May – 2023 (Vol. 46, Number 11)
The Banner Says…
Equality in the pipe band movement
Pipe bands are an icon of Scotland and enjoyed by millions of people across the world, a true global sound enjoyed by not just those of Scottish descent. Think pipe bands and many will think of men proudly playing, but women can quite often be overlooked in this talented group of worldwide musicians. Historically the pipe band movement was not considered a place for women, perhaps this was reinforced as many Scottish pipe bands had links to the military and bagpipes were considered as an instrument of war.
However, women’s connections to bagpipes goes back deep into history. In the late 1800’s a set of bagpipes was found in a female’s coffin in Egypt, believed to be about 3,000 years old. The pipe band world was not an accommodating place for women, nor did it try to be for many years. The world’s first all-female pipe band is thought to have in fact started in the East End of London, England when the Dagenham Girl Pipers Pipe Band was created by the Reverend Joseph Waddington in 1930. With Scotland getting its first female pipe band in 1934. Women were not mixed into regular pipe bands more commonly until the 1970s. Prior to that they were outright barred from taking part in a pipe band.
Females in the pipe band movement are here to thankfully stay
Today it is estimated women make up around 20-30% of pipe band numbers and recognised as quite literally ‘playing’ an important role in the pipe band movement. But is that enough? Clearly gender has no role in how well someone can play an instrument. However, some today even argue that women are better off suited to the drum corps, rather than playing the pipes as they have a smaller lung capacity than male players. As we go to press with this issue a new study into the underrepresentation of women in Scotland’s piping and drumming scene has been launched by The National Piping Centre in Glasgow, in collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Entitled Women in Piping and Drumming: Equality, Inclusivity, and Diversity, the six-month study is launching an online survey, designed to gain a better understanding of women’s perspectives and experiences within piping and drumming in Scotland.
It was only a few years ago, in 2016, that Lance Bombardier Megan Beveridge made history by becoming the first serving female soldier to perform as the Lone Piper at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The coveted role, which is often a highlight for many visitors to the Tattoo, had only had one other female Lone Piper in 1977 in its over 70-year history. We cover a variety of piping events in the Scottish Banner and you may have noticed most of the solo competitions are led and won by male, and white, performers and judges. Of the most prestigious solo piping championships in Scotland, you can count female winners with one hand, and at times just one finger. The oldest piping society in the world, the Royal Scottish Pipers Society, only allowed women to join in 2015 and they were founded in 1881!
While females in the pipe band movement are here to thankfully stay, we are still far from having an equal representation of players. I know and have met many great female pipers around the world, and I hope that gender disparity in the traditional Scottish music scene continues to be put well into the history books. As we need both men and women to keep the pipe band movement flourishing around the world.
In this issue
When thinking of Scotland’s myriad of open places and stunning nature you may first think of the Highlands or the rolling countryside of the Scottish Borders. However, at the turn of the 20th century, the Scottish adventurer Ella Christie came back to Scotland from a trip to Asia and was inspired to build a Japanese garden. The historic garden at Cowden Castle was once considered “the best Japanese garden in the western world”, but sadly fell into disarray. The garden however has been nurtured back to health and again open should you be looking for something unique and peaceful to do when next in Scotland.
There is nothing more awe inspiring than a Scottish castle. They reek of history, sorrow and still today dominate the surroundings where they are located. This month our very own Castle Hunter, David C. Weinczok, reflects on some of his favourite castles he has visited in Scotland. Since he has been to nearly 450 of these historic sites across the nation, he is well poised to recommend some perhaps you have yet to visit.
Scottish fashion was the star of the show recently in Washington, DC as the 20th annual Dressed to Kilt fashion event again took place. It was the first time the event moved to the nation’s capital and tartan, tweed and style were all put on show for a great cause.
The Stone of Destiny
One of Scotland’s most historic relics will be on display for the world to see this month. The Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny (also referred to as The Coronation Stone) is an ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy and was used for centuries in the inauguration of its kings and today is housed at Edinburgh Castle.
The stone will play a key role in King Charles III’s coronation, which will take place on Saturday 6 May 2023 at Westminster Abbey in London. Charles will be formally crowned King of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth nations, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The stone will be returned to Edinburgh after the coronation events to the castle’s Crown Room.
Are you a female member of a pipe band, if so, what are your experiences? Do you think more women should be in pipe bands? Do you have you any comments from the content in this month’s edition? Share your story with us by email, post, social media or at: www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us
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