A Newcastle pipe band blew the Scots away at the weekend by winning a major competition North of the border.
The City of Newcastle Pipe Band came home with the coveted Champion of Champions title at the Cowal Highland Gathering after snatching the title from Scots born and bred.
The accolode is given to the best band in each grade in the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association and the Gathering at Dunoon is said to be the biggest and most spectacular Highland Games in the world.
The victory capped the most successful year in the band’s 100-year-history after a recruiting drive to find new members.
Pipe major Bryan Robinson said the win on Saturday was not unexpected but was welcome and was the icing on the cake of a wonderful season.
He said: “We have proved you don’t have to be Scottish to play the pipes well enough to win a top competition.
“You would expect Scots to be better than the English at this but we not only gave them a run for their money but came out on top.
“We have played 12 contests this year and are currently the British champions, the English champions, the Edinburgh champions, and now the Champion of Champions.
“We have never been placed less than fifth in all competitions this season.
“We were sitting in top position before the Gathering and I’m very pleased we met with expectations.”
Bryan said playing the Scottish style of pipes, as distinct from Northumbrian pipes, had undergone a resurgence in the region in recent years despite what might seem a unlikely choice for the North East.
He said: “We have 30 members in the band who live in all parts of the North East.
“You will find other bands in most towns in the region doing the same as us and playing music not usually associated with England.
“The main difference from Northumbrian pipes is that they play with bellows while ours is a quieter sound and played with a closed chanter and usually outdoors.
“There are about 15 pipe bands in the North East and the popularity of the music is growing all the time.
“There are a lot of Scottish ex -pats in the region but you don’t have to be Scottish to play.
“We have played at events like the Great North Run and Remembrance Sunday, and other events, so we are pretty busy.
“Just two weeks ago the band competed at the World Pipe Championships and finished fifth out of a total of 68 bands.
“The band has been going for over 100 years but this has been one of our best. It has never been done before that a North East band is consistently winning prizes at every contest we enter.”
He puts some of the success down to a reorganisation which saw a permanent rehearsal site at HMS Calliope at Gateshead, new members, and a focus on competitions.
Previously rehearsals were held in various workingmen’s clubs across the region. Despite its name the City of Newcastle Pipe Band is not associated with Newcastle Council.
Bryan played in the contest on Saturday and singled our drum sergeant Thomas Rae and pipe sergeant Jordon Aitken for special praise.
Tunes were chosen for their musical complexity.
The next stage in the band’s plans is to seek promotion from Grade 4 to Grade 3 in the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association.