May 27, 2019

Cowal Gathering nixes solo piping

The Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, Scotland, was once a must-attend contest for solo pipers and bands alike, but another step in the decline of the event has been made with the cancellation of the solo piping competitions.

Organizers chalked up the decision to scheduling the event on the same Friday, August 30, as the Northern Meeting at Inverness. With the vast majority of soloists giving preference to Inverness, Cowal appeared to realize the problem and, with solo piping very much now a secondary or even tertiary aspect, changing the date was not realistic.

A statement from Cowal Gathering organizers said that they were unable to secure a senior judging panel, let alone competitors.

Unlike solo competitions in every other part of the world, Scotland’s events are not run or sanctioned by any unifying association. Rules, judges and entries are scattershot, and basic scheduling can be poorly planned.

“One of the charms of competing in Scotland is how most events are run independently and with little or no coordination of dates, standards,” said one A-Grade solo piper. “But this leads to all sorts of scheduling craziness when there are five Saturdays in August. But to have Cowal and Inverness on the same day seems ridiculous.”

The now defunct City of Victoria competing at the Cowal Championships in 1979.

A 2020 Silver Medal qualifying event had been planned for Cowal, allowing especially non-UK pipers with a Competing Pipers Association B-Grade to have another chance to get in to the restricted events at Oban and Inverness. The CPA does not yet have a plan for a replacement event for it or the recently cancelled Silver Medal event at the Perth Highland Games, which was postponed all together.

The Cowal Gathering had been the de facto World Pipe Band Championship until the Scottish Pipe Band Association formed and elected to create a formal World’s, the competitions moving to a new location every year. Cowal remained as one of the association’s five major championships until 2013 when the RSPBA pulled the plug on the event as a championship, replacing it with the UK Championship. Cowal remained a basic pipe band contest.

Field Marshal Montgomery was the winner of the last Cowal Championship.

In the early 1990s the solo piping events at Cowal were shifted to the rear of the games park, and entries to the events were primarily with non-UK pipers competing at the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting, between which Cowal would often fall.

The Burgh Cup for solo pipers 17 and younger from the general region will continue. The competition is one of the longest-running in the world, and winners have included some of the greatest names in piping history.


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