Scottish Pipers’ Association Secures Sponsorship

spa-300x175One of Scotland’s oldest piping societies, the Scottish Pipers’ Association, has secured funding for its annual professional competition.

The sponsor is McCallum Bagpipes who have agreed to donate a substantial sum of cash to the competition. SPA President Tom Johnstone said he was delighted to secure the money which guarantees the competition’s future:

‘I cannot thank this company enough. We are determined to restore the SPA Professional to status it once enjoyed in the professional piping world and this cash is obviously a major boost for us.’

The 2015 competition will be held on April 18 at the College of Piping.

John MacDougall Gillies, the SPA’s first President

The SPA was founded in 1920, its first president John MacDougall Gillies.  The objectives of the association, set out in the Constitution in 1920 were: ‘The study and practice of the music of the Great Highland Bagpipe, the banding together of the pipers of Scotland and the fostering of the spirit of comradeship amongst them.’

In practice, in our times, this means that pipers get together and get the opportunity to play  in each other’s company, socialize and gain confidence at playing in public.

The trophies for its amateur and professional competitions have some of the most famous names in piping on them stretching back to pre-WW2 times. The SPA is currently undergoing an upsurge in interest and has the following events lined up in the near future:

  • Club nights at the College of Piping on the 1st Friday of each month (except for July and August) at 7.30pm. The next club night is this Friday at 7.30pm.
  • Adult Amateur and Veterans Contest on Saturday 28th March 2015
  • Annual Professional Piping Competition on Saturday 18th April 2015 – also WW1 recital on the same day in the evening (see below).
  • WW1 Recital – next in our series on Saturday 18th April 2015 (evening, starting 7.30pm)

Entry form for any event or a membership form please e-mail the secretary, Melissa Jeffrey on: or Tom Johnstone (President) at

Classic Piobaireachd Downloads

To fully understand the historic nature of the Association and its activities read this  from the SPA’s History section on its website (currently being rebuilt):

‘During the 1920s some of the Association’s competitions were held in the Pearce Institute, Govan. At first there was a Piobaireachd event for Amateurs, but not for Professionals, and March, Strathspey and Reel events for both groups. Tuning on the platform was brief and the judges were under cover.  

‘One of the competitions in 1923 took place at the Pearce Institute in April and was reported in the Oban Times. [See pic at top of article]. The results were:

Open Marches – 1 George S McLennan, late PM Gordon Highlanders, 2. John MacDonald, Glasgow Police, 3. PM R Reid 7thHLI, 4. P/M William Gray, Glasgow Police, 5. John MacAskill, Glasgow Police.
Strathspey and Reel – 1. George S McLennan, late PM Gordon Highlanders, 2. Angus Campbell, 3. P/M William Gray, Glasgow Police, 4. John MacAskill, Glasgow Police, 5. John MacDonald, Glasgow Police.Jigs- 1. George S McLennan, late P/M Gordon Highlanders, 2. John MacDonald, Glasgow Police, 3. PM William Gray, Glasgow Police.[wds id=”3″]

‘Most Points Overall – 1. George S McLennan, late PM Gordon Highlanders, 2. John MacDonald, Glasgow Police, 3. PM William Gray, Glasgow Police.

Semi-amateur Piping: Marches – 1. Hugh Kennedy, Glasgow, 2. J. Thomson, Glasgow, 3. J. Keir, Alexandria, 4. Cameron Hutchison, Dalmuir.Strathspey and Reel – 1. Donald MacNeill, Townhead, 2. Ronald MacDonald, Renton, 3. A. McDermid, Glasgow, 4. A. McColl, Bridgeton, Glasgow.

‘The Chairman for the day was John Kaid MacLean. The Association President John MacDougall Gillies died quite suddenly at his home from a stroke on the 17th December 1925, at the age of sixty-nine and James MacIvor then became the President. The meeting place was now in a small hall attached to a printer’s workshop in Thistle Street, Garnethill. James MacIvor was a master joiner in Govan and had been a pupil of Gillies and a very successful solo prize winner. He always had his silver-mounted pipes available for anyone to play. Meetings were held on Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. to suit out-of­ town members. Some of the pipers who attended regularly at this time were John MacLachlan, Alastair Hutcheon, William Gray, John Mackenzie, John MacColl, William Fergusson, William MacLean, Ronald Meldrum, lain Macpherson (Senior), Archie MacNeill (the blind piper), and Willie Barrie, who was described as a talented young pupil of Robert Reid.  

Beginner Piobaireachd Downloads

‘The 1926 Annual General Meeting which was held on Saturday 25thDecember at 9 Thistle Street was reported in the newspaper. Mr. James MacIvor, Govan was re-elected President while Pipe Majors William MacLean, John MacKenzie, Archd. McPhedran and Alex Hutcheon were elected vice-presidents. Mr. Malcolm Currie was re-elected Secretary and Pipe Major William Gray was elected Treasurer in place of Robert Mann who had retired. The President reported that the balance sheet was very satisfactory and membership was still on the increase. The annual competition held in the Pearce Institute, Govan in November had been very successful. The meeting decided to hold the annual competitions for the John MacDougall Gillies and Farquhar MacRae trophies in October and it was further decided to hold about the first Saturday in May, a competition for open piobaireachds, marches, strathspeys and reels and slow marches. At the same time there would be a competition for semi-amateurs in marches, strathspeys and reels. The competition would in all probability be held in the MacLellan Galleries. It was a long time since open piobaireachd playing was held within doors in Glasgow and many members of the Association and others who remembered the old ‘Waterloo Rooms’ days when audiences taxed the capacity of the rooms to the utmost were desirous of resuscitating the spirit of these times.’