Senior Piper Claims Age Discrimination After Solo Contest Upholds Rule on Mandatory Jig Entry

Piper Brian Mulhearn is claiming he has technically been barred from taking part in next month’s Duncan Johnstone Memorial competition on grounds of his age.

Brian (69) is pictured above. He says he only wants to enter the Piobaireachd section. The Duncan Johnstone has a rule that all competitors must play in the Jig events too.

This rule was instituted several years ago to ensure pipers stuck around for the prizegiving at the end of proceedings rather than go home early as had become the habit.

But Brian, the founder of the Ayrshire Bagpipe Company, says: ‘Who wants to listen to an old age pensioner struggling through jigs? I think I can still knock out a good piobaireachd so why can’t I just enter that and save everyone’s ears?

‘It’s just not good enough. To me this is straightforward age discrimination. Jigs are not for someone of my age and I should simply be allowed to play in the piobaireachd.’

Brian has contacted the joint promoters, the Competing Pipers’ Association and the National Piping Centre, to see if there can be a change in the rules but so far has had no luck.

‘Each event costs £10 to enter, a wasted £10 if I enter the Jigs,’ says Brian. ‘What’s worse, you have to play two tunes, one by Duncan and one of your own choice. I’ve no chance of getting through that.

‘The objects of the CPA are to promote and encourage piping and improve the status of competing pipers. Nowhere does it say exclude pipers from various events.

‘I didn’t know Duncan Johnstone well, but well enough to know that he would not want old men embarrassing themselves by playing his jigs badly and having to pay £10 for the privilege.

‘I still want to play in the ‘C’ Piobaireachd competition where I feel that on a good day I could be competitive.’

Derek Midgley, US-based President of the CPA, has suggested Brian, a long-time member and former committee member of the Association, raises the matter at their next AGM but should accept that nothing can be done as regards this year’s competition rules.

In his reply to Brian, Derek adds: ‘While I can appreciate you not wanting to play in the Jig, the policy surrounding the Jig is and has always been clear on the entry form.

Derek Midgley, New Jersey, President of the Competing Pipers’ Association

‘Additionally, I feel it necessary to address your rhetoric and use of ‘age discrimination’. This is unequivocally not true. The CPA does not tolerate discrimination of any kind including age discrimination.

‘The Jig policy at the Duncan Johnstone is in no way meant to single out anyone by age, and I hope you understand it is about honouring Duncan’s memory. We hope you change your mind and chose to play in the Jig, but if you do not we will of course refund your entry fee.’

  • The Duncan Johnstone Memorial competition takes place at the National Piping Centre, MacPhater Street (B grade) & Otago Street (C grade) buildings at 9am on March 12. CPA: ‘You must enter the Jig competitions for your light music grade as a condition of entry. There will be two jig events, P/A/B and C grade. B Grade Piobaireachd – Submit 4 B Grade MSR – Submit 4 of each type of tune C Grade Piobaireachd – Submit 3 C Grade MSR – Submit 3 of each type of tune. The playing requirements for each Jig event are: submit 2, play 2 – 1 own choice and 1 Duncan Johnstone composition. Entries close Friday 25th February 6pm (UK time). Draw announced Monday 28th February.


8 thoughts on “Senior Piper Claims Age Discrimination After Solo Contest Upholds Rule on Mandatory Jig Entry

  1. As can be seen below, there are arguments for and against Brian’s position. The topic can be taken seriously or tongue-in-cheek, and it can be argued whether or not it is an aged related issue. All the different analyses aside, the rules are clear and published up front by the organisers, who have no bias in mind in setting them, but an honest desire to prevent some pipers from leaving early which can detract from the prizegiving ceremony. There is no compulsion to enter the DJ memorial competition, partially or otherwise, if anyone disagrees with the rules.

  2. At going on 73, I can still spit out an acceptable jig; as I’m sure Mr. Mulhearn can. Regarding the concept of options–or in this case, exceptions–how about the concept of wanting to enter an MSR, but claiming that I’m not good at reels…so I’d like to just play a march and strathspey?

    All seriousness aside (as a long ago TV host used to say), this has nothing to do whatsoever with age.

  3. I have a certain sympathy with Mr Mulhearn, maybe being of a certain vintage myself. Age is not apparently referred to in the sponsor’s rules, but Mr Mulhearn thinks it has relevance to his situation. Clearly Mr Mulhearn wishes to take part in the ceol mor competition within the C grade. The grading system is maybe questionable in various ways and this has been discussed over the years. The “system” to my knowledge does not include rules based on age within the C and B grades, but those grades have been created or designed for the progress of younger players to progress up the the grading ladder, thus, there is an unintended agenda which militates against the more mature to take part in the likes of the C grade.
    Mr Mulhearn as indicated clearly wishes to take part and provided that he is not preventing younger players who wish to progress through the grading process from participating, through the C grade competition being capped at a certain number, he or anybody else in his position should be encouraged to take part. By this logic, I accept age is an issue. The stated motive, whether accurate or not for stipulating that competitors must take part in the jig competition, naming one of Duncan’s composition is odd. This can cause an already long day to become longer for little to do with the pursuit of good playing. Would it be OK for a competitor whose motive is simply to adhere to the rules, to slave through bits of jigs, one of which is from the pen of Duncan Johnston? To enter a music competition which you feel you are not really up to delivering something attractive is almost fraudulent. If a piper, feeling he could give a stunning performance of a couple of jigs wished to enter the jigs competition and didn’t play in the ceol mor, would he be welcome? There might be rules that he/she must play in the MSR? The motive, whether correct or not, to ensure that prize winners remain for the presentation of prizes at the end of the day is ducking the issue. If the prize winners fail to remain on the premises and thus fail to acknowledge the sponsors, putting up the cash etc, the prizes should simply be withheld and offenders be excluded from future events.

  4. An absurd argument, Brian’s ability is lacking when it comes to playing jigs so he claims age discrimination!
    Competition is about grading ability so unless his jig playing is totally shocking and not fit for public performance then he should abide by the rules and see where he places, or find a purely Ceol mor competition

  5. Knowing Brian I would suggest much of this is tongue-in-cheek and he doesn’t want to ‘hing-aboot’ all day and keep off the beers to perform quite well in the jig comp. I only learned through practice and re-structuring my jigs, to play them well in the last two years. I’m now 79 and my piobaireachd is also good. I might join you Brian and we can sob into our rotten tea whilst waiting. I’m currently learning the Viscount and the Duke and the big pipe is going well….stop grinning Brian!

    1. Dear Mr Hamilton,

      I find your insinuation that Mr Mulhearn is unable to refrain soley from beer for any length of time to be both vile and demeaning. Anyone that genuinely knows Brian is aware that he performs much better with both whisky and beer with a specific predilection for Tennents. Perhaps we could go halfers
      on his entry fee which would allow him to purchase ONE dram at the venue which may see him in the prize list!!

  6. A fallacious argument by Mr Mulhearn. First, there’s no rule against playing poorly, if that is all one can do. More importantly, of course a 69 year old can play a good jig. Have a listen to Donald MacPherson aged 68 in Cork playing cracking jigs and hornpipes, the year he won his 15th Oban Senior Piob. It’s on you tube. Derek’s response is spot on.
    In fact Mr Mulhearn’s assertion that older pipers can’t play through two jigs is age discriminatory, and also untrue.

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