2024 Australian Pipe Band and Drum Major Championships

After a 63 year recess, on the 13th April 2024 the Australian Pipe Band Championships returned at last to where it all started, the Victorian goldfields town of Maryborough. Maryborough was the site of the very first Australian Pipe Band Championships on New Year’s Day 1961. On that day, New South Wales Police band won Grade 1, the 17th Battn, Royal New South Wales Regiment won Grade 2, and Knox Grammar (Sydney) won both Grade 3 and the Juvenile Grade.

Singapore’s Lion City Pipe Band.

Forward 63 years, on a beautiful, clear autumn day the 2024 Championships began with a Street Parade along Maryborough High Street. The Mayor, Councillor Liesbeth Long, took the salute from 15 bands. The Parade was led by 2022 Australian Drum Major Champion Dominic Strudwick-Andersen from the Australian Federal Police Pipe Band and, in a nod to the very origins of the championships, headed by representatives from three bands that had competed in 1961 – Hawthorn Pipe Band (Victoria), Knox Grammar (Sydney), and Scotch College (Melbourne).

At 10.08 precisely, the Championships proper began in the stunning setting of Princes Park, Maryborough. The Maryborough Highland Society played host – as they did in 1961 – with the championships being run by Pipe Bands Victoria (PBV), the local branch of Pipe Bands Australia, under the direction of PBV Chair, Mrs Karen Wallace. The State Member for Ripon, Ms Martha Haylett MP, joined the Mayor, PBV Chair, and President of Maryborough Highland Society to formally open the Championships.

Thirty-five bands competed across all seven grades, from Grade 1 to Juvenile Novice B, carefully assessed by three panels of adjudicators, including three international adjudicators. The two white-picket fenced contest circles were embraced by adoring crowds all day, crescendo-ing to the highlight performances by Grade 2 Emmanuel College Highlanders from the University of Queensland and Australia’s only active Grade 1 band, the “local” Hawthorn Pipe Band.

Home of the Australian Championships

The championships were fiercely contested across all grades, especially Grades 4A, 4B, and Novice A. The winners? Grade 1 – Hawthorn Pipe Band (uncontested); Grade 2 – Emmanuel College Highlanders UQ (uncontested); Grade 3 – City of Melbourne Highland Pipe Band; Grade 4A – Scotch College (Melbourne) Pipes and Drums; Grade 4B – Maryborough & District Highland Pipe Band; Novice A – The Scots College Sydney; Novice B – Scotch College (Melbourne) Pipes and Drums No.2.

Drum Major Championship.

As the sun began to sink slowly westwards, the crowds were delighted by the Drum Major Championships. While there were only two competitors, the contest was of the highest standard. Both participants were immaculately turned out, each attaining perfect scores for Dress. With slightly better flourishing, Sgt Benjamin Casey (Pipes and Drums of the 5th/6th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment) narrowly edged out reigning champion Dominic Strudwick-Andersen (Australian Federal Police Pipe Band). Thanks to Coastal Scottish from Western Australia for being the duty band for the contest.

Clans on display.

The magnificent day closed with the famous Girl on a Drum, a Maryborough specialty where a local Highland Dancer performs her art on a Bass Drum held high. Amazingly skilled, and slightly scary! Congratulations to all participants. A highly successful day, most fitting of the “home” of the Australian Championships. As expected of Victorian hospitality, the day closed with a ceilidh at the Maryborough Highland Society. The sounds of the pipes and drums rolled on into the night, as did the stories of success from the day.

Text by: Professor Euan M Wallace AM, Secretary, Pipe Bands Victoria.

Images courtesy of Mal Nicolson.

Main photo: Albury Wodonga Pipes and Drums.

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