OT: 23 June 1923–H.S. Strafford “Cowal Highland Gathering”

The Oban Times, 23 June, 1923

Cowal Highland Gathering

Rosegarth, Duncoe, 2 June, 1923

Sir,–Referring to the suggestion by “Lochgorm” that a competition for piobaireachds, confined to youths of 18 and under, be added to the list of events in the Cowal Highland Gathering programme. I beg to say that such a competition has been included and information broadcasted accordingly. The event will take place on Saturday forenoon, and prizes this year will be gold and silver medals. If the competition finds favour among young pipers, a challenge trophy and more valuable prizes will be put up next year.

Considering the importance attached to piobaireachd playing, as indicated by the prize list at Highland Gatherings and by Societies whose main object is the encouragement of the art, it seems to me that the youthful aspirant has hitherto not received sufficient consideration. One has only to note the results of competitions in piobaireachd to realize how very few, comparatively, really good piobaireachd players there are. In your paper, I note from time to time lengthy arguments as to the correct rendering of certain piobaireachds, and it would appear that the Piobaireachd Society’s main object is to have those works of the old masters performed according to tradition– a very laudable and desirable purpose. I think, however, there is young talent in composition and performance that should be encouraged.

From time to time requests have reached me to run a competition for piobaireachd composition. I have shirked it for obvious reasons. Who would or could judge original composition piobaireachd? Is there need for a book of modern piobaireachd? Some of your readers are better able to judge than I am. The fact, to my mind, remains however. The production of modern piobaireachd, written and played, should be encouraged. If the piobaireachd is a lament of sorrow and sighing, a song of triumph and victory, then there never was a time in its history when these sentiments swayed as much, or gripped the heart of the player of pipes as now. Think of the poignant memories of those never to be forgotten war days, when the gallant old instrument’s martial strains resounded over the Continent in years sad, terrible and glorious. One has only to pause and think over what scenes the notes of the pipes have sped to realize there is a wealth of musical poetry wanting to find expression.

We purpose that youthful competitors will this year play what ever pibroch they wish. Ere another year perhaps some of your interested readers will take the matter up seriously, decide upon tunes and the rendering they should be given. Any other suggestions appearing in your columns would be welcome and interesting.–I am, etc.,

H. S. Strafford