THE winner of the most prestigious event in the piper’s calendar has revealed his new dream – to play at Easter Road.
Iain Speirs won the exclusive Glenfiddich piping championship, which pits the world’s top ten pipers against each other.
It is the first time the father-of-two has won the event – the same competition his father previously appeared at but never won – held at Perthshire’s Blair Castle at the weekend.
Mr Speirs, 40, of Edinburgh, comes from one of Scotland’s most famous piping families. His father, Tom, and grandfather, Jock, are also world renowned players.
His grandfather was pipe major in the London Scottish during the Second World War and formerly pipe major of the Johnnie Walker Pipe Band.
But he puts his success down to 35 years of practise – as well as his prized set of pipes, which he inherited from his grandfather.
Mr Speirs said: “You spend all your life getting as good as you can, so to win something like this really is incredible. It is a dream come true.
“You have to play consistently for up to 20 minutes, each piece you play, so you have to have the confidence and stamina for that – and I have spent the last 35 years building both of them up.”
The communications manager revealed he played in pipe bands at a number of top events, including playing at Hampden stadium when it hosted the 2002 Champions League final.
But he says, now he was won the Glenfiddich championship, he has one dream left – to play his pipes at the home ground of his beloved Hibernian FC.
Mr Speirs said: “I have played at a few exciting places. Appearing at the championships is nerve-racking and amazing. I will never forget it. But I have never yet played at Easter Road and would just love to. Maybe this win will open that door, I hope so.”
As well as being taught by his family, Mr Speirs is also a former pupil of Donald MacPherson,, who died aged 89 this year and is considered to be one of the top pipers of the 20th century.
During his 42-year career, MacPherson built up an astonishing record that will almost certainly never be surpassed. He was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to piping and was also piper to the Lord Provost of Glasgow before being inducted into Scotland’s Traditional Music Hall of Fame.
Mr Speirs said: “I know I am incredibly lucky to have had such talented people around me. Both my father and grandfather were an inspiration, piping was in my blood.
“Then there was Donald, who was just brilliant. He taught me so much and I owe much of what I learnt to him.
“You do feel pretty patriotic when you play the pipes and I feel privileged when I am able to play in front of people.”
He won the Glenfiddich competition by coming second in both the piobaireachd – the classical music of the Highland bagpipe – and the march, strathspey and reel categories.
The championships are in their 39th year and it was Mr Speirs’s tenth appearance at the competition. Established in 1974, competitors are only invited to compete if they have won other piping competitions during the year.
Earlier this year, Mr Speirs won the coveted Silver Chanter competition at Dunvegan Castle, Skye, a competition that commemorates the legendary MacCrimmon family, whose members were the hereditary pipers to the clan MacLeod.
And he told how he has every intention of continuing to keep the pipes in his family.
Mr Speirs said: “My son John is eight and he has already started, and he is pretty good. My daughter has opted for the piano. Thankfully we have good neighbours, as we live in a semi-detached house.”