1891, and Piping Gets the Once Over from a Highland Games Athlete

We are grateful to Dr Jack Taylor, President of the Piobaireachd Society, for drawing our attention to a work by author William McCombie-Smith, a successful Victorian era athlete, critic and writer.

In his book ‘The Athletes and Athletic Sports of Scotland’, McCombie-Smith takes a long look at piping and we begin today with his report on the then current social attitudes to the instrument and its music. He comments on how mainstream musicians considered the instrument as ‘barbarous’ and also on the deplorable way other writers, mainly English, saw the bagpipe in the late 19th century.


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We are certain that McCombie-Smith must have spoken to many pipers before he put a pen to paper, and as such his work could be considered of more value than it at first appears. Those going round the games with him included, John MacColl, John MacDougall Gillies, William MacLennan, the MacDonalds of Morar and many other notables. Other excerpts from the book will follow. The above picture shows a scene from a Highland games in the 1890s.


Reminder to bands: Entries for the first major championship of the season, the British at Bathgate on May 30th, close on April 15. Register here. Get the full run down of 2015 contests in the latest Pipe Band magazine:



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