Cancelled Stornoway-based piping competiton goes ahead behind closed doors

The P/M Donald Macleod MBE Memorial Piping Competition, supported by Point and Sandwick Trust, is to be held behind closed doors this year.

Thursday, 10th September 2020, 7:10 am
Finlay Johnston (left), overall winner of the 2019 P/M Donald Macleod MBE Memorial Piping Competition, with second overall, Stuart Liddell. (Picture by Derek MacKinnon)

The performances from the invited pipers will then be broadcast online at a later date, due to the ongoing situation with the coronavirus.

The Lewis and Harris Piping Society had initially postponed the competition – originally due to be held on April 3 – to November 27, but the organising committee reluctantly agreed it would be impossible in the circumstances to hold the usual live event with an audience in Stornoway.

The event is now to be held in The Piping Centre in Glasgow on November 27.

There will also be a junior competition for the first time this year – held entirely virtually– with recordings of performances to to be invited from eight selected young pipers, and again broadcast online at a later date.

Dr John Smith, chairman of the Lewis and Harris Piping Society, said: “In the current circumstances, we feel that we need to try and keep some semblance of routine by organising the only thing that we can possibly do, which is recording performances and broadcasting them on social media.

“We are aware that pipers at all levels will be missing the opportunity to perform both for the judges and the audiences and we know for a fact that the pipers who were invited to the Donald Macleod competition are very sad that they will not be coming to Stornoway this year, because they always enjoy it.

“However, we feel that we have arrived at a reasonably practical solution which complies with the current regulations and we are grateful to The Piping Centre for their help and special thanks to the director, Finlay MacDonald.

“We have negotiated with The Piping Centre to hire the main hall for the day and the pipers will attend in pairs at regular intervals and play their tunes in front of a panel of three professional judges sitting in the hall.

“The Piping Centre has run a few events in recent weeks, having undertaken a full risk assessment, and complies fully with all the regulations currently required for the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Lewis and Harris Piping Society is very grateful that our main sponsor, Point and Sandwick Trust, are still going to fund us to the tune of £5,000 despite the fact the competition is not taking place in Stornoway and we have given a clear undertaking that the event will be back to normal next year, all things being equal.

“The next Donald Macleod competition in Stornoway is planned for April 2, 2021.

“The sponsorship from Point and Sandwick Trust covers the cost of The Piping Centre hire, technical support and appearance fees for the pipers and the judges, together with prize money.”

Dr Smith added: “Together with many other piping enthusiasts throughout the land, we have been severely deprived of the most enjoyable aspect of following piping, which is listening to the live performance.

“Of the several events that are normally organised in the course of the year, the only one that was held this year was The Uist and Barra invitational competition, at the very beginning of March, which just got in before lockdown.

“We always have a good attendance at the Donald Macleod competition and we are pleased to be bringing some of Donald Macleod’s music to piping fans in the area and worldwide.”

The eight pipers invited to take part this year – based on their wins on the competition circuit in the previous year – will be Willie McCallum, Gordon McCready, Sarah Muir, Connor Sinclair, Iain Speirs, Stuart Liddell, Angus MacColl and Niall Stewart.

For the junior competition, eight of the most accomplished young players from the Outer Hebrides will be invited to submit recordings of themselves playing a piobaireachd ‘ground’, plus a march, Strathspey and reel and a hornpipe and jig, in line with the structure of the main Donald Macleod competition.

Judges for the junior event will be Ian Duncan, from The Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust, and Iain MacCrimmon, from The MacCrimmon Foundation – both organisations which also sponsor the main Donald Macleod competition – and the main prize will be a silver engraved long practice chanter, donated by McCallum Bagpipes.

The closing date for submissions is November 1.

Point and Sandwick Trust committed £25,000 to the competition over five years to ensure it could continue to be held in its home town – Pipe Major Donald Macleod being one of Stornoway’s most famous sons.

He was an outstanding piper and prolific composer and the competition, now in its 27th year, was created to celebrate his musical legacy.

Community wind farm organisation Point and Sandwick Trust supports the competition as part of its commitment to supporting local culture – ‘cultural wellbeing’ being one of the four pillars of its mission statement, along with environmental, educational and social wellbeing.

Point and Sandwick Trust chairman Norman Mackenzie said: “It is disappointing that there will no live Donald Macleod competition in Stornoway this year, for a local audience to enjoy.

“However, these are not normal circumstances we are in and Point and Sandwick Trust felt it was important to support the piping society to enable them to keep the competition going, in whatever format they could.

“We want to do what we can to secure the competition, going forward, and give the pipers and piping fans something to look forward to and to keep them going.

“We hope, in particular, that the new junior event will be a source of great motivation and inspiration for our new generation of pipers in the islands.

“It’s great that these pipers will still have a competition to work towards and we all look forward to enjoying the online broadcasts towards the end of the year.”