During the 1920s some of the Association’s competitions were held in the Pearce Institute, Govan, and some were in the MacLellan Galleries on Sauchiehall Street in the city centre. Tuning on the platform was brief and the judges were under cover. By the 1930s the judges were in the open. One of the competitions in 1923 took place at the Pearce Institute in April and was reported in the Oban Times. The results were:
1st George S McLennan, late PM Gordon Highlanders,
2nd John MacDonald, Glasgow Police,
3rd PM R Reid 7th HLI,
4th PM William Gray, Glasgow Police,
5th John MacAskill, Glasgow Police.
Strathspey and Reel-
1st George S McLennan, late PM Gordon Highlanders,
2nd Angus Campbell,
3rd PM William Gray, Glasgow Police,
4th John MacAskill, Glasgow Police,
5th John MacDonald, Glasgow Police.
1st George S McLennan, late PM Gordon Highlanders,
2nd John MacDonald, Glasgow Police,
3rd PM William Gray, Glasgow Police.
Most Points Overall-
1st George S McLennan, late PM Gordon Highlanders,
2nd John MacDonald, Glasgow Police,
3rd PM William Gray, Glasgow Police.
1st Hugh Kennedy, Glasgow,
2nd J. Thomson, Glasgow,
3rd J. Keir, Alexandria,
4th Cameron Hutcheson, Dalmuir.
Strathspey and Reel-
1st Donald MacNeill, Townhead,
2nd Ronald MacDonald, Renton,
3rd A. McDermid, Glasgow,
4th A. McColl, Bridgeton, Glasgow.
The Chairman for the day was John Kaid MacLean.
In April 1928 a competition was held at the MacLellan Galleries. There were two events for boys and girls aged 16 and under, a March and a Strathspey and Reel; three events for Professionals, a March, a Strathspey and Reel and a Slow March; and two events for Amateurs who had never won a prize in an Open Competition, a March and a Strathspey and Reel. In the professional events the prize money in the March and Strathspey and Reel events ranged from £2 for first to 5 shillings for 5th. For the Slow March first was 30 shillings and 5th 5 shillings. The juveniles and amateurs received medals or books or chanters. Three Glasgow bagpipe makers were among the donors with Peter Henderson giving a Silver Medal, and both R G Lawrie and Duncan MacRae giving pipe chanters. All three had advertisements in the programme as did other local businesses. Cash donations and book prizes were given by committee members. The judges were PM James Wilson 2nd Btn HLI, ex-Pipe Major D MacDougall, 8th Scottish Rifles and Pipe Major Gavin Robertson Corporation Tramway Pipe Band.
The first competition of the year in 1930 was on 29th March at the Highlanders’ Institute, commencing at 5.30pm. There were three events, Piobaireachd for the MacDougall Gillies trophy and four handsome prizes, confined to members; March, confined to boys and girls 16 years and under for five handsome prizes; and Strathspey and Reel also confined to boys and girls 16 years and under for a Challenge Shield and five handsome prizes. The entry fee was two shillings per event and the cost of a ticket was one shilling and two pence.
The second competition of the year was held on 29th November at the Pearce Institute. Entries had to be accompanied by fees of 2 shillings per event and entries closed on 24th November. On the day of the competition the doors opened at 2.30pm and the competition commenced at 3pm. The Chairman was Ex-Baillie Archibald Campbell, the judges were PM William Taylor, Late of Dunblane School, PM George MacDonald, Stirling and PM John Dow, Roseneath, the platform stewards were PM D Gray, Clydebank and PM William MacLean, Lochiel Camerons, the Guests’ Attendant was J C MacLean, S.S. Duchess of Argyle, tuning of pipes was by J C MacKenzie, Portree, the Pipe Major was A McPhedran, the President was James MacIvor esq, Govan, the Treasurer was PM Lieut. William Gray, Ibrox, and the Secretary was M MacLean Currie, Glasgow. Admission was 1/2d and the cost of the programme was 3d. Event 1 was for Piobaireachd and was confined to Amateurs. The prizes were the Farquhar MacRae Trophy and Gold Medal and three other Gold Medals. There were 15 entries. Event 2 was for a March and was open to Amateurs. The prizes were the Cameron Cup and Peter Henderson Silver Medal and 4 handsome silver medals. Event 3, the Strathspey and Reel was also confined to Amateurs and the prizes were the Chisholm Cup and R G Lawrie pipe chanter and 4 handsome silver medals. There were 29 competitors in each of these events and these included one female, Sarah Wilson from Holytown. The piper with most points in these three events would receive a Pipe Chanter presented by D MacRae.
After the Amateur Events selections on the violin were given by the Champion Violin Player, John Campbell, Esq, Campbeltown. Events 4 and 5 were a March and a Strathspey and Reel for Professionals. The prize money in each event was 50 shillings, 30 shillings, 15 shillings, 10 shillings and 5 shillings. There were 16 competitors, five of whom were from the Glasgow Police Pipe Band. There was one female professional, Ella Wilson, from East Kilbride. Event 6 was for Jig playing and the prizes were 25 shillings, 20 shillings, 15 shillings, 10 shillings and 5 shillings. The names of the professional winners are not known but the trophies show that John MacKinnon, Glasgow won the Amateur Piobaireachd and Peter R MacLeod junior from Partick won the March and the Strathspey and Reel.
During the 1930s there were competitions at the Highlanders’ Institute and the MacLellan Galleries, usually with the amateurs and juveniles at the Institute and the Professionals at the MacLellan Galleries.
The 1934 Professional competition took place at the MacLellan Galleries on Saturday 22nd December commencing at 3pm. There were four events, Piobaireachd, March, Strathspey and Reel and Slow March, all for Professionals. There was a record entry, with 30 pipers in each event. The President, Duncan McMurchy was in the Chair and PM John MacDonald MBE, Inverness was the solo judge. The organisation was in the hands of President Duncan MacMurchy, Secretary Malcolm M Currie and Treasurer Hugh Kennedy. The platform stewards were PM David Gray, Clydebank, PM D Campbell, Airdrie and PM John MacGregor Murray. During the evening, between events, Miss Margaret Duncan sang three Gaelic songs and Mr John Campbell contributed selections on the violin. The prize money was £5, £4, £2, £1 for Piobaireachd and 50s, 30s,15s, 10s, 7/6d for each of the light music events. John Wilson from Edinburgh won the piobaireachd playing Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon, David Ross was second, Roderick MacDonald, Glasgow Police was third and PM C Smith Black Watch was fourth. The March was won by Owen MacNiven, Islay, John Wilson was second, Roderick MacDonald third and Charles Scott, Glasgow Police was fourth. Peter MacLeod junior, Partick won the Strathspey and Reel, with the other prizes in that event going to John Wilson, Angus Campbell and David Ross. According to the Oban Times report the secretary said that the number of entrants this year exceeded anything yet experienced at any Highland Gathering. No greater compliment could be paid the pipers engaged or the organizers of the competition than to see the majority of a crowded hall attentively giving ear to the exquisite playing of such a collection of champion pipers. The Piobaireachd Competition occupied over three hours, but as the playing reached a high standard the audience was interested to the very end. PM John MacDonald MBE Inverness, in whom the Association, the pipers and the audience, placed the most implicit confidence, was the sole judge, and his decisions gave complete satisfaction. Before giving his decision on the Piobaireachd section, PM MacDonald said they were indebted to the Scottish Pipers’ Association for organizing such an attractive competition, and to the large number of noted pipers who came forward to give them such a treat in what he considered was their finest form of national music. It was their duty to foster and develop Piobaireachd, and the presentation of the Oban Times Gold Medal had already done much to encourage this unrivalled music. He had been honoured by the Association in making him sole judge. The newspaper reported an entry of 30 for the Piobaireachd and says it occupied over three hours. There was no mention of any breakdowns or competitors withdrawing. By modern standards an entry of this size would take all day and leads to speculation on how it was accomplished in the time. As events didn’t start until 3pm one wonders how, with a single judge, 30 piobaireachds, 30 marches, 30 strathspeys and reels, 30 Slow Marches, plus songs and violin selections between the events could possibly fit into the time available, as over running into Sunday morning would not be permissible.
By 1934 the Amateur events, formerly held on the same day as the Professionals, took place on a different date. Andrew McIntyre won the Piobaireachd and Alex Gilmour the March and the Strathspey and Reel. At this time the three events were settled in a regular pattern, with the under 16 juvenile events and the Amateur Piobaireachd for the John MacDougall Gillies trophy in the Spring, the second amateur competition for the Farquhar MacRae trophy, Cameron Cup and Chisholm Cup in October and the Professional Competition in December.
Almost all the results of the two annual amateur and juvenile competitions are known, but apart from the 1923 event there are no Professional results prior to 1933.
During the war years the amateur competitions continued but the Professional competition was not held.
In 1945 the Glasgow Transport Pipe Band presented the Duncan McIntyre Memorial Trophy to the Scottish Pipers’ Association to commemorate the life of a fine young piper. This was used for the Strathspey and Reel. The first winner was John MacDonald.
Duncan McIntyre was born in Islay but lived in Glasgow. He came from a piping family, as his father and his cousin John C Johnston of the Glasgow Police were pipers. Duncan was a piper in the Glasgow Transport Pipe Band and a member of the Scottish Pipers’ Association where he was a regular player at Club nights. He had begun to compete professionally at the top level and won the Strathspey and Reel competition at the Northern Meeting in 1938. When the War came he enlisted in the Black Watch and was killed at El Alamein on 23rd October 1942 aged only 28. He led his battalion into the battle, playing his pipes all the way. He was hit several times and eventually was killed, but not before he had inspired all within earshot with the sound of his pipes. In the morning he was found dead, lying in the sand with his pipes still under his arm. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross but it was not awarded to him. The trophy is still awarded but the base was not returned for the 2014 competition.
The Donald MacDougall Memorial Trophy for the March was presented for the first time at the Professional competition in December 1948. The first winner was John Garroway. The trophy was given to the SPA by the Glasgow Islay Association in memory of PM Donald MacDougall from Islay, He had been a pupil of John MacColl, and had served as PM of the Lanark Rifles, 8th Battalion Scottish Rifles. He was a member of the SPA and for many years was manager of the bagpipe department at R G Lawrie Ltd.
In the late 1940s the Professional competitions were held in either the Highlanders’ Institute or the High School, then during the 1950s in the Highlanders’ Institute. The competition was held in December until 1949 but in 1950 it was decided to move it to January so there was no competition in December 1950 and the next after December 1949 was in January 1951.
In the early 60s the competitions were in the High School then in 1968 and 1969 at the Woodside Halls then in 1970 the Kingston Halls, 1971 and 1972 the SPBA Hall, 1973 the Kingston Halls then from 1974, 75 and 76 the SPBA Halls, then 1977, 78, 79 at the new Highlanders’ Institute, 1980, to 1986 at the Palace of Art, 1987 to 1991 at Smithycroft School, 1992 to 2003 at the Glasgow Academy, 2004 at Stow College West, 2005 to 2007 at the Glasgow Academy and 2008 onwards at the College of Piping which in 2019 became NPC Otago.
At the 1960 Professional competition at the Highlanders Institute on 16th January there was a large entry of 40 pipers and this, with only one hall, two judges and limited space for tuning, was rather a problem. The report in the Piping Times congratulated the Association saying that ‘with the usual efficiency produced by many years’ experience in organising such events, the SPA once again gave a streamlined example of how a competition should be run’. This was followed by the criticism that a midnight finish was too late and some way must be found of limiting the numbers. In order to reduce numbers the competition was confined to members in 1961 and 1962 and 1963 but although this did briefly reduce the numbers in 1961 by the following year this had little effect, as again it was almost midnight when events finished.
At the 1964 Professional contest a new Trophy in memory of Duncan MacFadyen who had died in 1962, was awarded for the first time to the overall winner, Donald MacLeod. Duncan MacFadyen was a long time committee member and was secretary 1956-1962. His sons John, Duncan, Iain and daughter Freena all held various posts on the committee over the years. At the 2013 competition a new event was introduced, a 6/8 March of the competitor’s own choice, to be played during the tuning time for the Piobaireachd. The prize for this was the Duncan MacFadyen trophy which had been out of use for some years. As it had been given in memory of his father, it was appropriate that Iain MacFadyen was present to judge the event and present the trophy.
The first event of 1969 was the Professional competition at the Woodside Halls on 1st February. A new system of judging was introduced and in order to encourage competitors to take part the prize money was increased significantly. There were five judges; Donald MacLeod, John MacLellan, Peter Bain, Alfred Morrison and Hector MacLean; each sitting at separate tables and after each piper played they held up a mark. The top and bottom marks were ignored and the other three were averaged. In the event of a tie the top marks would be taken into consideration and if there was still a tie the bottom marks would be used. The number of competitors was fewer than in previous years, with 13 for piobaireachd and 14 for light music, but the audience numbers were greatly increased. The audience obviously revelled in the opportunity of calculating the mark of each player as the event went on. The old rhetorical question ‘How could they arrive at a result like that?’ was no longer applicable as it was obvious how they had arrived at it and there were fewer complaints about the result. The prize winners were Hector MacFadyen, John Garroway, Iain MacFadyen, Angus J MacLellan for Piobaireachd, Hector MacFadyen, Angus J MacLellan, Ian McLellan, Iain MacFadyen for the March and Iain Morrison, Ian McLellan, Iain MacFadyen, Angus J MacLellan for the Strathspey and Reel. The full scores were printed in the Piping Times, which in the editorial praised the judges for having the bravery to stand up and be counted. At the next committee meeting two weeks later it was the general opinion that the new system of judging had been a success although two committee members expressed doubt as to the wisdom of cancelling out the highest and lowest marks.
In 1970 Nicol MacCallum proposed that the competition date revert back to the month of December. This was seconded by Roddy MacDonald and carried with no opposition. This too was reversed the following month when there were proposals for January and April. It was decided by a vote that the competition should be held in April.
The 50th Annual Professional Competition was held on 10th April 1976. As this was the golden anniversary of the competition it was felt appropriate that it be suitably celebrated so there were several changes to the previous arrangements. For the first time in its history the competition had sponsorship so the prize money was considerably in excess of previous years. The sponsors were Matthew Gloag and Son Ltd of Perth, makers of the Famous Grouse whisky who gave £250 and a new trophy. A new event was introduced; a march, strathspey and reel for former winners and the ordinary march and strathspey and reel events were now confined to those who had not won them previously. The new Famous Grouse trophy was awarded to the overall winner in the two major events and the former overall prize, the Duncan MacFadyen Memorial Trophy would now go to the overall winner in the confined march and strathspey and reel events. A new trophy, The Eachann CaimbeulChallenge Trophy, was given by committee member Nancy Campbell for the Former Winners’ event. Nancy also gave five tartan table covers which were used on the judges’ tables. The first winner of the new Former Winners’ event was John D Burgess. The Famous Grouse sponsorship continued until 1985. The trophy has since been retired as it was broken. The Eachann Caimbeul trophy is still awarded but the top half of the trophy was not returned around 2014-15.
In early 1977 The Highland Club gave Donald a fine silver cup in recognition of his services as Club piper and Donald in turn kindly gave the cup to the SPA. It was decided that the new trophy would be awarded to the winner of the Class I piobaireachd in addition to the Oban Times Gold Medal, which was already given in this event. Unfortunately the Oban Times Gold Medal was not returned to the SPA sometime in the early 1990s but the Donald MacLeod Trophy is still awarded annually. Donald judged the 1977 competition with Roddy MacDonald and the new trophy went for the first time to Kenneth MacDonald who played the Old Men of the Shells. Mrs Winnie MacLeod presented the trophy. Donald had written to Flora MacNeill then Secretary of the SPA, ‘I cannot think of any other Association which does so much for piping as the SPA, hence the trophy going there. And- of course, they have the nicest people on the committee. In reply to an invitation to the competition for himself and his wife he wrote, ‘Winnie will be delighted to present the trophy. I gave her a direct order on this.’
The 1977 Professional Competition saw the introduction of a Class II Piobaireachd event. The Class I Piobaireachd was to be restricted to Gold Medal winners, former winners of the Oban Times Gold Medal at the SPA Piobaireachd event, and in future years, winners of the Class II event. A new cup was donated by Mrs Violet MacLeod in memory of her late husband Iain and this was allocated to the Class II event. The winner also received a course of tuition with PM Donald MacLeod in preparation for the Gold Medal events. The Iain MacLeod Cup was used for the Adult Amateur Piobaireachd in 2007 and 2008 but was not returned for the 2009 competition. The first winner of the Class II Piobaireachd was Tom Speirs
In late 1983 a special meeting was held to discuss the Professional competition for 1984. The Class I piobaireachd had been confined to Gold Medallists and Class II winners since 1977 but there had been a shortage of entries in recent years for the Class I while the entry for Class II was very large. It was agreed that at the next competition the CPA gradings would be used and Grade A pipers would play in the Class I and Grade B in Class II.
The next change came in 1988 when the CPA offered a donation of £100 if their gradings were used for the light music and if all competitors in the new Class II events were CPA members. After some correspondence it was agreed that the SPA would run events using the CPA grades but would continue to accept entries from non CPA members for the Class I. There were to be two extra events, a Class II March and a Class II Strathspey and Reel. Two new trophies had been given to the Association, the Donaldson Barclay Quaich presented by Mr and Mrs William Donaldson, parents of piper Barry Donaldson and the Royal Bank of Scotland Cup presented by the Bank. These were used for the new Class II events. The first winner of the Class II march was Alan Minty and the Class II Strathspey and Reel went to Iain Plunkett. The Class II events later became known as the B grade. In some years the B grade Piobaireachd was held in two heats if the numbers entered required this.
At the Professional Competition in 2002 the B Grade Piobaireachd was held in two heats and there was also a separate C Grade event. The CPA supported the competition with a donation of £150 and the College of Piping gave a course of tuition to the C grade winner.
The Professional competition in 2003 reached a new record with 64 pipers entered. The largest events were the B Grade light music with 34 entries. A donation of £150 was received from the CPA.
In 2004 the usual date in March was not available for the Professional Competition as the CPA was holding its Duncan Johnstone Memorial B Grade competition then instead of in February as it had been since it began in 2000. Due to other regular annual events there was no other free Saturday in March. The B Grade pipers now had a competition in March, plus several other events during the year, and the CPA support was now going to these events, so there was to be no donation for us. The Professional competition had made considerable losses over the years and as the committee had a very small team of active members there were discussions on cutting the number of events by returning to the old system without grades but retaining the previous winners barred in the light music, with an MSR for Former Winners. It was suggested that the SPA should, like the Uist and Barra, drop their B Grade events and change to an invitation system with a limited number of competitors, but this solution was not favoured by the committee. The College of Piping wanted to continue their support of the C Grade but there were now very few pipers in this grade, as the CPA said it was almost phased out. The possibility of opening up the event to ungraded adults was discussed. The new Competition for C Grade pipers and novice adults was held at the College of Piping on the afternoon of 27th March and was sponsored by the College of Piping who provided the judges and the overall prize. The former B grade trophies, the Iain MacLeod Cup, the Donaldson Barclay Quaich and the RBS Trophy, were used for this new event, which has continued over the years as the Adult Amateur competition.
The 2004 Professional Competition was on 17th April at Stow College. The College of Piping was based there during the rebuilding and Stow was keen to host the SPA competition. With only one hall entries were to be limited according to the amount of time available. There were 15 played in the Piobaireachd, 12 in the confined March and Strathspey and Reel and nine in the MSR for Former Winners.
The 2005 Professional Competition returned to the Glasgow Academy and with more halls available it became an open competition again. There were 29 competitors; 23 in the Piobaireachd, 24 in the confined light music and ten in the Former Winners. After long discussions it was decided that changes would be made to the 2008 Professional Competition. Instead of being held during the winter or spring it would move to the height of the piping season on the weekend between Oban and Inverness. There would be only two events, Piobaireachd and MSR with a requirement of four of each type of tune to be submitted. The number playing would be restricted according to the time available, with Piobaireachd in the morning, commencing at 9.30am and the MSR following on the conclusion of the Piobaireachd. The 2009 Professional Competition was again in August at the College of Piping. Events were the same as the previous year and there were 18 competitors.
In 2010, the Professional Competition reverted to April and the march, the strathspey and reel and the Former Winners events were re-instated. In the previous two years only one hall had been used but this year two halls were to be used at the same time so the number of entries could be increased. The confined light music events were held downstairs and the Piobaireachd was held upstairs in the Main Hall starting at 9.45am and was finished at 4.55pm. The judges retired to make their decision and other judges took their place on stage so the Former Winners could start at 5pm, exactly as advertised.
With only a few minor changes to the arrangements, events continued in this format until the 92nd Annual Professional Competition in 2019 when once again the competition was graded with events for Premier and A Grade combined, B Grade and C Grade. At Otago Street where the A Grade competitions took place, nine people paid for admittance while at McPhater Street where the B and C Grades were held four people paid. The number of competitors was reasonable, with a total of seven in the A Grade, 14 in the B and 20 in C grade. Jeannie Campbell and Hugh Anderson ran things at Otago St, with Tom Johnstone, Melissa Jeffrey, Graham Alexander and Bill Allison at McPhater Street. The judges were Willie Morrison and Roddy Livingstone for all the A Grade competitions, while the B Grade Piobaireachd was judged by Andrew Frater, the B Grade and C Grade MSR by Ian McLellan BEM and Neill Mulvie and the C Grade Piobaireachd by Alan Forbes.
The Amateur Juvenile competitions were held at the Highlanders’ Institute and the Pearce Institute in 1930, the MacLellan Galleries in 1931, 1932 and 1933, then at the Highlanders’ Institute 1934 to 1948. In 1949 the High School was used then during the 1950s the competitions were at either the High School or the Highlanders’ Institute. During the 1960s the venues were the College of Piping and the Highlanders’ Institute. From the 1970s onwards the competitions were in the RSPBA Halls in Washington Street.
The autumn amateur competition in 1951 had a large entry of 21 in the piobaireachd and 40 in the light music. After a 2pm start and only a half hour break for tea the competition was still going on at 11.30pm. As there were still 12 to play in the slow march the judges Donald MacPherson and Peter Bain volunteered to continue the event at the Club Night on the following Saturday when the event resumed with a large audience. Numbers were a problem again the following year. The Amateur Competition in October 1952 was in the Highlanders’ Institute, starting at 2.30pm. With 25 entries for the Piobaireachd and 32 for the other events it was impossible to complete the programme and the Slow March had to be held over. In 1954 it was decided that a jig event would replace the Slow March at the October Competition.
On April 26th 1975 the first of the year’s Amateur contests was held. Ronald Lawrie and Nicol MacCallum judged the piobaireachd and Duncan Johnstone the light music. Chairman was Hamish MacColl and the prizes were presented by Hannah MacLellan wife of the President Angus J MacLellan. The second amateur contest of 1975 took place in the SPBA Hall on 24th October. There were 31 entries for the Piobaireachd and 44 for the light music. Due to the large number of entries the committee at their next meeting discussed the alternatives of an earlier start or the grading of competitors. The question of grading was dealt with in the new year. The committee were of the opinion that a system of A and B grades would be preferable to grading by age. Several of the top pipers outwith the Association who knew and had heard the players were asked to compile lists.
The 1976 Spring Amateur competition was on 24th April. There was a new trophy for the B Grade Piobaireachd, the Donald MacLellan Trophy which had been given by the President’s mother in memory of her late husband. The judge for A events was Hugh MacCallum and for B events Andrew Wright. Before this the Piobaireachd event had been open to all Amateur members of the Association, the March and the Strathspey and Reel had been confined to boys and girls who had not attained 16 years of age and the Slow March had been confined to amateurs and juveniles who had never won a prize in an open competition. At the Autumn competitions all events were confined to amateurs and juveniles who had never won a prize in an open competition. Although no age limit was specified, it had been the case for many years that no piper above juvenile age entered either the April or October competitions.
The 1976 Autumn Amateur Competition took place on 30th October in the SPBA Hall. This had sponsorship, the sponsors being the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band who kindly put up the cash to purchase book prizes for the four events. The piobaireachd was judged by John Wilson of the Police Pipe Band and Dugald MacNeill of the College of Piping. The two judges for the march and the strathspey and reel, Murdo MacDonald and Graham Richardson, also came from the Police band and all four joined forces in the evening to judge the jig. Thirty-four competitors, both boys and girls ranging in age from 13 to 17, came from all over Scotland plus one competitor from California to give a very full day of piping.
There was no spring amateur competition in 1977. A date had been selected but due to a clash with other similar events in Dundee, Kintyre, Edinburgh and Renfrewshire, and the fact that many of the regular competitors were from Argyll and Dundee, it was decided to postpone the competition. Efforts were made to find another hall on a date which did not clash but this proved to be impossible.
In 1977 the autumn Amateur competition on 29th October was in the SPBA Hall as previously and was again sponsored by the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band which provided the judges Harold McAleer, Graham Richardson, Neil Smith and John Wilson and money to buy prizes. Chairman for the day was Chief Inspector Angus MacDonald a former Pipe Major of the band accompanied by Superintendent A MacKenzie of the Community Involvement Department. Angus congratulated the young people on their efforts and suggested that a career in the police force would do them no harm, either as citizens or pipers.
The Spring Amateur competition returned on 29th April 1978 with the same A and B events introduced in 1976. There was a new trophy, the Philiban Shield, for the Grade A MSR presented by Mr and Mrs Tannock. The second Amateur competition was held as usual at the SPBA hall on 28th October and was again sponsored by the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band.
The Spring amateur competition in 1979 was held on 28th April in the SPBA Hall and was sponsored by the Piping Times which provided book prizes. The judges were PM Ian McLellan, Neil Smith, Hugh MacInnes, Bob Richardson, Roderick MacDonald and Annie Grant. The autumn amateur competition at the end of October in the SPBA Halls was again sponsored by the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band who provided three of the judges, Alasdair Ross, James Wark and Angus J MacLellan, the others being Annie Grant and Anne Sinclair. Special prizes were donated by bagpipe makers Peter Henderson, Grainger and Campbell and R G Lawrie. The Chairman was Inspector Dugald Gillespie.
The first of the two Amateur competitions in 1980 was held in Washington Street in what was now the RSPBA Hall. Once again the Piping Times sponsored the competition by providing all the book prizes. Entries were affected by the O and H Grade examinations which were taking place in the schools but there were still 25 boys and girls taking part. The second juvenile competition took place at the RSPBA Halls on 18th October and was again sponsored by the Strathclyde Police although pipe makers Peter Henderson, R G Lawrie, Gordon Stobo, John Anderson and Grainger and Campbell also gave prizes.
During the 1990s numbers at the Autumn competition continued to rise, and often exceeded 30. In 1992 a new record was set, with 33 in the Piobaireachd and 48 in the light music. Short Leets of eight pipers were chosen for the March and the Strathspey and reel. As the numbers remained at an unmanageable level it was decided that for the 1995 competition a similar grading system to that previously used at the Spring competitions would be introduced for the Autumn competition and such of the B Grade trophies which could be found were used. The A Grade was to for advanced players and previous prize winners and the B Grade for beginners and those who had never won prizes. Over the following years B grade entries averaged between 15 and 30 and A Grade between 10 and 20. In 2000 the RSPBA Halls were not available for the competition so it was held at the Glasgow Academy. This was continued in 2001 and 2002 then in 2003 the competition was held at Stow College West. Following this the competition moved to the new College of Piping building in Otago Street where it has remained since.
When the committee saw the draw on the evening before the 2013 competition which was held on 14th September, it was pointed out that some previous winners were entered in the beginners’ events and the parents should be informed and the entries changed. The President was not present at the competition as he was on holiday but he had asked another official to take charge. In addition there were three other committee members on duty. There were nine entries for the B Piobaireachd and 12 for Light Music. In the A Grade there were 12 in each event. The judges were Peter McCalister and Darach Urquhart for Piobaireachd and Fraser Allison, Rhuaraidh Edwards and David Wilton for Light Music. The draw was not changed and three experienced players were allowed to play in the event for beginners. This caused a great deal of unpleasantness and arguments between one committee member and the others who were present. In addition there were several complaints to committee members from parents of B grade competitors. As parents had attended many other competitions on the circuit they were well aware of those who had been prolific prize winners. They were therefore justified in asking why some of these pipers were playing in an event intended for the beginners and the less experienced, from which previous prize winners were excluded according to the rules stated on the entry form. The only explanation that could be given was that one committee member had made the decision to allow them to play. When the results were announced the three experienced players got three out of the four prizes in each event thus depriving the genuine B Grade players of the chance to win. At the next committee meeting the affair was discussed and resulted in the resignations of the competition organiser, the President and two other committee members who had not been at the competition.
The following year the Juvenile Amateur Competition was held at the College of Piping on 20th September 2014. After the troubles of the previous year there was a big drop in the numbers entering, with only three in the B Grade Piobaireachd, 10 in the B Light Music and 6 in the A Grade events. Due to the small number only one judge, John Patrick, was needed. In 2015 numbers were low again, with no entries for the B Grade Piobaireachd and only 3 for the B Grade light music, although there were 16 entries for the A Grade events.
In 2018 a chanter competition was added and in 2019 the grading system was dropped and piping events were held for three age groups: 13 and under, 15 and under, 18 and under, plus the chanter competition.
The first Veterans competition took place at the Highlanders Institute in September 1948. One of the late Pipe-Major Robert Meldrum’s fine trophies had been gifted to the club. Robert Meldrum had won the trophy for rifle shooting in 1878 and was pictured with it in 1914. When it was given to the Scottish Pipers’ Association it was named the Robert Meldrum Trophy for the Veterans’ Competition. It is still presented annually at the Veterans’ Competition. Robert Meldrum 1851-1941 was taught by P/M William Murray (Seaforth), P/M Ronald MacKenzie (78th), PM John Smith (72nd & 93rd) and John Macpherson. He enlisted in the 78th aged 16 and served in Canada. He was Pipe Major of the 93rd in 1870 and Pipe Major of the 3rd Camerons 1887 to 1892. He re-enlisted in the 3rd Camerons 1914-18. He was employed by Lord Willoughby d’Eresby, Earl of Ancaster at Drummond Castle for 23 years then became the instructor at Queen Victoria School from 1918 to 1923. After 1923 he was Pipe Major of the Inverness British Legion for some years. He won the Gold Medal at Inverness in 1884 and at Oban in 1886 and the Clasp at Inverness in 1902. His compositions include 93rd Farewell to Edinburgh, Downe of Rothiemurchus, Thin Red Line, Lillie Long Wade’s Welcome to Inverness and Tomintoul Highlanders.
A few years after the competition began the Pipers’ Club in Bulawayo (of which city Pipe-Major John Macdonald was a former mayor) generously presented a gold medal and prize money, which they continued to do each year for many years. The first two winners were also provided with medals retrospectively. The first Veterans winner was PM William Taylor, with PM George MacDonald second, PM Archie McPhedran third, James Johnston fourth and John C MacLean fifth. Usually the competition was held during a club night. The competition lapsed for a time from 1991 but was revived in 2007 and held on the same day as the Adult Amateur competition. In 2019 there was no Adult Amateur competition so the Veterans competition once again was held on a Club Night in September.
The Adult Amateur Competition began in 2001 as a C Grade Piobaireachd event held at the annual Professional competition. From the beginning it was sponsored by the College of Piping which provide a free course of tuition to the piobaireachd winner. The event was repeated in 2002 and 2003. In 2004 it became a separate event. The C Grade was being phased out so novice adult amateur pipers were included. The event continued in 2005 and 2006 then from 2007 onwards it became the Adult Amateur competition. In 2018, despite a clash with the annual Piobaireachd Society conference, the competition went ahead despite there being only four entries, one of which called off. Only one played in the Piobaireachd, two in the light music and two in the Veterans. In 2019 there were discussions about incorporating the event into the National Piping Centre’s Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers but this was not favoured by the committee and no competition was held.
The SPA Members’ competition began in 1960 and was a March, Strathspey and Reel competition for members, which was held during a club night. There were competitions from 1960 to 1970 and from 1981 to 1994, although it was not held every year during these dates.
A new trophy for the winner was first awarded in 1965. This was the Donald MacLean Trophy. From 1997 it was awarded to highest placed SPA member in the Professional Competition and now that the competition is confined to members it has become the overall trophy. Donald MacLean was the President of the Association in 1957 and 1958. He had died suddenly at Cowal in 1964.