Published: July 31, 2001

The Masonic Lodge, Falkirk, Scotland

The focal point for Highland piping’s history

In 1781, as part of the annual Falkirk Tryst, thirteen pipers converged on the Masonic Lodge on a street originally called the Back Row in Falkirk, Scotland, in what was the first known organized solo competition for the Highland bagpipe.

In the early 1960s, the structure was torn down to make room for a shopping center, but not before a few photographs were taken. The one published here comes to us from the collection of Dr. William Donaldson of Aberdeen, Scotland, author of the landmark work, The Highland Pipe and Scottish Society, and is reprinted with permission.

The two-story dwelling was on a sloping site north of the High Street. The building featured a dwelling house and a Lodge Room, with a small courtyard where the competitors performed.

The pipers wore whatever they wanted and played four tunes of their own choice. Order of play was established by drawing lots. Interestingly, the judges were enclosed in the lodge room above the courtyard and could not see who was performing.

The event was held over three days and, according to Dr. Donaldson’s book, “the winner was Patrick MacGregor (called Patrick na Corraig, or ‘Patrick of the Finger’ because he had lost the ring-finger of his left hand and used the little finger instead), a member of a famous family of players and teachers from Fortingall in Perthshire, known collectively as clann an sgeulaiche. He was awarded a prize pipe made by Hugh Robertson of Edinburgh and forty merks in money (about £2.7s. sterling).”

Like many older Scottish buildings near town centres, the Masonic Lodge became a public house, and was a pub when it was ultimately razed. The plaque that can be seen on the building does not actually pertain to the historic piping venue, and reads:

“The Falkirk Lodge of the Masons erected this building in 1762. The inscription on the window sill is on the [unreadable from photo]. Probably the dedication of the lodge.”

Given the competitive nature that Highland piping has taken over the last 200 years, the Masonic Lodge, the venue for the competitions at the 1781 Falkirk Tryst, is a historic focal point for our art.

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