OT: 10 December 1910 – “Scottish Piper’s Union Inaugural Meeting”

The Oban Times, 10 December, 1910

Scottish Pipers’ Union

Inaugural Meeting

A meeting for the purpose of forming a Society, to be called the Scottish Pipers’ Union, was held in the Religions Institution Rooms, Glasgow, on the 26th ult. It was proposed and agreed to that the chair be taken by Dr. Charles Bannatyne.

The Aims of the Union

The Chairman, in his opening remarks, thanked the company for being present, as also for requesting him to take the chair. He said that without entering into any controversial matter, he would explain a little the circumstances connected with the proposed Union. It seemed to be the opinion of some people, who were wrong, that this Society was being formed from an aggressive idea, and was trying to do harm to other societies. Having stated that he had a good deal to do with the proposal to form a Scottish Pipers’ Union, the nature of such a Union as he would propose would not need to interfere with other societies, such as the Scottish Pibroch Society and Scottish Pipers’ Society, and many others who are doing good work. For his part, he did not see how they required to interfere with the work of other societies, but rather that the Scottish Pipers’ Union should belie its name, and should, if it could not amalgamate, at least try and dovetail with them. Proceeding, he said that nearly all the societies connected with piping were in a manner what might be called “restricted” societies, but the kind of Society he would propose to be formed would be one where pipers could meet together and have an opportunity for discussing things pertaining to their own particular work or profession, also regulations affecting Highland games, committees of which might wish to appoint judges from the Pipers’ Union, and that if any games committee appointed judges from the Union, these games would be expected to adopt the rules of the Union, insofar as these did not clash with the ideas of the games committee themselves; their object would not be to force themselves on any games committee, but rather to play a helpful part–not exactly a subsidiary part–in the judging of piping and dancing. After referring to the idea that was prevalent that any gentlemen who subscribed to, or took a local interest in, the games, was considered good enough to judge piping and dancing, the Chairman said he dissented from such a narrow idea; such an idea was reducing piping to a very low level. Anyone to

Judge Piping

should not only have a good knowledge of playing–although he might not be a great performer–but should have sufficient knowledge of the music and everything else before he was confident to judge such a difficult thing as pipe music. The Chairman went on to say that for many years he had been a judge of piping, and that he had never been able to please all the competitors, and he did not think there would ever be a sufficiently experienced judge to be able to do that–an unfortunate thing, which takes place in all competitions. There are only one or two judges and perhaps twenty or thirty competitors, and in order to please everybody, every competitor would require to get the first prize. The Society he would propose to form would try and make rules–workable rules–to enable the judges to judge in a fair and honest manner at competitions. Giving an example of what he meant, he referred to the Cowal Gathering. The system of pipe band judging was one evolved by himself, and one which he thought a very fair one–in fact, the three judges last year judged on that system; they were Pipe-Majors in His Majesty’s Service, and men with a thorough knowledge of the subject, and if they took this year they would see that it worked out very well. In concluding his remarks with reference to piping, he said he thought it was quite possible to evolve a system that would give the maximum satisfaction, with a minimum of mistake.


Referring to dancing, he said they were treading on more dangerous ground, but what he would suggest in regard to dancing was that in their old dances to see that the steps were not all mixed up. He said that on platforms you see one competitor doing one step and another doing a different step, of the same dance, at the same time; and he asked if it would not be possible that some of the principal dancers could suggest a definite order in which the steps should be danced. This would raise dancing to the position which it deserved, and make it something worth looking at. For example, in the Highland Fling let all competitors dance the steps at the same time. After referring to the common sight of seeing competitors dancing second, third, and fourth steps at one time–which made Highland dancing a laughingstock–he thought it would be a simple matter to find a remedy to put the steps in a proper order, which would raise Highland dancing to a position which it has never held before.

Regarding the legislation, or what he might call legislation anent piping and dancing, he said they would have printed rules, which each member could get, and so pipers and dancers would know what was expected of them.

                                                                “The Oban Times” Correspondence

Referring to the correspondence in “The Oban Times,” he said it had been suggested by a correspondent to that paper that he was alone in forming this Union, and asked if any representative meeting had been held with the purpose of forming the proposed Union. The Chairman said that his experience was that societies of any kind were formed in the first place at the suggestion of one man. So far as he could understand, the formation of the Pibroch Society at the outset was on the suggestion of one man, and he asked why this should not be formed likewise. The idea had been in his mind for some time, and it began to take a definite shape after he had discussed it with a few of the principal pipers at the Oban Gathering this year. He again wanted to make clear that the wish of this Union was not to interfere with the work of any other body connected with piping.

He then submitted what his ideas were of the proposed Constitution, and after he had read them said it was for the meeting to discuss the matter.

Having read over the heads of the proposed Constitution, the Chairman said that such a Constitution was only provisional, and was a simple draft to give the Executive Committee some idea of a foundation on which he thought they ought to begin, and his idea was that if possible they should form that day an Executive Committee, which that meeting could appoint, and then that Executive would proceed to draw up a proper constitution, rules and regulations, and that these would be submitted to another general meeting to be adopted, altered, or cast out altogether by them. Further, he stated that so far as he had been able to express his ideas to them, they would see that they were, in the first place, to draw pipers as much together as possible, to try and place judging in a definite way, and to try to place dancers in a definite way also. An objection had been brought forward that under a Union such as that proposed, competitors would be judged by themselves practically; but this was not so, for there were competent judges who had long since stopped piping at games, and these were the sort of man to judge. It never could be expected that they would appoint judges who were in the habit of piping at games, so he thought that objection could be dispensed with.

Concluding his remarks, he said that he did not think it proper for one man to take up a subject like this and lay down everything what a Union of this description could do; but he said there was nothing to hinder them from expressing their own ideas on the subject, and then proceed to the election of an Executive Committee, who would draw up a proper constitution, rules, and regulations, to be submitted later on to a general meeting of the Union. They ought to proceed and take names of those who were willing to join the proposed Union, and if they could get from fifty to sixty members to start, that would always give them a start and a little encouragement, and then they could proceed to the proper formation of the Union.

One of those present remark that, as a reader of “The Oban Times,” he had seen the correspondence in that paper by “Ceol Mor.” It would be interesting to hear “Ceol Mor” at that stage.

A list of 28 members desiring to join the Union was handed in.

In a discussion which followed, it was pointed out that the Constitution was only provisional, and that it would be for the Executive to form a definite Constitution for consideration by another general meeting.

Various suggestions were made and questions asked, and eventually nominations for the Committee were taken, when the following were proposed and seconded:–Mr. Swanson, Patrick; Captain Macfarlane, 15 Dumbarton Road; Pipe-Major House, Tramway Band; Pipe-Major Gillies, 2nd H.L.I.; Dr. Bannatyne; Mr. F.W. Caution, Boys’ Brigade; Mr. Lewis MacIver, Prestwick; Pipe-Major Russell; Mr. James Braidwood, sen., Stenhousemuir; Mr. Duncan Macfarlane; Mr. McLean Johnstone; Mr. J. MacDonald. The Chairman remarked that the formation of such a Committee met the views of their friend, “Ceol Mor,” “The Oban Times” correspondence. This Committee, consisting of 7 amateurs and 6 professionals, was entrusted with the drawing up of the Constitution and rules and regulations, and was directed to report to a further meeting on 10th inst.

[Editor wrote “MS” across the article, indicating the author’s initials]

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