Another way in which the Piobaireachd Society promoted the traditional highland bag-pipe music was by funding prizes in many Highland Games.
Each year, the society would set aside some of its funds to create competition prizes at Highland Games such as: the Argyllshire Gathering, the Lochaber Gathering, the Northern Meeting- Inverness and the Arrichar and Tarbet Highland Games. At such games highland life would be celebrated with competitions for dancing, sports and even (as seen in the Lonach games in 1909) the ‘Best Dressed Highlander’ (DC80/365).
Piping competitions also took place at events like these and each year the Piobaireachd Society would be contacted by the event organizers and asked for a prize contribution. The society would: set the competition tunes (piobaireachdan); lay the rules; often send a member of the society to judge; and pay for a medal to be made for the victor or donate a monetary prize. This way, there was another incentive to learn piobaireachd playing and a stage for pipers to perform.
In the correspondence there is a rather entertaining letter, dated 1913, from a J. P. Grant to Mr Henderson. In it, Mr Grant asks for an addition to the competition rules: that the judges can stop the playing before finished if it is very bad:
“This saves much excruciating noise which helps bring piping into disrepute.”(DC80/370)
Most of the competition playing, however, was of high quality and many of the boys that were taught in classes arranged by the society competed at events like these. One of, the piping teacher, John MacDonald’s pupils won a gold medal at the Uist and Bara Sports in 1909. He clearly paid attention during his lessons!
If you would like to share any information about the society or find out more about the collection, please do get in touch.
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