A Report on the Scottish Piping Society of London from 50 Years Ago

Before the London Championship fades from the memory for another year we thought it apposite to run this article which appeared 50 years ago in the September 1967 edition of the US – based ‘Piping World’ magazine. In reference to the era of the swinging 60s it is headlined ‘London …Swings….Skirls’ (with ‘Swings’ scored out). With the article are a number of photographs of leading Society supporters and competitors. The pictures are of poor quality but interesting nevertheless. The one above is of P/M Donald MacLeod receiving the Bratach Gorm from Dr Calum MacCrimmon  in 1950…. 

Encouraging and training the young piper in its weekly critiques and recognising the accomplishments of the maestro at its competitions, possibly no single organisation has accomplished as much on an ‘across the board’ basis as has the Scottish Piping Society of London.

Each Friday evening a session is held at which aspiring pipers display their musical skill before a critical and helpful audience of experienced pipers like David Ross of Rosehall, Pipe Major Robert Hill, Pipe Major JB Robertson and Pipe Major Alex MacDonald (late piper to HM The Queen).

John MacFadyen as pictured in the article. The caption reads ‘John MacFadyen winner of the Bratach Gorm for the past three years’
Sgt. Doug Thoresen, New Zealand, pictured at London in the 60s with his then teacher Captain John MacLellan

These informal critiques and the expert tuition of prominent members of the society result in proficiency not only in the popular traditional marches, strathspeys and reels, but in the classical piobaireachd as well. In its own backyard the Society has stimulated a tremendous increase of interest in piping during the past 12 years.



But the Society’s influence extends well beyond its ‘London and South East’ bailiwick. Its annual spring competition has achieved stature comparable to that of the famous gatherings at Oban and Inverness. [The contest is now held in November.] The award for piobaireachd, the Bratach Gorm (Blue Banner), is one of the three most coveted in the world.

David Ross, Rosehall, stalwart of the London Society

Situated as it is in one of the world’s major crossroad cities, and with its membership including many of today’s greatest pipers, the Society has become a meeting ground for pipers and lovers of pipe music from every corner of the earth.

Thus far the Society has accomplished all this solely on the contributions of its members and has almost always been ‘in the red’. In order to carry on its activities and to provide a more complete service to the growing piping community, the Society has launched an appeal for funds.

It plans to organise a full-time piping centre with sound proofed practice rooms, a library of music tapes and records and a permanent recital room.

It proposes further to increase prize money (now on ridiculously low pre-war standards) for its competitions in keeping with the high level of performance, and to encourage the continued participation of pipers from Scotland.

The Queen Mother, a lover of pipe music, has wished the Society every success in its appeal and has given it its first donation.

An unnamed piper competing at the London members’ competition in the 1960s. Does anyone recognise him or the judges?
P/M Robert (Bob) Hill from a picture which accompanies the article
13-year-old Leslie Bowers has a lesson from P/M Hill

• Read more about the Scottish Piping Society of London here.


One thought on “A Report on the Scottish Piping Society of London from 50 Years Ago”

  1. The London Championships is indeed a great event, which I have had the pleasure to attend a number of times. It would be fantastic if the organisers could livestream the Bratach Gorm and the big MSR, as not all piping enthusiasts are able to travel to London to hear the top quality pipers play at this prestigious event. This would attract a world-wide audience and bring greater publicity to the Society.

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