In 2003, renowned piper Stuart Liddell took up a new position teaching piping in schools in the Mid Argyll area. He had always had a vision that Inveraray might one day have a pipe band again, the previous Inveraray Pipe Band having disbanded in the late 1930s.
In September 2003, the Inveraray Piping Project was born. With the assistance of local people, Tuesday nights at Inveraray Primary School became the time and venue for weekly piping tuition and practices and the small group began to grow. By May 2004, there were five young pipers- including Laura McMillan (who is still a member of the band), Laura Underwood and Alasdair Dempster- and a drummer, Graeme McMillan. In the summer of 2004, Stuart was joined by Dougie Campbell, to assist with the teaching at these meetings and an ethos of player improvement through individual teaching was developed. As the intensity of the project increased, a Sunday meeting was soon added, a balance always being struck between the hard graft, on the one hand, and recreation and team building on the other.
In 2005, built upon these foundations, Inveraray and District Pipe Band (“IDPB”) was formed when it registered with the RSPBA. It competed in its first competition in the Novice Juvenile grade at Cowal Games in August 2005, with borrowed drums and its young members clad in uniforms of various colours.
The next few years, kick-started by National Lottery funding and much local support, saw the band rise through the RSPBA Grades with unprecedented momentum, as detailed below.
Following the considerable success of the band in the Juvenile grade, a decision was reached that the band would thereafter compete in the adult grades to enable the older members to remain. The RSPBA took the unusual step of grading the band from Juvenile directly into Grade 2 owing to its success. At that stage, to strengthen the drum corps within the band, World Solo Drumming Champion Steven McWhirter left the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Pipe Band to take over as IDPB’s Leading Drummer. Stuart also departed SFU at that time to enable him to compete full time as Pipe Major with IDPB. Highlights of this period, the years 2006 to 2009, include:-
- 2006- Winner of the overall Scottish award for Best Lottery Funded Project (and a win in the UK-wide “Local Legend” category for Stuart Liddell) in the National Lottery Awards. Prize winner in all five RSPBA major Championships in the Novice Juvenile grade in IDPB’s first full year.
- 2007- Winner of four out of five Novice Juvenile major championships, including the Worlds.
- 2008- Winner of four out of five Juvenile major championships, including the Worlds.
- 2009- Winner of all five major championships in Grade 2.
The band’s success in Grade 2 in 2009 meant that it was immediately promoted to Grade 1 for the 2010 season. Both the pipe and drum corps had added to their ranks for the 2009 season and similarly were able to do so for 2010. In its first Grade 1 season, the band placed 5th at the Cowal Championship. Meantime, the growing demand for the band’s music and playing style meant opportunities for travel to festivals such as Brittany and Spain, and concert appearances such as Celtic Connections for the first time.
The success of the band continued in 2011, with the band coming 5th at the Scottish Championships. The highlight of the season, however, was being placed 4th overall at the World Pipe Band Championships, in what was only the band’s second year in Grade 1. The band continues to be a regular prize winner at the major events and a centre of excellence built on strong foundations. The attention to detail and focus on individual and collective playing quality that were a feature of its embryonic beginnings remain to this day in all sections of the band. The current incarnation of IDPB is less parochial – in fact, truly international – with members from several continents. The membership features highly decorated individual performers, graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, an abundance of capable composers and arrangers and several performers with a wider musical pedigree than purely piping or drumming.
From 2012 up until 2019 (with no competitions in 2020/2021 due to the pandemic) the band were very consistent and have been placed in the top 6 in every Major Championship during these years. They won their first Major, the European, at Forres in 2014 and were 2nd in the Worlds that year. In 2016 they won the Scottish and British but were again just beaten into 2nd place at the Worlds.
However, in 2017 they reached the pinnacle when they won the Worlds and became Champion of Champions in the same year. The band went on to win the Worlds for a second time in 2019.
Apart from competitions, the band hasn’t forgotten its roots and returns to Inveraray each year to play at the Inveraray Highland Games in July as well as the local Remembrance parades in November.