National Piping Centre launches campaign to protect periodicals

The front cover of the December 1990 edition of the Piping Times shows a photograph of Campbeltown piper Willie McCallum with his wife Christine and the couple's daughter Hailey.
The front cover of the December 1990 edition of the Piping Times shows a photograph of Campbeltown piper Willie McCallum with his wife Christine and the couple's daughter Hailey.

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Scotland’s National Piping Centre has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to protect the legacy of its Piping Times and Piping Today publications.

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.

With the Piping Times and Piping Today together recording more than 70 years of piping history, and 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.

The National Piping Centre’s director of piping Finlay MacDonald 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.’

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 the early years included legendary names in piping including Archibald Campbell of Kilberry, Willie Gray, John MacLellan, Robert Meldrum, John MacFadyen, J P Grant of Rothiemurchus, John Garroway and D R MacLennan.

Although not the magazine’s first editor, 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.

Throughout these years, Seumas took no payment from the college and never missed a single issue. An acerbic style of writing made him a controversial personality but his commitment to the publication – and to piping – bequeathed the piping world a substantial and valuable historical record. Subsequent editors were Dugald MacNeill, Robert Wallace and Stuart Letford.

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

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.

Head of piping studies at the National Piping Centre John Mulhearn 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.

The crowdfunder, with a target of £28,500, will be live until Monday May 31 and is accessible at crowdfunder.co.uk/pipingtimes

Donations to the campaign will also support the design and production of a new physical annual publication, entitled the Piping Times Annual which 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 this is documented appropriately for researchers of the future.’