OT: 5 January 1924 – H.S. Strafford “The Cowal School of Bagpipes”

The Oban Times, January 5, 1924

The Cowal School of Bagpipes

Dunoon, 15th December, 1923

Sir,–Your correspondent “M ,” under the heading “Instructing Boys in Bagpipe Playing,” animadverts on the general scheme and puts forward certain questions which I would like to answer in the interests of all concerned. I note first a sentence, “At the end of six months they (the pupils) are expected to emerge full-fledged exponents of modern piobaireachd playing.” This is a misconception; there is nothing in the syllabus conveying that impression. The period mentioned denotes simply the end of the session. After the summer vacation, it is assumed that the students will resume their studies under the teachers provided.

Referring to those sufficiently advanced to take up piobaireachd, your correspondent asks, “Where are the boys to be found already qualified to enter these schools?” The answer is, they did not need finding; they found the school, and, to be precise, thirty of them, all with three or more years’ experience with the pipes, are now diligently studying piobaireachd. The earnestness of these youths is beyond question, and this is demonstrated by the fact that many of them live outwith the city and travel long distances to attend classes.

“M” asks, “Why should we not collect the raw material and put them on the right lines,” etc. In view of Mr. Clark Kerr’s challenge trophy for youthful piobaireachd players, the original intention was to confine operations to this section; moreover, the magnitude of a project to teach the pipes to all and sundry was more than we could face. We have, however, been compelled, so far as Glasgow district is concerned, to adopt it. On the first night of enrolment about sixty boys presented themselves as students. We had not the heart to turn them down, with the result there are now twelve classes for beginners, intermediate and advanced pupils in full swing in the city, and the number is being constantly added to.

Your correspondent is right in his assumption that the Boys’ Pibroch Championship is open, and that the competitors must be prepared to play one of the three pibrochs– “MacLeod of Raasay’s Salute,” “Too long in this condition,” and “Struan Robertson’s Salute”– as the judges at the Gathering may decide; but this has nothing to do with the Schools certificates of merit. These will be awarded independent of the Gathering, to the students of the Cowal School of Bagpipes. It is not for me to say what these certificates may be worth.

For the information of your readers at home and abroad interested in the advancement of the art of piping, I wish to state that the promoters of this scheme have under consideration the establishing of an institution on a basis broad enough to extend the benefits of practically free tuition to any district where the demand exists. We are convinced there is a wave of enthusiasm to learn the pipes among the young. How to utilise this to be advancement of “piob mhor” seems to me to be the province of a properly-constituted governing authority composed of those who have interest of the work at heart, and prepared to contribute in one way or another towards its achievement. The formation of such a Council is occupying our thoughts, and any suggestion, practical sympathy or desire on the part of those interested to be identified with the School of Bagpipes will be welcome.– I am, etc.,

H.S. Strafford

Hon. Secy.