History: 50 Years Ago the Scottish Pipers Try Out Revolutionary Judging System

The following is from an issue of the Oban Times newspaper from January 1969. The article is self explanatory but we wonder if there is anyone out there who competed under John MacFadyen’s system? If so please get in touch. Our editor remembers this being discussed on the BBC’s piping programme ‘on the wireless’ but has no further information.

A system of judging new to piping will be tried out at the Scottish Pipers’ Association professional competition in the Woodside Halls, Glasgow, on February 1. The five adjudicators – Pipe Majors Donald MacLeod, Peter Bain and Hector MacLean, Lieut. John MacLellan and Mr Alfred Morrison – will sit at separate tables and at the end of each performance will rate the performance by holding up a mark.

The top and bottom marks will be ignored in the first instance and the other three averaged to arrive at a result.

P/M Peter Bain, Scots Guards, one of the SPA judges

In the event of a tie the top marks will be taken into consideration, and if there is still a tie the bottom marks will be used. For example:



Under the new system, these three competitors have tied for first place with 74 per cent. The top marks are then used: A and C are still equal, with B in third place. In this case the bottom marks yield the final results: first A, second C and third B.

Commented Scottish Pipers’ President, Mr John MacFadyen, this week: ‘Although the system has not previously been tried in piping, a similar method of adjudication has been employed successfully in other aesthetic spheres familiar to most of us after the recent Olympic Games. So there seems no reason to suppose that it should not work for us.’

John MacFadyen mug
John MacFadyen

‘By initiating this experiment we do not want to give the impression that we are attempting to translate music in mathematical terms or to put a slide -rule on great performances.

‘In fact many of us believe that the competitive system as a whole is a necessary evil, but it is the only way so far found practical by which a high standard of playing can be achieved and maintained.’

Concluded Mr MacFadyen: ‘By trying out this system of judging we are merely attempting to get an order of merit in as unbiased a way as possible.

‘We hope the competing pipers will support the experiment and that many non-competitors will be sufficiently interested to come along and see it in action.’


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