OT: 15 December 1923 – M. [“Instructing Boys in Bagpipe Playing”]

The Oban Times, 15 December, 1923

[Instructing Boys in Bagpipe Playing]

23 November 1923

Sir,–The Cowal Highland Gathering Committee are making a new departure in their policy of encouraging the playing of the bagpipes. They are establishing schools in various centres throughout the country where boys, on payment of a nominal fee, may be thoroughly grounded in piobaireachd, theory as well as practice, and at the end of six months they are expected to emerge full-fledged exponents of modern piobaireachd playing.

Various reasons are advanced for this innovation, such as the lack of proper tuition, the prevalence of “ear playing,” and the inability of working lads to pay for private tuition.

There seems, however, to be something wrong with the Committee’s scheme. As set forth in the pamphlet issued from Dunoon, the scheme is intended only for such boys, under 18 years of age, as are already sufficiently advanced to enter upon the study of piobaireachd, qualification presumably being a certain proficiency in March, Strathspey, and Reel playing.

If, as stated in the pamphlet, there is such a “want of guidance in the form of proper tuition,” and “that a great many boys have devoted their time learning a few simple tunes by ear and playing them from memory,” where are the boys to be found already qualified to enter the schools, and, if found, does not that show that they are already in good hands, and is there any convincing reason for disturbing them. Why should the Committee not collect the raw material on their own account, put them on the right lines, and fit them to take their place in those bands mentioned in the pamphlet.

The progress made by the pupils will be tested towards the end of the session, and certificates awarded to those who satisfy the judges:  A “Scottish Championship for Juvenile Piobaireachd,” for which Mr. A. Clark Kerr of Inverchapel has generously provided a handsome trophy for the events at Cowal Highland Gathering next year, where the young pipers can show their paces.

It is assumed that this competition is open, and in that case what happens in the event of the school not being represented in the prize list? What value will their certificates be then?

The foregoing are a few of the weaknesses that suggest themselves to a disinterested outsider. –I am, etc.,