John MacFadyen and Fair Hill Games / Archie Kenneth Quaich Entries Open

An Editor’s Notebook item last week featured results from around the Highland games in the US in 1968. One of the prizewinners mentioned was former professional piper and now senior adjudicator Al McMullin. He writes….

There are always interesting ‘stories’ that are not reflected in results. I offer the following about the ’17 and Under Piobaireachd’ noted in the 1968 results at Fair Hill, Maryland.

The late, great, John MacFadyen was one of the first famous Scottish pipers to travel to the Eastern US to teach at summer piping schools.

Many of his American summer students were young and enthusiastic. Unfortunately, piping contests were not as organised and regulated as they are today. 

Most of the Eastern US games used age categories for light music. However, for piobaireachd (which was not commonly offered) there was only one ‘open’ category.

Imagine what it was like as a young, promising teenager having to compete against the best of the best from the very beginning of one’s piping career!


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John MacFadyen decided to do something about that. He contacted the convenor of the Fair Hill Games (Balvenie Medal awardee, the late Maclean Macleod) and offered to donate a trophy if the games offered a 17 and Under Piobaireachd event. Maclean enthusiastically agreed and it was held for the very first time in 1968. Col. Neil Ramsay was the judge.

The renamed ‘John MacFadyen Memorial Trophy’ continues to be awarded to the winner of the Amateur Grade 1 Piobaireachd at Fair Hill to this day. A wooden base has been attached to the original, beautiful, permanent trophy listing the names and years of the winner. I am proud and honoured to report my name is listed for 1968 and 1969.

I don’t have a picture but think I can obtain one from the current director of piping, David Bailiff. The trophy is truly beautiful and the names on the base represent most of the Eastern US pipers who went on to greater things.

By the way, because of the encouragement of winning that trophy, I won the Open Piobaireachd at Fair Hill in 1971.

Al McMullin

I offer these comments on Fair Hill for no other reason than to let interested people know there are MANY unknown people who provided the sound and sturdy ‘planks’ to the platform the piping world stands on today.

John MacFadyen’s competitive accomplishments are well known. His many contributions to raising the standard of piping in the Eastern US and Ontario back in the ’60s is not as well known. That trophy is just the tip of the iceberg.

Maclean Macleod is another relatively unknown platform builder. As a lifelong lover of history, I consider myself to be fortunate to have witnessed as well as benefited from these builders and if I can provide a few pieces to the ‘puzzle’, I am happy to do so for their sake, not mine. 

One final ‘correction’ to the results published on the Kansas City amateur contest. My lifelong friend Bob Mitchell and I actually tied for first place. We were given the choice: play off or let the tie stand. Since there was no trophy, we decided to let the tie for first stand.


Piobaireachd Society Announce Details of 2022 Archie Kenneth Quaich Competition

The 30th annual amateur piobaireachd competition for the Archie Kenneth Quaich will take place on Saturday, 12th March 2022. The venue is The Scots Guards Club, Haymarket, Edinburgh, starting at 9.30. 

Competitors should submit two tunes with their entries, one of which they will be asked to play on the day. Players will receive the name of the tune selected by the judges in the final tuning room. Competitors may not submit any tune with which they have previously won first prize in the competition.

Winner Tom Peterkin and other prizewinners at the 2019 AKQ

Conditions for eligibility are as follows:

  1. Competitors must be members of the Piobaireachd Society
  2. Competitors aged 18 or over.
  3. Competitors must be amateur pipers. An amateur piper is someone who has never accepted a money prize in a senior solo competition. 
  4. Anyone in doubt about their eligibility to play should contact the
    competition organiser for advice.
Prizewinners Alistair MacQueen, John Frater and Colin MacNeill with the winner Alan Forbes at the 2009 AKQ

This competition has been increasingly popular in recent years. In the event that there are significantly more than 25 entries there will be a ballot, and the first 25 entries drawn will be selected to play, plus reserves. Those who are unsuccessful in this ballot will be definite confirmed entries for the 2023 competition, if they intend to enter that. 

The closing date for entries is 7th January 2022. All entries and enquiries to Organiser Peter McCalister at peter.mccalister@doctors.org.uk. The Archie Kenneth Quaich is run by the Music Committee of the Piobaireachd Society in memory of their former Music Editor.


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