June 30, 2007

Back to the future at Carbisdale Castle piping school

Carbisdale Castle.Fifty-five years after Seumas MacNeill and the College of Piping in Glasgow dreamed up the idea of a piping school, the College has joined with the Ross and Cromarty Pipes & Drums School to hold a new one-week school at Carbisdale Castle in Sutherland in northern Scotland from March 23 to March 29, 2008.

Carbisdale Castle was the first known modern school of piping for civilian pipers, where MacNeill and College co-founder Tommy Pearston led day-long classes for eager pipers. The formula started in 1953 was then developed into summer schools in Canada and the United States, and are now an annual part of virtually every country in the world where Highland bagpipes are played.

The school will take the usual form of classes in light music and piobaireachd, but additional workshops on reedmaking, pipe band techniques, and bagpipe and drum maintenance will also be offered. As with most schools, evening lectures and recitals by instructors will take place, all within the premises of the historic castle.

“Fifty years ago the College of Piping pioneered the idea of outreach summer schools beginning in the Highlands of Scotland, running a course at Carbisdale Castle in 1953,” said Robert Wallace, principal of the College of Piping in Glasgow. “[The College] then moved to running outreach schools in North America . . . Now things have come full circle with the establishment of the College at Carbisdale.”

Paul Turner, business manager of the Ross and Cromarty Pipes & Drums School, is handling registrations.


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  1. Before taking all the credit for the concept, perhaps the good Principal should recall that long before 1953, the Piobaireachd Society was sending tutors out to the Western Isles for outreach

  2. Ah yes, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the Society’s apparently magnamimous actions in sending John MacDonald to the Outer Isles were anything other than a recruiting tool, conceived and employed by the ruling establishment, to encourage as many young men as possible from the Highlands and Islands into British Army. This was a time of social unrest and land raiding in the Outer Isles with associated extreme paranoia amongst the landed gentry. I am aware of primary written evidence that explicitly backs this up. It may have had beneficial aspects to the promotion of piping in these areas, but that was the driver behind it.

  3. Fair enough, Donald. Notice that I didn’t comment on the motives of either the PS or the College. I was simply pointing out that the outreach concept had some precedent.

  4. Come on now! Surley the castle in Transylvania looks like Carbisdale. Not the other way about! It was built in 1906. Was Transylvania even discovered then? lol



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