Errors in Judging Come with the Solo Piping Territory

By The Editor

A reader has contacted us to mention that his son played in a Piping Centre Junior competition Piobaireachd event last weekend. When the boy finished the judges called him over and told him that he had played well but that he had gone off the tune.

The boy was surprised; he didn’t think he had. The father, in the audience, naturally asked the boy what the judges had wanted in speaking to him. The boy told him. The father had recorded the performance.

They both went outside and listened to it. No mistakes. At the interval the father approached the judges about their error. They said they did not want to hear the recording, accepted what the father was saying, and that the boy would be judged fairly.

The father has sent me the boy’s crit sheet and the recording and I can confirm no error. The father, himself a piper, is disturbed because he rightly believes judges, two of them, who take on the responsibility of judging what is always a high standard event, should be able to follow a score well enough to determine accurately any error.

In the end, was the boy judged fairly? Were the judges unable to admit their error by giving him a place, and now able to say if questioned ‘it made no difference anyway – he wasn’t in contention’. Possible I suppose, but only the judges heard the whole contest.



This is a tough one for all concerned, yet all will learn from it. The boy had practised hard for the contest. He features regularly in prizelists. The father felt for him; he knew the effort his son had put in.

The boy should put it behind him, knuckle down to his music, play well and be the better for understanding that these things happen in piping. There will be other days when he is the beneficiery of fallability from the bench.

The judges will feel chastened. When they accept such an important assignment in the future they will make sure they pay better heed to the score.

Prizewinners at last Saturday’s NPC Juniors

It is to their credit that they apologised to the boy on his crit sheet. And they shouldn’t beat themselves up over their slip up. Serious judging blunders happen at all levels of piping, Gold Medals, Glenfiddichs you name it. The evidence is there in recordings a-plenty.

To err is human. When you do you put your hands up and move on. The important thing is to learn from it. Pipers should appreciate two things, (1) This sort of incident comes with the solo piping territory and (2) The worm always turns.

What I would say is that there is a considerable responsibility on promoters to make sure they invite people suitably qualified for the level they are being asked to adjudicate – and I am not saying they didn’t do so here, merely making a general point. Judging a junior contest is no easy shift. The standard in Scotland at the moment is high. As in all things, there is no substitute for experience.


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1 thought on “Errors in Judging Come with the Solo Piping Territory

  1. It would have been best to have ignored the judges error. They are all half deaf anyway. Keep it as a great story for telling later!

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