After 51 unbroken years the Silver Chanter MacCrimmon Memorial Piobaireachd Competition will not go ahead this August. Funding cuts by the William Grant Foundation have meant that the organisers, the Skye Piping Society, have found it impossible to continue with the prestigious event.
The Foundation, who funnel the bulk of their £150,000+ funding for piping through the National Piping Centre, intimated two years ago that they were cutting back.
The competition/recital was founded in 1967 by Dame Flora MacLeod, 28th Chief of MacLeod, with John MacFadyen and Seumas MacNeill, the aim being to encourage top pipers to compete at the Skye Gathering. This was much needed; the piping competitions there had been in decline. The stratagem was a success, and the junior and senior piping competitions on Skye are now well attended.
In its day the Silver Chanter attracted large crowds to the venue, the drawing room at Dunvegan Castle, with the BBC recording the event for broadcast. Invites were keenly sought with the six or so pipers appearing in black tie. However the highlight was always the quality of the music: all MacCrimmon related pieces delivered with true professionalism.
The following statement has been received by the Editor from SPS Chairman Cailean Maclean (pictured), after an approach was made to the Society: ‘Dear Rob, Thank you for your interest in the wellbeing of the Silver Chanter competition.
‘Below is a statement from the Skye Piping Society committee which I hope will clarify the position. Several years ago the Skye Piping Society were invited by the John MacFadyen Trust to take over the running of the Silver Chanter. Since then, I believe, we have organised and run the event efficiently, expeditiously and in a way which made welcome all involved – pipers, audience, sponsors and so forth – and which accorded with the original founding principles of the Silver Chanter.
Hear the story of the legend of the Silver Chanter from the lips of one of the founders Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod:
‘For the first few years the event at least ‘washed its face’ financially but last year we made a loss and this year, because of increasing costs and diminishing returns, we would have faced a substantial deficit. The generous financial support we received each year from Grants was cut last year and this, together with audience numbers which have been falling inexorably, meant that income has been much reduced. Meanwhile the costs of catering and venue hire have risen leaving the event in a very poor financial position. It should be said that the fees pipers were given for attendance, which were not over-generous in the first place, have remained much as they were when we took over the event.
‘Concerted attempts to find other sources of finance for the Silver Chanter have come to naught. Clearly the drain on Society funds by continuing to run the competition would have been unsustainable and regretfully we have decided to cut our losses. In other words the Society will not be organising and running the Silver Chanter in this and future years. We appreciate that this decision will come as a disappointment to many but we were left with no other option.
‘Since coming to this decision we have been in touch with other organisations who might be interested in taking over the event. One organisation has expressed an interest in doing so but their preference is to run a similarly formatted event in the south of Scotland.
‘While it is to be regretted that Skye is losing a prestigious piping event it is worthwhile bearing in mind that the Silver Chanter was established over fifty years ago with the express objective of helping boost numbers taking part in the Skye Games’ competitions and that goal has been realised.
‘Today so many want to participate in the competitions that the organisers have had to cap the number of entrants. Meanwhile The Skye Piping Society will devote its time, efforts and resources to fostering piping within the local area. Best wishes. Cailean Maclean, Chairman.’
• Skye Gathering takes place on August 7th and 8th. Entries for the Dunvegan Medal close May 30. Click here for a critique of last year’s contest. Read more on the William Grant Foundation cutbacks here.