2006 Scottish Regional Championships - Introduction

8-Mar-2006

Scotland has a lot to be proud about in 2006 - its rugby team for one. But are their brass bands capable of sending the English (and Welsh) back home to think again come Finals time?


Scotland is a very proud Celtic nation - and is also a very well run brass banding movement. Can that organisation get more bands to compete at the Regional Championships, and can the bands themselves become more successful at national level.

There are a great number of similarities between the two Celtic nations of Scotland and Wales in brass banding terms.

Both have maintained a fierce independence over the years with the Welsh even canceling their regional contest in 1980 after a bit of an argument with the powers that be across the border of Offa's Dyke. The Scots have also had their moments when they have bared their teeth and have shown a desire to organise things their way and no one else's. Just have a look at how they have their own registration rules at many of their home events for instance.

Both are fiercely proud of their achievements in the banding movement as well and the Scots in particular have taken a great deal of pride in way they run the European Champions here in 2004 and the Lower Section Finals in 2003.

A Scottish Executive are led from the front by forward thinking men of the calibre of Chairman Alan McLaren and the indefatigable Peter Fraser, whilst there is a fine phalanx of able and willing deputies who have thrust Scottish banding really well into the 21st Century.

In terms of size, both are roughly the same in numerical numbers, with Wales having 53 to Scotland's 51 bands registered to play on the weekend of the 11th and 12th March.

From this fairly small number though success has come at all levels but since the turn of the Millennium when Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass won in the Third Section, not one Scottish band has returned from the National Finals as winners. They have come close to be fair, but not close enough. Hopefully 2006 will see the start of some winning performances both in Harrogate and London.

Championship Section:

For many years Scottish banding at the Championship level has been dominated by the two traditional heavyweights of Scottish Co-op and Whitburn, but instead of suffocating the success of the other bands, it has inspired them somewhat, with the likes of Newtongrange, Kirkintilloch and others making their mark.
With the others upping their form the contest here has become a much more vibrant and close run thing (as well as having the ability to spring a surprise or two) and this year could well be another when the winners could come from a handful of contenders.

The bands though will have to up their form when they get to London. CWS Glasgow last won there in 1996 and in the ten years since bands have only come in the top six twice. That's not a great record is it? Last year Newtongrange and Whitburn found the Albert Hall not quite to their liking and came back home in 11th and 14th places. Again, not so good.

It will therefore be interesting to see what happens this year. Can Newtongrange retain their title, or can Scottish Co-op reinstate their supremacy once more. Whitburn are long overdue a victory here, whilst Kirkintilloch has been knocking on the door for sometime without ever being let in.

There is also the two added bonuses of doing well here as well. First the winners can claim to win the Scottish Championships (which date back to 1895), as well as gaining the qualification place for the 2007 European Championships. Some hat trick that, but which band will be celebrating come Sunday night. Come to think of it will any of the two qualifiers have anything to celebrate come the National Finals.

First Section:

No Scottish Champion in the First Section since its inception in 1992, although a couple of bands have come close in 1998 and 1999. Since then its been a bit up and down in terms of results and last year the two representatives Kirkintilloch and Johnstone just came out of the prizes in 7th and 8th place respectively.
There seems ground for optimism though and depending on who may get through from a failry small field they may well fancy their chances come the Finals.

Second Section:

The Second Section is also showing signs of improved Scottish form with three top six places for at least one qualifying band in the last three years. It is nearly ten years though since Bathgate became National Champions (a repeat of their 1989 victory), but you have to go back to 1980 for the time before that.  Last year's representatives Granite City Brass and Lochgelly came back from Harrogate in 6th and 15th place respectively, so there is room for improvement.  It will be interesting to hear how the bands get to grips with a very difficult test piece though. 

Third Section:

The Third Section hasn't proved a successful hunting ground for Scottish bands at the Finals since that 2000 Kirky win. Since then there has only been one top ten place a poor return in anyone's books. Last year Shotts St. Patrick's and Selkirk traveled south played well enough but then traveled north after coming 11th and 16th. There is work to be done here as well, but it should be a fine contest given the line up of bands and the music they have to play.

Fourth Section:

Finally the Fourth Section, which for any region is the real litmus test to whether or not the movement in their area is either in a healthy state or contracting even further.

This year there are just the seven bands taking part (down from 10 last year) so that must be a little cause for concern.  It is now 16 years since a Scottish Band (Gorton Silver) actually won the National title, and the last time a Scots band came in the top six was in 1999. Room for improvement again then? Last year's representatives, showed decent form though with Coalburn Silver coming 7th and Broxburn 9th.  Moving in the right direction then?

Scottish banding has much to commend it at present a look at their very glossy programme they produce each year will show you that, but they still have a great amount to do as well, as that same programme also shows a map of the country and lists some 91 brass bands registered with the Scottish Association. If they have that many on the books, why then do only just over 50% of them make it to the Regional contest?
We are sure however, that this is being addressed and over the next few years we could well see Scotland expand in both terms of the number of bands competing and possibly in the number trophies they bring back home with them over Hadrian's Wall.

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David HirstDavid Hirst
MA, B.Ed (Hons), LTCL

Conductor, adjudicator and arranger