Welcome to Pipe Bands Victoria, the website of the Australian Pipe Band Association, Victoria Branch, and the Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association.
The Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association, established in 1924, is the oldest pipe band association in the world, and now functions to support the Victorian Branch of the A.P.B.A. Inc and the bands of that branch.
Pipe Bands Victoria is the name used to market both associations, the APBA Inc. Victoria Branch being the body responsible for everyday band activities, the V.H.P.B.A. Inc. (the State Association formerly responsible for everyday band activities) remains active as an administrative facility to support the branch.
There are some forty pipe bands in Victoria. The oldest have attained their centenary, while bands are still being formed in new areas. Most bands offer instruction to learners and players alike. Standards are set, and Certificates of Proficiency awarded by the Australian Pipe Band College.
Sir Rupert Hamer AC, KCMG, ED was the first Chieftain of Pipe Bands Victoria and remained active in his support of the Association until his death in 2004. More recently, The Hon. Ted Baillieu MLA accepted an invitation to the appointment of Chieftain, and Mr Baillieu too actively supports Pipe Bands Victoria in its endeavours and goals.
Groups interested in the maintenance of Scottish traditions and music can be traced back to the Sydney of the 1820s at least, and while there is no continuous history of Scottish activities since then, there are flashes of information until late last century. Expatriate Scots, often under the aegis of Vice-Regal Scots, conducted various activities to keep fresh the old traditions in the somewhat different surroundings of Australia.
Highland Gatherings and musical contests also go back a long way — with continuity from the 1850s. Pipe bands appear in the last part of the nineteenth century. Initially as Scottish interest groups were brought into association by such bodies as the Victorian Scottish Union, the pipe bands joined with the dancers and the other groups. From time to time there was a desire to have control of pipe band affairs, and to shake free of the interference of other groups, however well meant it was.
By the 1920s there was, in Victoria, a surge of feeling within the bands that the time had come. This was crystallised by Drum Major Lew Zilles, later Maj. L. L. Zilles, OAM, ED, at the Maryborough Highland Gathering in 1924, using a platform made available by the promoters. Discussions followed, and a meeting was held in Geelong on 12th April 1924, at which the Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association was formed, the first such association wholly for the interests of pipe bands in the world — some years ahead of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association itself. Lew remained a respected and active figure until his death in 1998 at the age of 94; he judged his last contest at the fine age of 88.
Its first tasks were the establishment of uniform contest rules, and the use of qualified judges, not the gentlemen friends of the various organisers as tended to be the case beforehand.
As time passed, bands in other States also joined, and by the 1950s the Victorian Association had member bands in New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania as well as Victoria. However, during the 1950s Associations were formed in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. The Tasmanian and Western Australian Associations followed later.
By 1960 the desirability of a national uniformity of contest rules was evident, and there was a desire to identify a real and generally accepted national championships. An initial meeting between representatives of the New South Wales and Victorian Associations was fruitful, and the Australian Federation of Pipe Associations was formed. In due course, all six State Associations joined the Federation.
The Federation controlled the contest rules for national championships only, and discussed other matters, but in these effective authority remained with the State bodies. Probably, this fairly loose union was the best that communications and perhaps a degree of distrust of other people interfering in one’s home area allowed at that time.
The first Chieftain of the Federation was the then Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Menzies, K.T., C.H., Q.C. After his death, Mr G. Ewen Masson, OAM, former President of the South Australian Association and of the Federation, was appointed Chieftain and he holds office still.
As time passed the degree of cohesion improved. Greater knowledge of the people involved was a factor, as was the steady increase in travel of bands and individuals around our vast country. As time passed, the significant variations in local rules were done away with, and a teaching and examining College established.
By the 1990s there grew a feeling that the time had come to be one national Association, with State-based Branches co-operating in one framework: this Australian Association was established in 1997, and we are working towards full unification of procedures and practices — it is important that this not interfere with continuing service to members.
The musical standard of our bands has been steadily increasing over the past decades, to an extent not dreamed of not all that long ago. We hope that this will continue into the new millennium.