October 31, 2008

Jolly girls still unwelcome at Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society

The 100-years-plus tradition of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society to exclude women from joining will continue, after a proposal to abolish the gender discrimination was defeated at the society’s annual general meeting.
A total of 52 per cent of voting members cast ballots against the motion “to abolish the exclusion of lady pipers from the Society.”
The defeat of the motion came at the hands of those not actually attending the meeting, sending in their votes by proxy.
The final vote on the motion was:
                                     For        AgainstAbstaining                                      
Those in attendance1912361.3% for the motion
Proxies1727n/a61.4% against the motion
Total3639352% against the motion
The Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society – affectionately known as the “Jolly Boys” – is based in Edinburgh and comprises “gentleman” pipers of professional standing, usually pipers of Britain’s aristocracy with an “amateur” standing in piping – that is, never having competed for prize-money.
Among other things, the RSPS has sponsored the Former Winners MSR at the Northern Meeting, and the “Silver Star” medal is of the Society’s insignia. The group recently resumed sponsorship of the Silver Star MSR at the Argyllshire Gathering. The RSPS holds a recital every year with non-member, non-amateur soloists performing.


  1. I used to think this was terribly sad, but then Augusta came, with all the coverage, and I found myself thinking, it’s their right” There are many a “girls” or “ladies” clubs that I could not be apart of

  2. Wow, I didn’t realize there was seriously a piping society that still lived by the Gentlemen” only mantra. Amazing that in a modern world such a group exists. People may not have realized this but this group doesn’t exclude solely women. It is excludes women and any person deemed to be “professional”

  3. RWilson makes a good point. Why can’t they have their own club? That’s the point of any club/society/fraternity, and so on. Are they stupid? Maybe. But then again, maybe some of them have nothing against women or women pipers, but they want to keep their cigar” club to just themselves. Maybe they don’t find it appropiate to banter about the things they do in front of women? Who knows. It would be nice if one of them could stand up here and tell us the reasoning behind it. Until then

  4. It is unfortunate that the organizers of many of the contests acknowledge and utilize the services of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society. We have heard so many stories of amateurish judging results, some of which have caused amusement, but more often than not, frustration to those who dedicate their lives to achieving a level of play that is worthy of professional status. The Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society have provided a service to us and many of them are indeed very jolly” and nice guys. To some extent

  5. Anne, I am a female amateur piper (I play in grade 1) and I really have no desire to become a member of the RSPS. As I have commented previously and as several of the other comments have pointed out, this is not really about gaining membership. It is about what kind of image our Global piping society represents. We are a relatively small but diasporic Scottish community and I think it is important that we support all its members and ensure that we are all given a fair shake when we are being judged. I am glad that the RSPS had this vote. Without it we would not have had proof that this kind of discrimination still exists. And we would not have the opportunity to discuss it now. As Megan pointed out, Women have only been allowed to compete in the Argyllshire Gathering since 1977 and the only reason why this rule was changed was because it was against the law. Petitions had been made long before this. There was an article in a newspaper in 1972 about the exclusion of women from the Argyllshire Gathering and the Northern Meeting. One of the ladies in the article pointed out that there were enough women in the top level of competition to make the rule outdated. However, once the rule was forced to change it is still possible to see forms of protest about this change. An article that I found in 1976 entitled Record Piping Entry Brings a Problem” The first few sentences of the article read; “The Northern Meeting piping competitions which began in the Caledonian Hotel and Dr. Black Hall

  6. A group with a majority of members [or near majority] who wish to exclude people on the basis of gender is not a group to which I, or any right-thinking person would want to belong. I hope that other organizations and public events will take this into consideration before accepting sponsorship, or before allowing RSPS members to judge. Really, could a member of such an organization be thought to give a female piper a fair hearing on any platform if they can’t be accepted as members?

  7. Appalling. In many ways the issue of gender in piping society has become minimal. Women in 21st century bands and solos, for the most part, enjoy competition and membership free of discrimination. However, it is decisions such as these that make me question the sincerity of much of it. Though as far as I know, the RSPS is a relatively small group of individuals participating in a private club, their actions are still monitored and judged by pipe band society in general. If their opinion is that women should not participate in their club, logic follows that they do not believe women should participate in piping society.

  8. While the members who voted by proxy may have been absent for honorable reasons, it only further demonstrates their lack of connection with the piping community. By aligning their policy with outdated and backward views they have voted to make the RSPS outdated and backwards.

  9. In keeping with the times, maybe they should look at renaming themselves the ‘Royal Scottish Heterosexual Anglo-Saxon Male Elite Piping Society’? Women can do more than lovingly prepare a hot meal and warm her man’s slippers for him coming home after a hard day at work beating his slaves! Good heavens, it’s 2008! Women have the vote! Some women even WIN piping competitions! Regardless of the majority vote, I question if gender discrimination is actually legal in this day and age, whether or not in a members’ society or public body. Perhaps a body that doesn’t merit the inclusion of females to its ranks doesn’t deserve the addition of their company in the first place. It’s not women who are in the minority, it’s narrow minded people harbouring chauvenisitic views in the name of tradition. …then I remembered I’m a drummer and maybe I should keep my opinion to myself on matters pipng…? Then again, I’m male, recognise and welcome the equal and sometimes superior talents that females bring to our music!

  10. These are the same people that fantasise that it is 1903 and that they are John MacDonald’s best pals. Let them have their silly little society and tell their Willie Ross stories to each other. They’re more than welcome to come and play in the real world and get their backsides kicked by the talent, male or female. In the meantime, it’s probably better for them to have somewhere they can meet up and avoid bothering the rest of us.

  11. I believe some posters are missing the real issue here: it does not matter if a group of ignorant misogynists choose to have an ultra-elite club that excludes women; it is, however, a monumental issue that said group is allowed to supply judges, and award prizes at contests that are attended by those whom this group has chosen to openly discriminate against. In reality, the vast majority of the members of the RSPS are amateur players who have no business judging a piping contest–period. The sad part about the whole thing is that this group of arrogant amateurs obtained a power position within the piping world which it has not been relinquished, despite years of progressive change. As was already mentioned by Iain, I believe that any contest worth its salt will discontinue the sponsorship of events by the RSPS, and deny its members the opportunity to judge contests.

  12. Once again the upper crusties [edited] have shown their collective **** to the membership and the world. It seems as if the ancient-minded leadership are yearning for the “good old days” of the Victorian era; happier times when women were supposed to be dutiful, ornamental, and without opinion. I wonder how much more out-of-touch they can get? I also wonder when the community will tell them to “get stuffed” and boycott their sanctioned contests? Bravo, old chaps! Another job well done!

  13. Not too sure about boycotting the contest as a solution, after all the old boys have money why not releave them of some of that burden? I guess the flip side to this debate is that the RSPBA appoints judges, not the RSPS, if it so happens that a RSPS judge is judging a piping competition, that is the fault of the RSPBA not the RSPS. Regardless of their standing as amateur or pro the RSPBA feels they are qualified. To that end the RSPS membership is not a required for anything, it is basically a cigar club. So why shouldn’t they be allowed to live by their own laws? Troon golf course does the same thing, no women in the membership and no pros in the clubhouse except for special circumstances. Not saying I agree with it, but at the same time none of these old boys can join the CPA since they are amateurs, maybe they just wanted a club to be part of.

  14. Well, it is a club after all and not a governing body. They can basically make or change any rules for membership as they like. Also, there are just as many male pipers (if not more) who are not members as there are female… Besides, who would want to be associated with a club like that anyway?

  15. What a great set: Royal Scottish Heterosexual Anglo-saxon Male Elite Piping Society- Susan MacLeod or Maggie Cameron or Dora MacLeod- Sheepswife or Mrs. MacPherson or Pretty Marion….”

  16. Perhaps it should be more correctly The Royal Scottish Heterosexual Celtic Male Elite Piping Society” (RSHCMEPS) – Susan MacLeod or Maggie Cameron or Dora MacLeod – The Sheepwife or Mrs. MacPherson Of Inveran or Pretty Marion….”

  17. I’m primarily offended that they apparently also exclude tenor drummers, female or male. My wife (also a piper) just laughed about this. Jamie DE, about that Adventure Club of yours…

  18. The point seems to have been made questioning why any woman would even want to join such an organisation, knowing that they were such unwelcome members. However I think in saying that, we’re missing the point. As a private club, the RSPS can of course select their members as they choose, and to this effect if they choose to be men only, they have the legal right to do so. This poses no problem to a club whose actions affect only their own members. The greater issue here is that the reverberations of that decision can be felt in greater piping society, when the club sponsors major solo competitions and provides judges to many of the local games. Regardless of whether or not a woman was turned away from the club on the basis of her gender, if she is competing in solo competitions she will undoubtedly be judged at some point by RSPS members. How many women will be wondering as they stand before their judge, “are you one of the men that voted for women to be in your club, or one of the men that felt I was undeserving?” The issue is not just of overt sexism, but the passive creation of an inhospitable environment for women pipers by the message that is sent. We forget it was only 1977 when the first woman was actually allowed to compete at the Northern Meeting and the Argyllshire Gathering, and at that, the rule was only changed after the British government passed the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975! Most women pipers today just want to get on with their piping with the rest of them and aren’t interested in lobbying for admission into a private club. But that doesn’t excuse this decision which is very disappointing, though not surprising. Megan Canning

  19. I can’t tell by some of the names if anyone of us who have commented have actually been women, so to hear what you had to say about it Megan, was great. not only that, what an insight you bring with the judging. You are obviously to good of a person to need their society, and too good of player, male or female, to have to deal with any such issues.

  20. Well said, Megan. Perhaps interested pipers might like to express their feelings directly to the Society? Royal Scottish Pipers Society 127 Rose Street Edinburgh EH2 3DT 0131-225 4123

  21. Too bad it’s a last dying gasp of an outmoded society. I have to agree, why would I want to join a group that doesn’t want me as a member, not much fun in that even if I got in. I’d rather be standing around in the beer tent after a competition with all my like minded piper and drummer friends, that is much more appealing to me. The best revenge for a woman piper is to win their silly contests quite frankly…

  22. Good point Megan, really at the end of the day it shouldn’t matter what a person looks like, it should just be how well they play. It’s these old boys loss not to get all the best players gathered together in one place.

  23. In light of the descision of the RSPS to continue their arcaic discrimination against Female Pipers, i assume their club is not about building a quality of membership . . . [edited]. sorry if this offends, but when they discriminate against world class Female Pipers, Megan Canning, Margaret Dunn, Kirsty McIntyre, to name but a few, who can hold their own amongst the very best i think they are perhaps being a bit stupid with this descision. But hey, will Megan, Margaret, Kirsty and the countless other outstanding Female Pipers lose sleep over this?….i doubt it, and i dare say they will all continue to show that its not whats behind your sporran that counts.

  24. Stuarty, bear in mind they don’t just discriminate against Megan and company. They also discriminate against Roddy MacLeod, Willie McCallum, Andrew Berthoff, and, technically, me. Frankly, I don’t feel too left out. In any case, Megan can kick their *** any day (and given their average age, I’m not just talking about piping-wise).

  25. Stuarty: note that by virtue of being a proffesional and I’m sure having collected money, that the below mention females would not be allowed in to the society just based on that alone. Do try to keep some of it seperated. Now, if we would like to say that Megan and the whole bunch, seem to want to bypass this old group of sticks and stocks, to play at the highest level. Then that is also their choice. I haven’t heard from an Amateur female piper on this case yet. Clubs should eventually get over the gender issue, but alot of societies and clubs that do allow both genders started out as a mens club, that ended up inspiring a womens club, and when they all stood back and took notice of their joint understandings and fondness for what ever their club stood for, is when they would make the choice to merge and allow both genders. I say there should be a Womans Royal Piping Society, and I’m sure the Queen would have no problem signing on to make it legit. Then see where it goes from there.

  26. I am a bit torn on this issue. The RSPS is an old-fashioned style of Gentleman’s Club, and as such they can do what they like. I cannot join that club because I am a professional piper, not particularly because I am female. I actually teach some of these members, they are enthusiastic about playing and are for the most part very knowledgeable about their piping. They have no desire to compete professionally but will rise to challenge of competing against themselves. I have always been made more than welcome at any functions I have attended, and never been made to feel anything other than another piper. Perhaps it’s me who is being naive but that’s my feeling. Now, if I was an amateur lady piper I might be telling a different story, but I actually do not know any female pipers who want to join the society, though there must be some or the issue presumably would not have arisen. That female piper or pipers is who we need to hear from, I think.

  27. What these gentlemen do in their club room is I suppose their own business. But it’s a different matter if they are sitting on judging panels. A female competitor knowing that a judge representing an organisation which bans females from its membership, is at a disadvantage I would think. One would hope that a judge starts from the point of view of a blank canvas, and adopts a neutral position. And the same could be hoped for from competitors – that they can walk on knowing that they are playing on a level playing field. Anybody representing an organisation which adopts a controversial stance, is bringing that strong controversial situation with them on to the judges panel by association. If these men were truly professional, one would hope that they would realise their position as judges is untenable, and withdraw from the role. In this day and age, are there really young men joining this organisation, or will it die out with the present membership. In that case, it would fizzle out anyway. Just as a matter of interest I wonder what happens if a piper born a man but now a woman, or someone born a woman but now a man, applies. Or even, a cross dressing piping male?? Sounds like they might freak out altogether.

  28. The RSPS is an anachronism, a sad relic of the UK’s class-ridden past. If they like a boys-only set-up that’s up to them, but they shouldn’t be invited to judge other organisations’ competitions. There are plenty of more competent judges available anyway.



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