History: ‘Piping World’ Magazine and A Look Back at 1968

The PP Archives have a copy of the magazine ‘Piping World’ from half a century ago, 1968. This was a US-based magazine edited by the late Don Varella. There are a number of noteworthy articles, advertisements, results and photographs we thought would be of interest to PP readers at this quiet time of year for piping.

The picture above is from the magazine’s front cover and shows judge John Wilson of Toronto and Edinburgh judging P/M William Gilmour playing Glengarry’s March at the Thousand Islands Games in Ontario.

The inside front cover has this advert from P/M Donald MacLeod:

The Editorial is about ‘Saving the Argylls’ – government cuts to the British Army threatening the famous Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment. The campaign, led by Lt Col ‘Mad Mitch’ Colin Campbell Mitchell, was ultimately successful.

One of the main articles, by Mr Varella, is headlined ‘Professional Piping for the US?’. It reads:

‘It was interesting to note the comments regarding the future for professional pipers in the US ‘where money was no problem’.

‘This is true to some extent…that funds can always be found to outfit some gruesome amateur band in Podunk, Idaho, so that well-meaning plumbers and other pillars of the community can amble down Main Street convincing most within earshot that bagpipes are something that cannot be taken seriously.

‘The incalculable amount of damage done by these hordes of unbelievably bad pipe bands to the instrument and its music is such that it is small wonder that the bagpipe itself has become the most maligned and misunderstood musical instrument known to man.

‘It happens time and time again; someone gets the bright idea of starting another of these horrors, a simple matter for anyone with some ‘go’ and intelligence.

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‘They buy fancy uniforms, order bagpipes and all the equipment. Finally it dawns on them that an instructor is needed.

‘The word goes out and someone is contacted who will undertake to impart his ‘knowledge’ one or two nights a week, usually for free.

‘What!? Pay for first class instruction? Hell no! Not when MacSo&So will be happy to oblige. Besides along with the job goes the grand title of ‘Pipe Major’ a meaningless term outside the Highland regiments where the rank is earned.

‘Of course this does not occur to the well-meaning of our fictitious community.

‘Another artful dodge is to place an ad for the services of an instructor ‘from the other side’ offering him a job not connected with piping in return for the privilege of teaching a band.

‘In this sort of set up a potentially good man is not appreciated due to the fact that the bandsmen rearely learn the music from the inside out and do not generally strive towards the same level as the expert soloist, although there are many first class bands that do.

‘There is no denying the instant appeal of the pipe band and the inescapable fact that this medium is the only outlet for the average piper and the exercise of his ability.

‘But let us not forget that there is no musical sound on the face of the earth worse than the bagpipe played badly and tuned badly.

‘If only the pillars of the communities could curb their desire to show off their questionable attainments in public, perhaps the bagpipe and its music would find a permananent place in the fast changing musical world.’

The magazine has a wide selection of results from pipe band contests, principally from Scotland:

Glasgow and West of Scotland Championships, Paisley, June 1
Grade 1: 1 Glasgow Police 2 Shotts 3 Red Hackle
Grade 2: 1 Glasgow Skye 2 Paisley 3 Rolls Royce
Grade 3: 1 214BB 2 Knightswood Juv. 3 52nd Lowland Vols.
Grade 4: 1 Motherwell & Wishaw Police; Juv: 1 214BB; Nov Juv: 278BB
Judges: Seumas MacNeill (piping) David Bruce (drumming)

Ayr/Northern Ireland Competition, Stranraer, June 1
Open 1 Ayr Society 2 R Armstrong 3 Killoch Colliery 4 Ballynahinch
Best drums: Sinclair Mem.
Grade 3: 1 Gilnakirk 2 Duncairn 3 Lisburn 4 Seven Towers
Grade 4: 1 Corkley 2 RB Irvine 3 Lochryan 4 Balmoral Lassies
Best Drums: Lochryan
Judges: A MacLeod, A Herd, H Hook; J Ferguson, W Davidson

Scottish Miners’ Gala, Edinburgh, June 3
Grade 1: 1 Polkemmet 2 Woolmet 3 Killoch
Grade 2: 1 Bilston Glen 2 Killoch 3 Dysart & Dundonald
Grade 3: 1 Dysart & Dundonald 2 Alloa Coll. 3 Kinneil
Judges: JK MacAllister, D Bruce

Markinch Pipe Band Competition, June 8
Grade 1: 1 Muirheads 2 Edinburgh Police 3 Shotts
Grade 2 NCR Dundee 2 153 RCT 3 Kelty & Blairadam
Judges: A Robertson, R Ackroyd, D Bruce

Cookstown, Northern Ireland
Open: 1 Fintan Lalor 2 Ballycoan 3 Ballynahinch 4 R Armstrong Mem.
Best drums: Ballycoan
Grade 2: 1 Tullylagan 2 Gilnakirk 3 equal T Davies Mem./Seven Towers
Best drums: Tullylagan
Grade 3: 1 Lisburn 2 Geoghegan Mem. 3 Fawney 4 Queen Elizabeth
Best drums: Geoghegan Mem.

Fintan Lalor

Lanimer Pipe Bands, Lanark, June 8
Grade 1: 1 Bilston Glen 2 Paisley 3 BP Grangemouth
Grade 2: 1 East Kilbride 2 Knightswood Juvenile 3 Kilbarchan
Judges: A Herd, J Marr

Harpenden, England, June 15
Grade 2: 1 Mt Carmel 2 White Hackle

Lesmahagow Highland Games, June 22
Grade 1: 1 Edinburgh Police 2 Glasgow Police 3 Shotts
Grade 2: 1 Glasgow Skye 2 Paisley 3 Milngavie
Grade 3: 1 Coalburn IOR 2 Highland House (Canada) 3 East Kilbride
Judges: A Herd, J Ferguson

Muirhead & Sons winning the Worlds at Oban in 1967 and repeating the feat at Grangemouth in 1968 where only half a point separated the first three bands

World Championship, Grangemouth, June 29
Grade 1: 1 Muirheads 2 Edin. Police 3 Glasgow Police 4 Shotts 5 Renfrew
Best drums: Edin. Police
Grade 2: 1 BP Grangemouth 2 R Armstrong 3 Bilston Glen 4 153RCT 5 Paisley
Garde 3: 1 Mt Carmel 2 Milngavie 3 Q Victoria School 4 52nd Lowland Vols. 5 Highland House (Canada)
Best Juvenile band: 214BB; Best drums: Mount Carmel
Grade 4: 1 Motherwell & Wishaw Police 2 Kilsyth Thistle 3 White Hackle (London) 4 Wallacestone 5 Alloa Collieries
Best drums: Motherwell Pol.
Ladies Bands: 1 City of Aberdeen 2 Deeside Ladies 3 MacLean Ladies
Nov. Juv.: 1 Knightswood Juveniles 2 93rd BB
Judges Grades 1 & 3: C Sutherland, J Marr, R Calder; Grades 2&4: J Smith J Taylor, D Bruce.

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2 thoughts on “History: ‘Piping World’ Magazine and A Look Back at 1968

  1. 1968: 1st trip to participate in Scottish Highland Games with Highland House Pipe Band under PM Alex Robertson, Woodstock, Ontario. In addition to the Games, we attended a Muirhead’s practice at Grangemouth and and enjoyed more hospitality when we visited Ayr and played at Robbie Burn’s cottage. Quite thrilling and the natives were more than friendly to a bunch of young pipers from Canada! Thanks for posting!

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