Andrew Wright, 1936-2022
The great piper and even greater teacher, Andrew Wright, died at the age of 86 on October 23, 2022.
When most people think of Andrew Wright, the word piobaireachd immediately comes to mind. He devoted almost his entire piping life to the study, playing and teaching of ceol mor, and was considered to be one of the foremost authorities on the subject.
For nearly 20 years, he studied with Donald MacLeod, one of John MacDonald of Inverness’s prized pupils. Wright received more guidance in the great music of the Highland pipe from Bob Brown and Bob Nicol, the famed Bobs of Balmoral. From these three masters, he learned not only ways to play the music, but methods to teach it.
And teach he did. His patient and enlightened approach to imparting their and his own wisdom was quickly absorbed by his students – too many to mention all here, but the list includes many of the most accomplished pipers in recent history.
Born in Partick, Scotland, on December 4, 1936, Andrew Wright was taught by the legendary Peter R. MacLeod, and he quickly showed his piping prowess. His competition record was sterling, most famously winning “The Double” – both Highland Society of London Gold Medals in the same year, achieving the feat in 1970. His list of ceol more prizes was prodigious: the Senior Piobaireachd at Oban, the Bratach Gorm at London three times. the Open Piobaireachd at London four times, the Uist & Barra three times, and pretty much every other major piobaireachd prize there is in the UK.
Lesser known was his involvement with pipe bands. While playing the solo circuit in the 1960s and ’70s, Wright was a member of the Grade 1 Red Hackle under Pipe-Major John Weatherston. At the time, tops soloists would far less frequently play with a pipe band. He would later serve for many years as a judge with the RSPBA, assessing the major championships dozens of times.
Andrew Wright was a leader. He served as president of the Competing Pipers Association at a time in the 1990s when the group was in some disarray. In 1992, two years before he was elected CPA leader, the solo piping scene was rocked by a boycott of the major events by many of the world’s top pipers and judges, protesting conditions for judging that were pointed out by the short-lived Association of Piping Adjudicators. Wright was one of only a handful of competitors who refused to join the action.
As CPA leader, he immediately set to repairing the scene by forming a new “joint committee” of the major associations, players and competitions to try to find compromise and commonality, which he did.
For all of his political acumen and proven success as a competitor and piobaireachd authority, Andrew Wright was a quiet and gentle soul. He was an intent listener, able to hear and weigh all sides of an issue, composition or performance before he made a decision. He applied this naturally considerate ethic to his approach to piobaireachd as a player, competitor, judge and teacher: always weigh the sensible options and be open to other ways and opinions. It was okay to change one’s mind.
He lived in Dunblane, Scotland, for decades, seeing countless pipers at his home for lessons, always well looked after by his wife, Isobel. He had an accomplished professional career as a plant manager for a woolen mill in the nearby town of Alloa.
We interviewed Andrew Wright three times, in 1987, 1995, and 2017, and we will publish much of this material in the future.
A private funeral is being planned.
Our sympathies are with Andrew Wright’s family and friends at this sad time.
Andrew a true gentleman had lessons from Andrew many years ago as did my Son RIP Andrew