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 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:-
- 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.
- Winner of four out of five Novice Juvenile major championships, including the Worlds.
- Winner of four out of five Juvenile major championships, including the Worlds.
- Winner of all five major championships in Grade 2.
During this period, the next generation of Inveraray Piping Project was being developed by Stuart with assistance from local pipers Kate Paton and Robert Stewart. As a result, a new Novice Juvenile band was formed in 2008. Robert agreed to take over the reigns as Pipe Major of the new band, which facilitated the continued development of the senior band.
The Grade 2 band’s success 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 Cornuaille in Quimper, Brittany, and concert appearances such as Celtic Connections for the first time.
The success of the band continued in 2011, but unfortunately the season was tinged with sadness when in May of that year Robert Stewart passed away after first suffering a stroke and then latterly being diagnosed with leukaemia. The day after Robert’s funeral, the band produced a fine performance coming 5th overall at the Scottish Championships. The highlight of the season, however, was coming 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.