In 1967 J.W. (Bill) Merriman, Jack Sutherland and Jerry Golanty – all members of the City of San Francisco (Caledonian) Pipe Band – realized that there was no organization to train young pipers and drummers in the Bay Area. In 1968 the band was officially incorporated as a non-profit educational organization. Bill Merriman served as piping instructor and Jack Sutherland and Jerry Golanty as drumming instructors. Jack also served as band manager. Several years later Trevor Atkinson, another “Callie” band member, became the drumming instructor.
The band, which began with a small number of students, to date has trained approximately 500 pipers and drummers. Today there are very few bands anywhere in California that do not have a former PCPB member in their ranks.
When the Prince Charles Pipe Band was founded the guiding principles included quality instruction, dedication and discipline, and these have not changed. As pipers and drummers grow in experience and maturity they are expected to pass on their learning to others.
The Prince Charles Pipe Band has actually been many bands over the years-from Grade 1 to Grade 4 and Juvenile, Junior and at one time a Ladies’ Band. Besides entertaining for thousands of events, the bands have competed in the United States, Canada and in Scotland for nearly 50 years.
Beginning in 1967 with a handful of pipers and drummers, the band had increased to 72 members in 1973 and traveled to Scotland to compete in international competition for the first time. The band was awarded the Marching and Deportment Trophy at the World Championships at Shotts, and was the Guest Band at the Argyllshire Gathering in Oban. It was the first time a mixed gender youth band had ever competed in Scotland. In 1978, the band returned to Scotland with much success, receiving a fourth place at the World Championships and first place at the Cowal Championships. In 1991 at the World Pipe Band Championships the Band won second place (with a first in drumming) and again received 1st place at the Cowal Championships.
In 1997, a new junior band competed at the World Championships receiving a third place in the Juvenile class, as well as a third place at Cowal and first place at Crieff. In 1998, the band, now playing as a Grade 3 Band, took 5th place in the World Championships and 1st at Crieff. In 1999, the band traveled to Scotland as a Grade 2 band, finishing 2nd at Bridge of Allan and 6th at the Worlds. In 2000, the band again competed in Grade 2, returning to the States with the World Championship trophy for Grade 2.
In 2001 the Western US Pipe Band Association (WUSPBA) elevated the Band to Grade 1, the highest grade possible. The Band competed successfully on the West Coast and returned to Scotland in 2003 and 2005 to compete in the Grade 1 World Championships. At the same time, a Grade 3 Band comprising younger but highly motivated and talented players was “tearing up the field” in competition and traveled to Scotland in 2003 to successfully capture first prize in the World Championships in Grade 3.
With school, careers and family priorities, the organization went through another transition in 2006-07, but emerged again in 2008 with the establishment of a Grade 2 “senior” band. This band won the 2009 WUSPBA Grade 2 Champion award in its first year of competition, and went on to win it again in 2010, 11, 14 and 15. In 2015, the Grade 2 Band was undefeated in every WUSPBA event it entered, and also placed 6th overall (3rd in Medley) at the North American Championships in Maxville, Ontario, and 2nd in Montreal.
The Prince Charles Pipe Band currently operates a Grade 2 and a Grade 5 competition band. Both bands will be traveling to Lorient, France in August 2017 to participate as a guest band in the Festival Interceltique Lorient, a ten-day celebration of Celtic culture, music, dance and arts.
The organization is entering its 50th year of existence and is still going strong, thanks to the values and principles established by its founders and embraced by its members through the years.