If one had to sum up Bob Worrall in a single word, it would probably be “determined.” Anyone who knows him immediately recognizes his singular commitment to anything to which he puts his mind, whether it’s winning both light music events at the Northern Meeting, judging the World Pipe Band Championship, or teaching pipers.
To some, his resolute nature can be hard to appreciate. Because of it, Bob Worrall does more for piping in a month than most people do all year. If one could bottle his charisma and enthusiasm there would be a mile-long line to his front door to buy it.
As it is, there usually is a line of people who want his time. Since “retiring” from piping competition in 1983 Worrall has been one of the most active and productive piping teachers anywhere. His schedule is booked for months at a time, and his immersion in helping others knows no bounds. He is in demand throughout the winter to conduct workshops, and from 1990 to 1998 he coordinated the piping program at the world famous Gaelic College on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
He serves on several Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario committees, including the Music Board, of which he was the founding chair. He is instrumental in organizing and holding the adjudication examinations for the society. And each year he overseas the running of the George Sherriff Memorial Amateur Invitational Piping Competition, which in five years has become the world’s pre-eminent amateur event.
During his relatively short time as a competitor his achievement were substantial. In Ontario, there was hardly a solo piping event that was not his at some point, and several he won many times over. His seven overall North American Solo Piping Championships at Maxville are an example of his tenacity, as is the fact that in 1977 he won both the March and Strathspey & Reel events at the Northern Meeting in Inverness.
His time in bands, however, was relatively short-lived, though extremely productive. A piper with the Grade One City of Toronto and General Motors bands for most of the 1970s, Worrall was part of an Ontario band scene through the formative years of musical progress.
But with all his leadership qualities, it is indeed ironic that Worrall has never led a pipe band. To be sure, he has been approached numerous times, and, as he says in this interview, his reasons for declining are difficult to fault.
It is clear that Bob Worrall takes pride in whatever he does. If he is prevented from being able to take whatever task is at hand to its fullest potential, he would rather walk away from it than waste his valuable energy.
He has been a judge at the World Pipe Band Championships four times, three times in Grade One. His illuminating score sheets are often considered a benchmark for judging, each one clearly communicating exactly how he derived at his decision.
A schoolteacher by profession, Bob Worrall lives in Burlington, Ontario, just west of Toronto.
The late Seumas MacNeill described himself as “a born reformer,” refusing to sit idle while things he considered not right went on. While perhaps not with the same biting edge as the Famous Seumas, Bob Worrall could be considered in similar terms.
In 2000 Bob Worrall was appointed to the Piobaireachd Society’s panel of approved judges, an accolade so far held by only two other North Americans. He judged the Bratach Gorm at London, England, this past November, thus becoming the first North American ever to sit on a bench for a major solo contest.
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