In two weeks time the Glenfiddich Championship will celebrate its 50th iteration. In a nice touch the organisers have invited previous winners still living to attend for a weekend of good music, hospitality and friendship.
Missing, though, will be Gordon Walker a two-time winner of the competition. On June 21 this year he received an email from Mr Nick Addington, Chief Executive of the William Grant Foundation, the contest sponsor. It read:
Dear Gordon, I’d like to arrange a video call to have a chat, if possible. Finlay MacDonald (Director of Piping at The National Piping Centre) and I would like to speak to you as a former Glenfiddich Piping Champion. Is there any chance you might be free in the next couple of days?….. Many thanks and look forward to speaking. Regards Nick Addington, Chief Executive – William Grant Foundation
By Robert Wallace
Gordon takes up the story: ‘I called Finlay at the Centre to ask what it was all about, thinking it was going to be a nice thing as I was a former champion etc.
‘It was then he explained that because of my court case the Glenfiddich PR people didn’t want me attending this year’s 50th Anniversary even though they were inviting former champions and their wives/partners to a free weekend, nor did they want me even if I was to qualify at Oban or Inverness later that year!
‘Finlay did his best to soften the blow and said my name would still feature in the souvenir programme as a past champion, and I would still receive a bottle of Glenfiddich whisky commissioned for the event and a specially designed kilt pin.
‘That was all very well but I was very upset by the whole thing and fed up with piping and shortly after that I withdrew from both Oban and Inverness.’
Now whatever anyone says or thinks about this case, and I was the lead witness for the defence at Gordon’s trial, we cannot escape the fact that he was, on August 1, 2019, found guilty of 12 charges of using ‘indecent and libidinous practices and behaviour’ against children and teenagers at the school where he taught.
He was sentenced at Paisley Sheriff Court to 300 hours community service and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for three years. He is now off this list and completed his 300 hours as required.
There is no point in discussing mitigating circumstances and evidence for the defence which the court refused to hear. Nor should we question the seriousness of the charges or how they were reflected in the judge’s sentencing.
Put all that to one side. The purpose of this article is not to undo that which cannot be undone. Gordon, 55, was found guilty of disgraceful behaviour and that’s the end of it.
But I ask this: at what point is this master player allowed back into the fold?
There are hopeful signs. In May the committees of both the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting accepted his entry for their 2023 competitions. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders legislation currently extant in Scotland, they were duty bound to do so.
In July, the Competing Pipers’ Association asked if they could add his name to a list of Premier Grade players who are available to judge.
In August another whisky company, Glenmorangie, were happy to have Gordon adjudicate at their games at Tain, Ross-shire, where his presence was warmly welcomed and where he judged the seniors and a young pupil of his won the juniors.
I can understand why Mr Addington and the William Grant Foundation have taken the decision to banish him, but it does look as though they are out of step with other piping bodies and the above mentioned rehabilitation legislation.
Ultimately, readers will make up their own minds, but surely Gordon Walker has done his time. He has transgressed; he has been punished. Should piping’s punishment extend beyond that of the law? I think not.