PP Editor’s Blog: Falkirk Tryst Competition etc.

Blue MacMurchie reports: On Saturday the 10th of October the 6th annual Falkirk Piping Recital competition and the 4th Annual MacMurchie Contest was held at Trinity Kirk in Falkirk, a venue with wonderful acoustics much appreciated by the audience, pipers and judges.

Due to a number of unforeseen family commitments the turnout of pipers was  poor but the standard was as per other years – extremely high by those who played. The Falkirk Tryst competition is one of the most lucrative on the circuit for young pipers and the four winners all shared in over £2,500 worth of prizes!

callum-gets-banner
Calum Craib receives the winners’ banner and trophy

The journeys  for one player coming from Benbecula and another from Newtownards, Northern Ireland, were certainly worth it – time and distance not a problem for those really wishing to compete. Despite the disappointment in numbers, the Tryst contest will go ahead next year and any piper under 21 who wishes to compete should get in touch with me. The date will be more or less the same as this year.

After the awards ceremony the winner Calum Craib played ‘thrice’ round the tomb of the ‘Immortal Heroes’ just as had been done in 1781 (pictured top).

Pipers are invited to compete by the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust and/or The National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland and must play for up to 20 minutes. Tryst winners cannot compete again for the Falkirk Tryst. MacMurchie Contest winners can compete again for the Falkirk Tryst and MacMurchie Contest. The appropriate dress code is kilt, glengarry/balmoral or full Highland dress. Age limit: younger than 21 on the day. During performance pipers, are judged for the Marching and Deportment Contest. First part of the Falkirk Tryst Piping Recital and the MacMurchie Contest: 10 minutes, compulsory MacMurchie only tunes. Competitors can ask for a free copy of the MacMurchie Collection tunes – Volume One or/and Two if they do not have them.

The results were as follows:

The beautifully engraved practice chanter presented to the winner
The beautifully engraved practice chanter presented to the winner

The Falkirk Tryst
1. Calum Craib  (Benbecula)
2. Ryan Cupples-Menendez (Newtownards, NI)
3. Jamie Falconer
4. John Dew

The MacMurchie Contest
1. Ryan Cupples-Menendez
2. Calum Craib
3. Jamie Falconer
4. John Dew

Judges:  Logan Tannock and Blue MacMurchie
March & Deportment: Calum Craib
M&D Judge:  Pipe Major Davie Black MBE BEM

The contest commemorates the original Falkirk Tryst competition held in the town in the late 18th century and sponsored by the Highland Society of London, the same Society which presents the Gold Medals at Oban and Inverness today. Here is a contemporary account of the first contest:

2588751097Falkirk Tryst – October, 1781 – The Highland Society of London, of which one of the first Dukes in Scotland, was then President,being desirous that the ancient spirit of the Great Pipe, which in former times called the Clans in Scotland to war, should be revived, were pleased to order Annual Prizes to be played for, and to be adjudged to the best performers on that instrument, who should appear as candidates at the Falkirk Tryst. The first prize to be a set of new Pipes, made by Hugh Robertson, Edinburgh, and forty merks Scots money; the second prize thirty merks; and the third the like sum. Some gentleman as a deputation from the Society at Glasgow, and the agent from Edinburgh, made their appearance at Falkirk, the day preceding that appointed for the competition. They met on the following morning, and adjourned to the Mason Lodge; when, after hearing an excellent Gaelic poem recited by an old grey-headed bard, which he composed for the occasion in the presence of a select company of ladies and gentleman, thirteen competing Pipers, and the maker of the Prize Pipe, the deputation and the agent, proceeded to the election of a press, and six gentleman to be judges of the merit of the performers.

The superb array of trophies and prizes on offer at the Falkirk Tryst contest
The superb array of trophies and prizes on offer at the Falkirk Tryst contest

The Preses chosen on this occasion, was universally allowed to be not only a very fine player himself, but one of the first judges of the instrument in Scotland; and one of the judges chosen from the Glasgow deputation, was likewise acknowledged to be an excellent performer on that warlike instrument, and every way qualified for determining on the merit of the candidates. A mode of trial was next adopted, which reflected great honour upon the impartiality of the judges. The competitors were conducted to a room, apart, where from one of their bonnets, they drew lots for priority of performance. This done, the person who drew lot No. 1  was conducted by a private door, to a small court below the windows of the lodge, in such a manner. that the judges neither could see nor know the particular performer. Each person was made to play four different tunes, while the judged continued taking accurate notes of the performances. The judges almost unanimously awarded the first prize to Patrick MacGregor, Piper to Henry Balnaves, Esq. of Edradour, in the parish of Mullin and county of Perth; the second prize to Charles MacArthur, Piper to the Earl of Eglinton; and the third to John MacGregor senior, aged 73, Piper to Lieutenant Colonel John Campbell of Glenlyon, in the parish of Fortingall.


A couple of shots from the Argyllshire Gathering display of Donald MacPherson’s trophies and medals on show last August. Long time since these two worthies had there hands on any meaningful silver; no wonder they’re enjoying the moment.
jw-&-rw-1 jw-&-rw-2