Respectable world of Scottish piping hit by spectacular public fall out between top judges


THE respectable world of Scottish piping has been plunged into a very bitter public bust-up between two of its most senior figures.

The bizarre fall out involves Colin MacLellan and Barry Donaldson, two of the most experienced judges of piping at the elite level.

The row started when Mr Donaldson won a tutoring job at a German piping school.

His fellow adjudicator, Mr MacLellan, wrote to the Germans warning the Scottish College of Piping (CoP) would sever links unless they withdrew the offer.

The Germans passed the letter to a furious Mr Donaldson who complained, winning an apology from the CoP.
Mr MacLellan resigned as its director although he insists it was not linked to the row.

Mr Donaldson then complained about his rival’s conduct to the Solo Piping Judges Association (SPJA) of which they are both members.

The SPJA not only rejected Mr Donaldson’s complaint and appeal, but appointed as its chairman none other than his nemesis, Mr MacLellan.

By now incandescent, Mr Donaldson sent a statement to all 50 judges.

“I consider much of what has transpired as suspicious and questionable,” he wrote. “I do not consider it appropriate for those in an ex officio capacity…to be concerned in such matters. In all these circumstances, I deem any decision incompetent.”

Barry Donaldson (left) at the German piping school

He also including embarrassing emails which appeared to show how SPJA committee members had mishandled his case.

In one of the emails, a committee member linked to a website showing a letter to a complainant telling them to “f*** off” and wondering if they could respond the same way to Mr Donaldson.

Mr MacLellan’s original email to the Principal of Lohheide College, Germany, has also emerged.

He wrote: “The most pressing thing at the moment is your appointment of Barry Donaldson. I’m afraid he is one of the very, very few that unfortunately is not acceptable to the College.

“The long and short of it is that if Barry is to teach at Lohheide the College would have to break its association with Lohheide immediately, and I do not want to do that.”

The spat has caused widespread embarassment in the piping community.

Les Hutt wrote in a piping magazine: “With the greatest respect, perhaps it’s time for all parties to resolve this outwith the internet, in a manner appropriate for their standing in the world of piping.”

Alex “Sandy” MacKay added: “The mud-slinging in this debacle has been widely broadcast but never, it seems, given definition or substance.”

While J David Hester pondered: “So, an internal Human Resource matter of the College of Piping becomes a subject related to the SPJA. How, exactly, does this benefit the art?”

The College of Piping and SPJA refused requests for comment

Speaking today, Mr Donaldson said: “The principal at the German school forwarded me the emails, and I couldn’t believe it.

“The piping world is a small place, and I’ve had lots of people asking me if he knows something about me that they should know. It’s embarrassing.”

Turning to the SPJA, he added: “I had hoped that the association would have conducted a proper investigation into what happened, as it made things difficult for me.”

Mr Donaldson said he had no idea how the feud with Mr MacLellan began. “I don’t even know him,” he said. “I know him as a fellow adjudicator for many years, but only in passing.

“I have never had an explanation, not even in public, about why he sent those emails in the first place.”

Mr MacLellan said: “This is something which is going on at the very top of professional piping in Scotland.

“The dispute is a matter entirely between The College of Piping and Mr Donaldson. The College has issued an apology and therefore I have no further comment to make”.

Neither the College of Piping not the SPJA responded to requests for comment.