Row Over Comments Made by Colin MacLellan Reach National Press

The judging storm over comments made by Solo Piping Judges Association Chairman Mr Colin MacLellan about the teaching ability of one of his members, Mr Barry Donaldson, has been picked up by the national press in Scotland.

The debacle was first highlighted in Piping Press and has been on going since last autumn. The Scottish Daily Mail headline their story ‘Battle of the Bagpipes – blow for reputation of pastime as judges engage in bitter feud.’ It was published on December 29.It picks up on correspondence we have already reported on and included details of one email in which an SPJA committee member suggested they refer Mr Donaldson to a website where a complainant was told to ‘f…. off’. It carries pictures of Mr Donaldson and Mr MacLellan with the caption ‘Lack of harmony’.

It quotes Mr Donaldson as saying: ‘I don’t even know him…..I know him as a fellow adjudicator for many years, but only in passing.‘ It talks of how Mr Donaldson received an apology from the College of Piping but when he complained further to the SPJA, ‘The SPJA not only rejected Mr Donaldson’s complaint and appeal, but appointed as its chairman none other than his nemesis, Mr MacLellan….’

It quotes Dr Jack Taylor, Secretary of the SPJA, as saying it is nothing to do with them.



Here is the text of the article in full:

‘Steeped in centuries of tradition, it is generally regarded as a gentleman’s pastime. But a very public catfight has erupted between two of Scotland’s most eminent bagpiping figures. The bizarre fallout involves Barry Donaldson and Colin MacLellan, two of the most experienced judges of piping at the elite level.

‘The row started when Mr Donaldson secured a tutoring job at the Northern Winter School, a German piping establishment in Lohheide, 60 miles south of Hamburg. His fellow adjudicator Mr MacLellan wrote to the Germans warning that the Scottish College of Piping  (CoP) would sever its partnership links unless it withdrew the offer.

‘The Germans passed the letter to Mr Donaldson who complained winning an apology from the CoP and the resignation of Mr MacLel­lan as its director. But the feud did not end there. Mr Donaldson then complained about his rival’s conduct to the Solo Piping Judges Association (SPJA) of which they are both members.

‘The SPJA not only rejected Mr Donaldson’s complaint and appeal, but appointed as its chairman none other than his nemesis, Mr MacLellan. By now incandescent, Mr Donaldson sent a statement to all 50 judges. He wrote: ‘I consider much of what has transpired as suspicious and questionable. ‘I do not consider it appropriate for those in an ex officio capacity … to be concerned in such matters. ‘In all these circumstances, I deem any decision incompetent.’

‘He also included embarrassing emails which appeared to show how SPJA committee members mishandled his case. In one a committee member linked to a website showing a letter to a complainant telling them to ‘f*** off’ and wondering if they could respond the same way to Mr Donaldson. The spat – which began in late summer this year – has resulted in at least two other resignations and caused embarrassment in the piping fraternity, which involves an estimated 10,000 bagpipe players in Scotland.

‘Addressing the feud, Les Hutt wrote in a piping magazine: ‘Per­haps it’s time for all parties to resolve this outwith the internet, in a manner appropriate for their standing in the world of piping.’ Alex ‘Sandy’ MacKay added: ‘The mud-slinging has been widely broadcast but never, it seems, given definition or substance.’

‘Yesterday Mr Donaldson said: ‘The principal at the German school forwarded me the emails, and I couldn’t believe it. The piping world is a small place, and I’ve had lots of people asking me if he knows something about me that they should know.’ Turning to the SPJA, he added: ‘I had hoped the association would have conducted a proper investigation into what happened, as it made things difficult for me.’

‘Mr Donaldson said he had no idea how the feud with Mr MacLel­lan began. ‘I don’t even know him,’ he said. ‘I know him as a fellow adjudicator for many years, but only in passing. I have never had an explanation about why he sent those emails.’ Mr MacLellan said: ‘The dispute is a matter between the College of Piping and Mr Donaldson.’ SPJA secretary Jack Taylor said: ‘The dispute is between the College of Piping and Barry Donaldson. I understand the Col­lege have issued an apology.’ The College of Piping did not respond to requests for comment.’

• Read Editor Robert Wallace’s earlier article on this matter.  Stay tuned to Piping Press for more on this developing story.


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