John MacFadyen on the Art of Judging – Part 2

We continue the recording of John MacFadyen talking about judging. We are once again grateful to reader Jack McLachlan for forwarding the recording, made by John Davidson, Parkview, Johannesburg, at his home on 12th August 1973.

John MacFadyen was visiting to run a piping school for the Scottish Piping Society of the Witwatersrand and gave this lecture the week before it was due to start.

In this part of the recording, John touches on several important aspects of the judging of piping and pipe bands.

John and Iain MacFadyen piping to the games at Glenfinnan

Judges should try not to write in front of the piper, though the competitior must appreciate that at some point a good judge will take notes.

Pipe band judges must take into consideration the quality of a pipe band medley. Do the tunes work well together?

A pipe corps should be a solo piper amplified, playing with impeccable unison. If one piper stops during a performance the band must be disqualified.


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In solos, judges should guard against giving credit to pipers who submit difficult tunes. It is the performance that matters. Pipers who play ‘bastardised’ settings of classic tunes by composers such as John MacColl should be marked down.

Piping is a small community where judges and pipers are often friends. If they mix outside the competition sphere they should not do so on the day of the event itself.

Judges must be loyal to the bench if they are to achieve a reputation for honesty and integrity but should also, if asked politely, take time to explain to a competitor what he thought of his performance.

Listen to the second part of the lecture:

1 thought on “John MacFadyen on the Art of Judging – Part 2

  1. I attended John MacFadyen’s summer schools in South Africa in 1973 and, I think, 1974. It had originally been planned that Bob Brown would be there but sadly he passed away and, as a pupil of RUB, John was invited in his stead. John stayed with John Davidson during his visits to SA. John Davidson was at some point the President of the Piping Society in Johannesburg and judged both bands and solos, but never ceol mor. I believe that he had been a pipier in the Clan MacRae band which won the Worlds in 1947 or thereabouts but by 1973 he was no longer playing pipes. He was sometimes a controversial judge so would have been very interested in what John MacFadyen had to say about the subject.
    John M prepared for his recitals by playing out in the garden, no doubt enjoying the early summer warmth. I lived not far away and one day went past there just in time to be able to catch his practice session. (Leaning over the garden gate, not invited in, though.)
    Attendees at the summer schools included Herbie Campbell, Allan Watters (ex-Black Watch), the late John Farmer and Chris Terry before he set out for his Scottish odyssey. The venue was an ex-serviceman’s ‘resort’ called Sappersrust about 40 miles outside Johannesburg, built pirmarily in memory of the many SA sappers’ casualties in WW2 and particularly the battle of Sidi Rezegh. It was an excellent venue for the school and we lucky attendees were able to hear John perfom piobaireachd after piobaireachd, each evening. At the time he was the holder of the Bratach Gorm so in very good form, plus he was preparing for a BBC broadcast for soon after his return, so the tunes in the evening were a lesson in themselves and much of what he has to say on judging in the recording was passed on to us, in one way or another, at the schools as well.

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