July 05, 2024

Silver Chanter line-up confirmed, omitting previous winner

The Silver Chanter in the hands of Iain Speirs, who has won the the award a record seven times.

After its cancellation in 2023, the prestigious Silver Chanter piobaireachd competition will return on August 7th, to be held at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college located on the remote Sleat peninsula on Skye.

But for what would appear to be the first time in the event’s 57-year history, the previous Silver Chanter contest winner was not invited.

Finlay Johnston of Glasgow won the 2022 event at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. The National Piping Centre had run the competition for five years after the event moved from its original location at Dunvegan Castle in Skye. The 2022 contest returned to Skye.

Johnston declined to comment but confirmed that he had not received an invitation to the event, which the Piobaireachd Society now manages.

Confirmed competitors in the 2024 competition comprise prize-winners in the piobaireachd events from the Northern Meeting, Argyllshire Gathering and the much smaller Skye Gathering:

  • Alasdair Henderson, Glasgow, Argyllshire Gathering Highland Society of London Gold Medal winner
  • Angus MacColl, Benderloch, Scotland, Argyllshire Gathering Senior Piobaireachd winner
  • Derek Midgley, Tinton Falls, New Jersey, winner of the Colonel Jock MacDonald Clasp at Skye
  • Fred Morrison, Bishopton, Scotland, winner of the Dunvegan Medal at Skye
  • Sarah Muir, Glasgow, third prize in the Colonel Jock MacDonald Clasp
  • Innes Smith, Palmerston North, New Zealand, Northern Meeting Highland Society of London Gold Medal winner

Northern Meeting Clasp winner Calum Beaumont of St. Andrews, Scotland, reportedly declined his invitation due to a scheduling conflict. Morrison was second in the 2023 Colonel Jock MacDonald Clasp, so Muir gained an invitation for her third prize in the contest.

Piobaireachd Society President Robert Wallace will be the only judge of the event. At publication time, Wallace had not responded to a request for comment regarding Johnston not being invited.

Mossburn Distillers/Torabhaig Distillery and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College, will sponsor the contest for the next five years. Both organizations are based in Skye, the longtime competition location and home of the MacCrimmon dynasty of pipers, who purportedly ran a college of piping in the Borreraig region of the island, along with the Torabhaig whisky distillery.

The Silver Chanter was the brainchild of Seumas MacNeill and John MacFadyen in 1967, calling for piobaireachds thought to be composed by or strongly connected with the MacCrimmons. Each piper is assigned one piobaireachd to perform.

For many years, the organizers of the event invited only a handful of players and traditionally awarded one prize, a Silver Chanter, reflecting a local legend. In the 1990s, the contest stopped its invitational status but continued to accept only top-tier competitors.

The competition was held at the remote Dunvegan Castle from 1967 until 2018 when it moved to Glasgow. Due to the global pandemic, the 2020 competition was held online.

Roddy MacLeod, also of Glasgow, holds the record for most wins with seven. Iain Speirs, Edinburgh, and the late Hugh MacCallum, Dunblane, Scotland, each won the award six times.






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