Old Judging Tips Still Fresh

February 23, 2008 on 11:11 am by Michael Grey | In Solo Piping, Tips | 5 Comments

Pipers are some of the most competitive-minded people on the planet.  Gather a few pipers, throw a shoe box up for grabs (a functional, if not stylish, trophy), find a judge and, voila, you’ve got the makings of a grand solo piping event.

I’m not entirely sure why this is the case – that pipers love to compete – but it’s a truth.  The great early 20th century Scottish piper, Robert Reid, is often quoted as saying, “a competition is only as good as its judges“…or something like that.  If you’re a competitor this statement is absolutely accurate.  Of course, if you’re a listener, its all about the performance – who cares if the judges are onion heads.

Anyway, I was ploughing through some old books this morning and stumbled across David Graham-Campbell’s publication, “A Guide to the Judging of Piping”, a 14 page pamphlet published by The College of Piping in 1954. 

Even with a good few quaint lines throughout (“The players are sometimes given journey money provided they play up to a minimum standard which is decided by the judge.  To withhold journey money is an unpleasant task for the judge and he should recommend in only extreme cases.”), over half a century after publication, most of Graham-Campbell’s advice holds up well .

Here’s an excerpt from his judging hints; every single one of his points stands as invaluable advice for any judge, anywhere:  

A Guide to the Judging of Piping, College of Piping (Glasgow)1954         



  1. That is one heck of a reference. Really interesting to see how well this passage holds up today.
    Thanks for sharing this one. It gave me an odd and increasingly rare burst of inspiration, which I’ll try to milk for all it’s worth. 🙂

    Comment by Mikael — February 25, 2008 #

  2. Thanks, Mikael … you can’t beat a rare burst of inspiration! Mike

    Comment by mike — February 27, 2008 #

  3. The College of Piping re-published the guide a year or so ago, along with some recent articles, views, etc. All-in-all, worth the read. I still have my original edition, too. I didn’t think you were that old Mike?!

    Comment by iainmacd — February 28, 2008 #

  4. Thanks, Iain. I don’t recall where I got hold of the copy I own. When I next quote from my copy of Angus Mackay’s 1838 book the cat will be out of the bag: I’m 206 years old. Mike

    Comment by mike — February 28, 2008 #

  5. “There can be only one”….you immortals are all the same. Good on you for having an 1838 Angus MacKay!! Mine is a mere reprint from the 70s, and I am a mere mortal.

    Comment by iainmacd — February 29, 2008 #

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