Fears Grow For Solo Piping at Perth Highland Games

By the Editor

I have heard a rumour that Perth Highland Games have excised all solo piping competitions from their programme for 2019. If this is the case, and I have no reason at the moment to doubt my information, it is another worrying blow to our Highland games tradition.

I have contacted Perth Games Committee seeking confirmation, or as I sincerely hope, contradiction.

However the Perth Games website has removed all mention of solo piping adding weight to my concerns, though on its calendar the Scottish Games Association still lists ‘solo piping’ as one of Perth’s events.

Perth was always a popular competition and attracted strong entries both at home and from visiting pipers either here for the Worlds or coming in early before Oban and Inverness.

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When nearby Crieff took the ‘proscribe the pipers’ route a few years ago the fear was that other games would follow suit. It saves money and who needs these pesky, expensive pipers anyway, the thinking.

Just hire a duty pipe band, keep the dance pipers going all day and the public won’t notice the difference. Now Perth seems to have followed suit.

The Perth website blurb reads: You can see all the traditional Highland events at Perth Highland Games. [No you can’t – not if there is no solo piping.] There are heavyweight events such as throwing the weight and tossing the caber, highland dancing, bagpipe competitions for pipe bands, plus track events including running and cycling:

09:00   Gates open
10:00   Start of confined Heavyweight events; Highland Dancing

10:30   Pipe Bands
12:30   Start of track events
13:00   Chieftain’s welcome
13:30   Start of open Heavyweight events, Highland Dancing
, Tug-O-War
14:00   Drum Majors
15:30   Pipe Bands
17:00   Massed Pipe Bands and presentation of Pipe Band trophies
17:45   Close

Now by all accounts Perth solo piping last year had its difficulties, the atrocious weather at Scone not helping. Here’s an excerpt from our report: ‘While the order in the Piobaireachd events (particularly the B Grade) had slightly more structure, the light music (LM) was extremely sporadic.

William Geddes, a winner at Perth in 2014

‘There were two LM heats with around 25 entered in each. Moving to an ad-hoc basis meant a lot of waiting for the judges, who I sympathised with especially on such a miserable day, however some order should still have been maintained…..

‘All the stewards appeared to be new to the role but seemed to lose interest early on. There was the added challenge that the competitor’s individual numbers, usually pinned to the kilt, were not visible due to wearing of capes and other rainwear.

‘However we did try to assist in pointing out fellow competitors wherever possible. One appreciates that these individuals have most likely given up their free time to act as volunteers however their inexperience showed on this occasion.

‘Given the competition was run under the remit of the Competing Pipers’ Association, it would have been nice to see them providing some support and guidance in this area….’
Read the full article here.

So there were clearly crossed wires at Perth 2018 but this is no reason to throw in the towel. Highland games have a responsibility to uphold our piping tradition. They have to do their bit for the national music. Get a piping convenor who knows what he or she is doing and things will quickly fall into place.

That said, volunteers on their committees need support too and that is not just from individual competing pipers and sponsors. I have said many times that the competition structure we have whereby select games are given enhanced status by the Competing Pipers’ Association are a threat to the smaller games.

Just witness the crowds of soloists attending the graded games as compared with those who do not enjoy this distinction.

I’ll keep everyone posted on the Perth situation, but for now let us hope this creeping malaise can be arrested before it becomes endemic.

Please comment below if you’d like to add your thoughts.

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