The Oban Times, 1 May, 1920
Piobaireachd Society’s Competitions
Brolas, 24 April, 1920
Sir,–As one who supported the above Society since its birth and the opportunities it offered young pipers, I support it still. I have no reluctance whatsoever in entering into the present controversy, nor of expressing my opinion again as a neutral, mainly if in so doing my own personal experience might be of some guides to coming of pipers.
The son of a working man, the writer was at an early age initiated into the mysteries of ancient piobaireachd under the able tutorship of Mr. John McColl, who resided for many years at that beautiful little cottage well known to all of us as Kilbowie College, near Oban, and there learned the six tunes required for competition, and though under the age limit did compete against pipers who had been playing their unchanged list of tunes long years before the writer was born. Now, upon the advent of the Piobaireachd Society, all this admitted unfair competition ceased, with the result that even teaching received the uplift it deserved, and master and pupil, if competing, did so with others upon the same level without handicap to either party. And although the writer never reached the top of the tree, there are many old-timers who never grudged me the successes I earned. There is one in my memory always who served under the same tutor, rose by sheer merit and skill, and well earned the successes he secured in winning the highest possible honours in the Piobaireachd Society’s competitions, but the War took its toll and great loss to the piping world, for him whom I speak of nobly gave up his life on active service. Your correspondent, Mr. Editor, called “Young Piper,” should seek first to gain the experience necessary to equip him in upholding the name of his chosen master with credit. Do not abuse something you never saw but heard by hearsay. And, let me tell you that never at any time were the tunes chosen by the Piobaireachd Society unsurmountable by the gifted young piper ably guided by the master teacher, and for any sake, don’t get nervy, which in all innocence you do when “An Old Timer” pictures imaginary difficulties. Get into touch with the right party; don’t be afraid to make inquiry; and if “Young Piper” fits you, your future is assured.
“Dunvegan” is a name to conjure with. Around it, one can imagine hearing the haunting melodies of the great masters of the past. Your correspondent directs his attack against one who ably expressed his complete satisfaction with the tunes passed through by the Music Committee for this year’s competitions. I have no doubt but that the criticism brought forth by “Dunvegan” will be suitably dealt with.
My concluding remarks are given in support of those expressed by “Justice” and lovers of piobaireachd in general. The Piobaireachd Society must not swerve one inch from the path it first trod at its formation. It must not raise an impossible barrier before intending purchasers, be they competitors, lovers of piobaireachd or any others. Come, now, gentlemen! Remove this “red tapeism” laid bare by “Justice,” and so avoid the Empire indignation which will surely arise through the blessed world-wide circulation of this valuable paper, “red tapeism” which will affect us at home and abroad. Let Piobaireachd flourish; advance it and don’t retard the furtherance of the music that breathes of hearth and home, and brings to the exiled memories of the mountains and glens of bonnie Scotland.
Admitted in some quarters that the War widely separated the responsible members of the Society. Peace, as those of us knew it, found these members pretty much in close touch with each other. It is my opinion that someone erred, with the result that pipers were deprived of the best time for learning, namely, the winter months. I don’t think this did happen before the War. The Society had ample time of even correcting the handicap they placed upon many competitors last year. Why were the tunes not advertised immediately after Oban Games week for this year’s competition, or some date in October?
War disabilities keep me meantime from entering these competitions, neither can I bring myself to purchase the tunes for this year, every other year being in my possession, until all restriction as to purchase is removed.–I am, etc.,