December 15, 2016

Oban cryptic on judging policy

and, in that respect, the Argyllshire Gathering has always placed its faith in the integrity and honesty of the judges whom we have invited to sit on our benches.

“We, the Argyllshire Gathering, will co-operate to make sure that this ruling is adhered to, but we will not ‘police’ it. That, we view as being the responsibility of the SPJA and we expect reciprocal co-operation from the SPJA and the CPA [Competing Pipers Association] to alleviate any problems which might arise in the future because of this ruling.”

The annual march to the games is an Argyllshire Gathering tradition, here in 2015 with John-Angus Smith (front left) in the pipe-major’s position after wining the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal the day before. [Photo copyright and used with permission]
The opinion of the Argyllshire Gathering would appear moot unless the games elected to use non- SPJA judges. Members of the SPJA are bound by the rule, which was passed at its convened AGM, and now adopted as part of its constitution. To change the constitution a two-thirds majority needs to be reached.

Unlike competitions virtually everywhere else in the world, there is no official body that sanctions solo piping events in the UK. Events are free to hire whomever they please to adjudicate, but understand that competitors, with few exceptions if any, prefer competitions that use judges accredited by the SPJA.

The problem of judges adjudicating those they teach has been widespread and controversial since the dawn of piping, drumming and pipe band competitions. Many associations around the world request that their members declare interests and then will work to avoid conflict situations. But few if any association have strict rules against the practice.

The UK’s SPJA and Joint Committee are the first to make the prohibition a hard rule, beginning with the three biggest solo piping events on the calendar.

The Argyllshire Gathering, Northern Meeting and Scottish Piping Society of London competitions each in 2016 had at least one instance of teachers judging pupils and serving on benches that awarded them prizes.

An unscientific pipes|drums Poll this fall found that some 78% of respondents said No to the question, “Should teachers judge their pupils in competition?”



  1. The senior judges doth protest too much, methinks. Are you kidding me? Who are these esteemed adjuidicators who think it is reasonable to judge and give prizes to their students. Give you effin head a wee shake.



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