New Chairman for Solo Judges’ Association Announced – Comment from the Editor

Jack Taylor, Secretary of the Solo Piping Judges’ Association, has sent this…..

At the SPJA AGM today Andrew Wright stood down after four years as chair. Colin MacLellan was elected to succeed him, and Jack Taylor and Euan Anderson were returned as secretary and treasurer. 

In his remarks Andrew Wright referred to it having been a busy year with four committee meetings and much email traffic. He used the phrase ‘victims to emails’ which brought wry nods from those present. He also said ‘piobaireachd is a worldwide art form, and competition promotes the playing of it. Things have to be seen to be right’. He also mentioned his concern about what information is made public.

Colin MacLellan was not at the meeting but in a statement read out said:If elected as Chairman of the SPJA, I would aim to be open and inclusive, encouraging input and opinions from everyone within the association. However, I would remain consistent with views which I have previously clearly expressed and which are well known. I also am firmly a believer in the majority view being respected. 

‘Debate, transparency, and open expression of views is to be encouraged, but decisions made with clear majority support must be held, and respected even by the minority who may disagree.  Another of my principal aspirations would be to move on from the lengthy and tiresome arguments about teachers judging pupils. The debate is and has been important and has been hashed out at great length. A decision was made one year ago at this meeting regarding the three major meetings.  That decision has been successfully implemented, and it should be respected going forward and we should move on. This association needs to be about much more;  learning, sharing knowledge, musical interpretation, judging methodologies, analysis, improvement, and development.  Allowing the association to be mired in a single issue is detrimental and if elected as Chairman I would strive to ensure that was not allowed to happen.’



There will be no change in the code of conduct at present. Feedback from the CPA and competition organisers after the first year of operation of the ‘no pupils’ rule is awaited at next week’s meeting of the committee for solo piping competitions. The meeting voted in favour of a resolution to adopt proxy voting for previously notified written resolutions, giving all members the chance to vote on these in future.

It was also announced that the Association’s complaints procedure will be reviewed. Allan MacDonald has been added to the list as a senior judge in piobaireachd and light music, and Alan Forbes has been made a senior judge in piobaireachd.

The Meeting was followed by a successful seminar on the 2018 Gold Medal tunes. Informative presentations were given, including recordings illustrating different settings.


Editor Robert Wallace writes: ‘Mr MacLellan has his work cut out. Apart from a matter about which, for the moment, I cannot write, he has the unholy mess left him by his predecessor to sort out. The piping world may not be aware of it but the past four years have seen spurious allegations of dishonesty upheld by kangaroo courts and others, more legitimate, conveniently ignored because they didn’t suit the political zeitgeist.

We have, and have had, private SPJA correspondence and decisions displayed on the web for the world to see, one judge threatened with a verbal ‘I’m watching you’ comment by the Chairman, and disgruntled competitors allowed to hijack the association for their own nefarious ends. A judge had his 40 year association with a Highland games ended all because he declined to renew his membership of the SPJA union. Are we moving to some sort of closed shop in piping where judges will not be allowed to exercise their personal beliefs and independent thought?

Apart from all of that we have had rulings which effectively allow the Association to censor articles (guess who that was aimed at) and the widely discredited decision to ban judges from judging pupils at Oban, Inverness and London – even when there is a three-man bench and personal integrity at stake. This last, rail roaded through in the most undemocratic manner possible, has of course achieved absolutely nothing, with pupils now refusing to reveal their teachers, judges being more coy than ever about who they are teaching and some giving up on it altogether.
We have had a resignation from the SPJA committee and others on it voicing their concern at having to be involved in witch hunts against their comrades behind the pencil.

The Association has now introduced proxy voting so that those who can’t get to AGMs or special meetings can have a voice, but that won’t extend, as far as I am aware, to the election of office bearers. However it is a start, as is the long overdue review of the complaints procedure.

Mr MacLellan has promised a new dawn now let’s see if he can deliver.

The picture up top is from 1993 and shows adjudicators Captain Andrew Pitkeathly, Ronald Morrison and Kenny MacDonald presiding at the Argyllshire Gathering.


3 thoughts on “New Chairman for Solo Judges’ Association Announced – Comment from the Editor”

  1. i do not see how this helps your cause. It brings back memories of the dark days of the mid-20th Century arguments and bitterness, a period most of us wish never to relive. Very unfortunate you have chosen this approach.

      1. Old enough to remember the names and faces of the people who were negatively impacted by these bitter battles. Even as recently as 25-30 years ago ideas were presented and received with some hostility. And the people presenting them remember it, deeply.

        I am not sure what it gains us to relive those times. Nor what gains to your position are made by the kind of remarks made in this post. In fact, it rather shows a hostility quite antithetical to the atmosphere of openness and change that I have experienced when over in Scotland.

        I am rather saddened to read it.

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