Jolly Boys . . . and Girls: RSPS votes to admit women

Published: March 01, 2015

RSPS-logoThe Royal Scottish Pipers Society, established in Edinburgh in 1885 as a males-only club for amateur pipers, voted on March 1, 2015, to admit females. In a statement, the organization said that “members voted overwhelmingly for this change in the Society’s constitution.”

“The Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society is delighted to admit women members after more than 130 years as an all-male society,” Alan W. McGhie, Honorary Secretary, said. “We are glad that our Society will now recognize the excellent contribution made to our art by female pipers.”

In 2008 the organization had come under fire for narrowly voting to uphold its men-only status, leaving the RSPS to remain as an anachronism in the piping world, at least 30 per cent of which comprises women. Since then high-profile no-females clubs like the Augusta National Golf Club and the Royal & Ancient Golfing Society have voted to accept women.

Membership to the RSPS is limited to pipers who have not competed for money and who hold “professional” careers or peerages.

The organization is probably best known to pipers and drummers for the 2/4 singular march by Roderick Campbell, “The Royal Scottish Pipers Society.” Campbell served as the Honourary Pipe-Major and tutor for the Edinburgh-based society in the 1920s, and other Honourary Pipe-Majors include William Ross and John MacDougall-Gillies.

The RSPS has accepted women to judge and play at its annual Archie Kenneth Quaich Competition for amateur adult pipers, including the event on March 7th at which the well-known Edinburgh-based piper Jenny Hazzard will judge.

The RSPS also sponsors piping competitions over the year, including the Silver Star March, Strathspey & Reel events for former winners at the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting.

Female pipers in the UK were not allowed to compete at the biggest competition until the Sexual Discrimination Act of 1976 was enforced. That year Patricia Henderson, Rona Lightfoot, Anne Sinclair and Anne Spalding were the first women pipers to compete in the Highland Society of London Gold Medal events at Inverness and Oban.

Members of the Royal Scottish Pipers Society are traditionally nicknamed the Jolly Boys.

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