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Campaign to protect piping history by putting 70 years worth of magazines online

The Prince of Wales chats with members of the National Youth Pipe Band outside the National Piping Centre in Glasgow in 2009.
The Prince of Wales chats with members of the National Youth Pipe Band outside the National Piping Centre in Glasgow in 2009.

A campaign to protect decades of piping history has started on a high note.

The National Piping Centre has launched a crowd-funder to raise money to ensure the long-term future of its Piping Times and Piping Today periodicals.

Already more than £5,000 has been raised towards the £28,500 target.
The project involves the digitisation of the magazine archive, a resource that will be free to access online, and the production of a new annual publication that carries the Piping Times title.

The publications record more than 70 years of piping history and are recognised internationally as the most significant source of piping information, opinion and news.

Both were forced to cease publication in 2020 due to the unprecedented financial challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Front cover of the Piping Times in 1998 when Newtonmore man Niall Matheson won the gold medal at the Argyllshire Gathering in Oban.

Finlay MacDonald, director of piping at the National Piping Centre, said: “It was with the deepest regret that we have made the difficult decision to cease publication of the two magazines, Piping Times and Piping Today. Both titles hold a special place in the hearts of pipers across the world.

“Sadly, publication of the magazines could no longer be justified on the grounds of the associated costs.

“Dwindling circulation numbers – a common trend in publishing in recent years – has meant that, despite their long histories, the savings made had a significant impact on the organisation’s ability to weather the pandemic.”

Magazine brought noteworthy pipers together

The Piping Times was first published in October 1948 as the monthly “house” magazine of the College of Piping.

As well as printing competition results, reviewing events and reporting general news in the piping world, it provided a platform for the frank exchange of opinions and ideas.

It was also influential in fostering an international piping community. Contributors in those early years included some legendary names in piping such as Archibald Campbell (of Kilberry), Willie Gray, John MacLellan, Robert Meldrum, John MacFadyen, J P Grant of Rothiemurchus, John Garroway and D R MacLennan.

Seumas MacNeill, co-founder of the college, was the Convenor of the Editorial Committee that produced the magazine until 1959 when Seumas became the sole editor. He produced the magazine each month until his death in 1996.

Subsequent editors were Dugald MacNeill, Robert Wallace and Stuart Letford.

In 2018, when the college was incorporated into the National Piping Centre, the magazine archive and its continued publication became part of the centre’s “legacy commitment”.

History recorded in magazines is ‘of great value’

The National Piping Centre began publishing its own in-house magazine, Notes, shortly after opening in 1996. As the focus of the publication shifted to encompass the broader world of piping, its title was changed to Piping Today.

The bi-monthly magazine, under the editorship of the then director of piping, Roddy MacLeod MBE, maintained a distinctive voice for almost 25 years.

John Mulhearn, head of piping studies at The National Piping Centre, said: “The history recorded in both magazines’ archives is of great value to the international piping community. The unmatched resource it represents for students and scholars of the bagpipe cannot be overstated. In making this resource more accessible, future research will benefit profoundly.”

The money raised from the crowdfunding campaign will be used to professionally digitise the magazine archive. It will then be hosted on The National Piping Centre’s website and be free for the public to access and search.

New publication to document troubled times

Donations to the campaign will also support the design and production of a new physical annual publication, entitled the Piping Times Annual. It is planned that the annual will be added to the digital archive each year.

Finlay MacDonald added: “Creating a physical record of the year’s piping news is still a priority for us. By publishing a Piping Times Annual we hope to create a new archive for the future.

“This first volume, covering the period from Spring 2020 to Autumn 2021, will be of enormous historical importance. While, on the one hand, far less piping activity has taken place due to the pandemic, the innovations that have taken place – most notably the explosion in online competitions – may be seen as a pivotal moment in the development of piping performance.

“It is essential that this is documented appropriately for researchers of the future.”

The crowdfunder is live until the end of this month.

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