We are the cham­pi­ons

Argyllshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

MIS­MATCHED kilts, bor­rowed kit and a group of young pipers and drum­mers ner­vously march­ing into a pipe band arena for the first time.

Just 12 years ago at Cowal High­land Gath­er­ing, these were the be­gin­nings of In­ver­aray and Dis­trict Pipe Band.

Fast for­ward to 2017 and last Satur­day at Glas­gow Green, In­ver­aray and Dis­trict – al­beit with per­son­nel changes along the way – were crowned grade one cham­pi­ons of the world.

Not only that, they were the dom­i­nant band across the sea­son, win­ning four of the five ma­jors on of­fer and win­ning the cham­pion of cham­pi­ons ti­tle for the sec­ond year running.

It is a truly re­mark­able tale of ded­i­ca­tion and hard work, with Pipe Ma­jor Stu­art Lid­dell and lead­ing drum­mer Stephen McWhirter lead­ing from the front.

There has been a big cast of sup­port­ers be­hind the scenes keep­ing the band running through­out their me­te­oric rise to world supremacy, in­clud­ing the late Robert Ste­wart and Alas­dair Chrys­tal, but also in­volv­ing other tu­tors, com­mit­tee mem­bers and par­ents over the years.

Speak­ing last Sun­day – the day after win­ning the world ti­tle – as a se­lect few band mem­bers marched through In­ver­aray to play on the front green, Stu­art Lid­dell took time to re­flect.‘It feels great,’ he said. ‘It didn’t seem real yes­ter­day, but now it’s lovely, just a fan­tas­tic feel­ing. The more you dwell on it, the more in­cred­i­ble it seems to be. It’s a bit of re­lief too, to be hon­est, now that we’ve bro­ken it. We can move on and con­tinue the jour­ney.

‘It’s a con­stant pur­suit of ex­cel­lence, so hope­fully we can keep im­prov­ing.’

Look­ing back to the ori­gins of the band, he ex­plained: ‘We got to grade one in 2010. Prior to that we had a re­ally fast as­cent through the grades. In 2007, we won four of the five ma­jors in novice ju­ve­nile, and that got us pro­mo­tion to the ju­ve­nile ranks.

‘In 2008, we also won four of the five ma­jors, then we got to a cross­roads. The ques­tion arose of whether we wanted to stay as a ju­ve­nile band or progress even higher up the lad­der, but to do that we had to jump across to the adult sec­tions, so they pro­moted us to grade two in 2009.

‘We won all five of the ma­jors in 2009, but at that time we could ac­tu­ally take in adult play­ers along with the orig­i­nal group to strengthen it up. That was a very suc­cess­ful year for us. At the end of that year we got pro­mo­tion to grade one, where we’ve spent the past seven years cut­ting our teeth. This was a hard grade to be in. It’s the cream of the crop.

‘At the very top end, with bands like Field Mar­shal, St Lau­rence O’Toole and oth­ers, there’s re­ally just a cig­a­rette pa­per be­tween them.’

Asked what made the dif­fer­ence this year, he said: ‘Our drum corps had two ex­cel­lent runs in the fi­nal yes­ter­day. Our en­sem­ble mark also rated first in both cir­cles. In fact, over­all as a band over the two days we did re­ally well get­ting 12 of the 16 first places.

‘But I think it was the drum corps in the fi­nal that re­ally pulled us through. We had sec­onds and a third with the pip­ing and a first, I think. But it was the drum corps and the en­sem­ble marks that made the dif­fer­ence.’

Pay­ing trib­ute to his friend and long­stand­ing band­mate Stephen McWhirter, Stu­art added: ‘Stephen and I work re­ally well to­gether mu­si­cally. We played with Si­mon Fraser Uni­ver­sity to­gether and it was there that the idea of play­ing to­gether first came about. And here we are now.’

He then turned his thoughts to his own fam­ily, adding: ‘I’m sure my dad and grand­fa­ther Ron­nie McCallum would both be very proud, as is my mum Agnes, of course.’

Pipe Ma­jor Stu­art Lid­dell led In­ver­aray and Dis­trict Pipe Band to a his­toric first grade one world ti­tle just 13 years after the band was formed. Read Stu­art's thoughts on the band’s suc­cess on page 10.

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Stu­art Lid­dell with proud mum Agnes.

Lead­ing drum­mer Stephen McWhirter was a big part of the band’s suc­cess.

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