Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal (Canada) Contests

The Glengarry Highland Games host the Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal (Canada) contests on Friday in Maxville at the Anglican and United churches.
In addition, there are amateur piobaireachd competitions on Friday, as well as professional piobaireachd on Saturday on the main grounds.


What is Piobaireachd?

Piob (Peeb) means Pipe; Piobaire (Peebair) means Piper; and Piobaireachd (Peeb-air-och - 3 syllables) means pipe/playing pipe music. Many people "simplify" the pronunciation by saying "Peebrock", probably from the spelling "Pibroch" which is seen in some Light music and songs. Though more accurately titled Ceol Mor (Cowal More) meaning Big (or Great) Music, the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe is commonly referred to as Piobaireachd. This is the music that summoned the clans to battle, celebrated sweet victory and terrible loss, commemorated murder and lamented the deaths of their chiefs and heroes. In peaceful times, they played drinking tunes and piobaireachd of love.

The tunes consist of an opening slow theme called a 'Ground' (Gaelic Urlar). This is followed by several variations in melody and/or rhythm based upon the main theme notes, each with progressively more complex combinations of gracenotes (a gracenote is produced by opening and closing a hole with a finger very quickly on the chanter). Most tunes are of least 8 minutes in length and can last up to 15 to 20 minutes. The great masters of Piobaireachd were the MacCrimmon and MacArthur families of the Isle of Skye, and to these colleges, the clan chiefs sent their best pipers to perfect their art of piping.

 2017 Open Piobaireachd for the Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal winner Andrea Boyd and 2017 Gold Medallist for the Piobaireachd Society Bar to the Gold Medal winner Sean McKeown

2017 Open Piobaireachd for the Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal winner Andrea Boyd and 2017 Gold Medallist for the Piobaireachd Society Bar to the Gold Medal winner Sean McKeown


Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal and Bar (Canada)

In 1972, Major Archie M. Cairns, M.M.M., C.D. (Ret'd.) coordinated the City of Ottawa Highland Games and at that time initiated the concept of a meaningful Canadian Gold Medal for a Piobaireachd contest. The idea was to ask the Piobaireachd Society in Scotland, to lend its name to such a medal. He sought the assistance of the late Capt. John MacLellan, who was then the Honourary Secretary of the Music Committee for the Piobaireachd Society.

When permission was not granted, Maj. A. M. Cairns then devised a unique change whereby a winner of the Open Piobaireachd would be declared whereby the Medal would only be awarded at the discretion of a Judge who must be a Senior Judge of the Piobaireachd Society, who would serve as a member of a panel of judges or as the sole judge in the contest. That judge alone, would weigh the merits of the winning performance to ensure that it was deserving of being awarded a "Gold Medal". Based upon this premise, the Medal could be withheld by the Judge. In this way, no one could gain the Medal by default, i.e., ten Pipers play - nine either "break down" or stop playing and therefore number ten wins regardless of the level of performance. Thus, no one can "win" this Medal - it can only be earned. Supported by Capt. MacLellan, this revised proposal won the approval of The Piobaireachd Society. In three decades, the Medal has never been withheld. This is a testament to the high standard of performances by the participants during that time.

Hence, in 1973, at the City of Ottawa Highland Games, the "Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal (Canada)" came into being and the first recipient was P/M Ed Neigh, Guelph, Ontario. This contest became a separate event in 1975 and has continued to date with the venue changing from Ottawa (1973 - 1984), to Cambridge, Ontario (1985 - 1994), and to Maxville, Ontario, where it has since been hosted and sponsored by The Glengarry Highland Games. Each player must submit a specified number of Piobaireachd tunes from a list compiled by the Piobaireachd Society. The Judge, who must be a Senior Judge of the Piobaireachd Society's panel of Judges, selects the tune that the individual will play. The Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal (Canada) competition draws the best pipers from Canada, the United States and abroad and it has become one of the premier solo-piping contests in North America to have the Piobaireachd Society's endorsement.

The original Gold Medal Committee consisted of Maj. A. M. Cairns, P/M Jack Coghill Sr., Mr. Fred Sharpe and Capt. John MacLellan as advisor. The original Gold Medal was designed by Maj. Cairns and produced by Fred Sharpe. The Gold Medal had a figure of a Piper on the face with "Outstanding Performance of Ceol Mor" in script and "The Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal" in raised capitals around the top. On the reverse was the City of Ottawa Coat of Arms, with the Medal being supported by a ribbon of the City of Ottawa colours. Today, the Gold Medal has the Glengarry Highland Games Logo on the reverse side.


The Gold Medallist Competition

Until 1982, winners of this Open Piobaireachd event for two or more times, were awarded Clasps in lieu of being granted additional Gold Medals. In 1982, with the approval of the Piobaireachd Society, a separate piobaireachd contest was established for those who had already earned the Gold Medal. The winner of this Gold Medallist Competition was then awarded a Gold Bar to the Medal. The first winner was P/M William Livingstone, Whitby, Ontario. Anyone who is awarded the Gold Medal is eligible to compete in the Gold Medallist Competition.

Please see the entry form for further information.

If you have further questions please contact Jack Yourt at 613-774-3622.