Paisley, and George McDonald of the Millhall Pipe Band from Stirlingshire, two well-known and highly esteemed Pipe Majors at that time.  Both these gentlemen thought the idea highly commendable and this led to an exploratory meeting with interested Pipe Bands in Oatlands, Glasgow in October that year.  Those who attended agreed unanimously that an Association should be formed forthwith and an interim Committee was appointed with William Sloan as Chairman and Donald Mclntosh of the Clan McRae Society Pipe Band as Secretary. A Constitution and Rules document was quickly drawn up and adopted unanimously; and the Association was launched in October 1930 with William Sloan as the first President and Donald Mclntosh as Honorary Secretary.

From the outset the Aims and Objects of the Association, which still stand today, were set as follows:

  • To promote and encourage the culture and advancement of Pipe Band Music internationally, and to sponsor a Pipe Band College;
  • To create and maintain a bond of fellowship with all Pipe Band personnel throughout the world without discrimination as to colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins;
  • To devise and operate a proper system of Pipe Band Contest Rules; and
  • To organise the World, European, British, Scottish and all Major Championships held within the United Kingdom.

From such small beginnings the Association has grown into the large organisation which is recognised world-wide today. Some of the important milestones which have taken place since 1930 include:

  • the first World Pipe Band Championships organised by the SPBA in 1947;
  • agreement of the SPBA Coat of Arms by the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Edinburgh, with the motto “Ceol na h-Alba” –  “Music of Scotland”;
  • formation of a Pipe Band College in 1947;
  • the Silver Jubilee in 1955;
  • publication of the first SPBA Tutor & Textbooks in 1962 and 1970;
  • the Golden Jubilee in 1980, when “Royal” status was conferred by Her Majesty, The Queen;
  • the Silver Jubilee in 1990;
  • introduction of the Structured Learning Programme 1990-1992;
  • the first Major Pipe Band Championships held outwith the UK (the European Championships in Belgium in 2003);
  • the 75th Anniversary in 2005;
  • the joint venture in 2006 with the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming, College of Piping, National Piping Centre and Piobaireachd Society to form the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board (PDQB)
  • approval as a Scottish Qualifications Authority Examinations Centre in 2009.

A comprehensive account of the Association’s history is available in the publication “How it all began: and the first 75 years” which can be purchased from our online store.  This interesting booklet was compiled by the RSPBA’s Historical Research Group and published in December 2007.

In this section:

Scroll to Top