The first virtual version of The Lewis and Harris Piping Society’s annual competition for junior players has been hailed a great success, with the new online format allowing a big increase in participation by pipers from Uist and Barra.

A total of 102 players took part from throughout the Outer Hebrides – a number of entries “considerably higher than normal” according to the Piping Society.

The society’s piping secretary, Ashley MacDonald, said they had also received “a high volume of inquiries from the mainland”, although they were not eligible as it was only for the Western Isles.

However, she said this did show that demand existed for an online piping competition.

The results were broadcast on Friday, July 10, as part of an online cèilidh with performances from some of the prize winners. The format was similar to a typical post-competition recital and the online cèilidh can still be accessed, either via The Lewis and Harris Piping Society’s Facebook page or its website, www.lhpsoc.com.

There were so many excellent performances submitted that the Piping Society hopes to hold a second online cèilidh later in August (date still to be confirmed), to showcase more island talent.

Dr John Smith, chairman of The Lewis and Harris Piping Society, said the competition had been “very successful” and welcomed the participation of pipers from Barra in particular.

Although youngsters from the Uists do traditionally take part in the annual competition, travelling up on the morning of the competition and back home in the evening, it is more logistically difficult – and off-putting – for players from Barra.

He said the society would be looking at how it could enable such increased participation from the Southern Isles to continue into the future, post-lockdown, and praised all those who took part.

“The format worked well,” he said. “The competitors submitted recordings of themselves playing their tunes and they were all advised to dress appropriately – ie. in full Highland dress – and the recordings for each section were sent to a nominated judge.”

A panel of top players had agreed to act as judges. They were Glenn Brown, Callum Beaumont, Sarah Muir, Finlay Johnston, Iain Speirs, Donald MacPhee, Roddy MacLeod MBE and Decker Forrest – many of whom had been due to perform at his year’s P/M Donald Macleod Memorial Piping Competition, before it was cancelled due to lockdown.

Technically, the Piping Society was assisted by Alex Tearse from Reefnet, who created the competition portal and set up the online cèilidhs.

Dr Smith said: “The Lewis and Harris Piping Society are delighted that we were able to organise a junior competition in the current constraints of the world that we’re living in and we’re particularly pleased that we have, within the community, people who are generous in giving their time to supporting the Piping Society, such as Alex Tearse who did all the technical work.

“The junior competition has been an important part of the remit of the Piping Society since its inception and we are determined to continue to hold it and have demonstrated that it can be done remotely. If necessary, that’s how we’ll do it next year.

“It goes without saying that we are grateful to our sponsors Point and Sandwick Trust who generously agreed to meet the expenses of holding the competition in this format.”

Ashley MacDonald, a piping instructor and director of the Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band as well as the Piping Society’s piping secretary, praised the young pipers for taking part, as the format would have posed a new set of challenges to them.

“All the participants did very well indeed,” she said. “Under normal circumstances they would only have one go in front of a judge, so for them to submit videos and get through them must have been hard work as they would know that they could always try again. They all should be proud of themselves, whether they received a placing or not.

“The judges were very impressed with the high standard of playing and very supportive of this event. We had a fantastic panel of top pipers and the judges themselves had to adapt to a new way of judging, by typing up the crit sheets online and submitting their own videos to reveal the results.”

Thanks to Alex Tearse and Reefnet, for making the competition portal and ceilidh broadcasts possible; to Point and Sandwick Trust and the MacCrimmon Foundation for sponsorship; to MacPhee Reeds, McCallum Bagpipes, the Piping Centre and The Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust for donating prizes; and to Ian Duncan and Graham MacIver for donating chanters.

The full list of results is online at https://lhpsoc.com/results

Results of The Lewis and Harris Virtual Piping Competition 2020

Competition 1 – Beginner chanter

  • 1st Liam Beaton
  • 2nd Freya Duffield
  • 3rd Isla Jane Steel
  • 4th Thomas Cunningham

Competition 2 - Novice Chanter

  • 1st Ruairidh Cowan
  • 2nd Ruairidh MacLeod
  • 3rd Kieran MacNeil
  • 4th Anna MacDonald

Competition – Advanced Chanter

  • 1st Zoe Marie Steel
  • 2nd Dòmhnall Eachann MacLean
  • 3rd Laura Macleod
  • 4th Eilidh Marks

Competition 4 – Novice Primary March

  • 1st James MacRae
  • 2nd Alexander MacLeod
  • 3rd Cameron Hendry
  • 4th Fraser Laurie

Competition 5 – Novice Primary Freestyle

  • 1st James MacRae
  • 2nd Alexander MacLeod
  • 3rd Cameron Hendry
  • 4th Fraser Laurie

Competition 6 – Secondary Novice March

  • 1st Colin MacIver
  • 2nd Alex Murray
  • 3rd Donald Henderson
  • 4th Charlie Shirkie

Competition 7 - Secondary Novice Freestyle

  • 1st Aithne MacDougall
  • 2nd Colin MacIver
  • 3rd Alex Murray
  • 4th Charlie Shirkie

Competition 8 – Under 16 March

  • 1st Eosaph Galbraith
  • 2nd Mairead Galbraith
  • 3rd Andrew MacNeil
  • 4th Joseph Nicolson

Competition 9 Under 16 Strathspey and Reel

  • 1st Eosaph Galbraith
  • 2nd Joseph Nicolson
  • 3rd Mairead Galbraith
  • 4th Aaron Ingram

Competition 10 – Under 16 Jig

  • 1st Eosaph Galbraith
  • 2nd Kevin Beaton
  • 3rd Joseph Nicolson
  • 4th Equal Aaron Ingram and Racheal Sinclair

Competition 11 – Under 16 Hornpipe

  • 1st Joseph Nicolson
  • 2nd Kevin Beaton
  • 3rd Eosaph Galbraith
  • 4th Andrew MacNeil

Competition 12 – Under 16 Ceòl Mòr

  • 1st Eosaph Galbraith
  • 2nd Joseph Nicolson
  • 3rd Kevin Beaton
  • 4th Aaron Ingram

Competition 13 – Under 16 Freestyle

  • 1st Eosaph Galbraith
  • 2nd Joseph Nicolson
  • 3rd Kevin Beaton
  • 4th Micheal MacLellan

Competition 14 – Under 18 March, Strathspey and Reel

  • 1st Callum MacMillan
  • 2nd Martin Sinclair
  • 3rd Jamie Kennedy Doig
  • 4th Finlay Widdop

Competition 15 – Under 18 Hornpipe and Jig

  • 1st Callum MacMillan
  • 2nd Jamie Kennedy Doig
  • 3rd Finlay Widdop
  • 4th Ciaran Murray

Competition 16 – Under 18 Ceòl Mòr

  • 1st Calum MacMillan

Competition 17 – Under 18 Freestyle

  • 1st Jamie Kennedy Doig
  • 2nd Martin Sinclair
  • 3rd Ciaran Murray
  • 4th Equal Finlay Widdop & Murdo Angus

Picture montage: Youngsters participating in the competition