Alexandra Duncan: Blow hard and let the bagpipes sing aross Scotland

A participant in the Edinburgh Pipe Band Championship. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
A participant in the Edinburgh Pipe Band Championship. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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If you have a set of bagpipes gathering dust, pass them on, suggests Alexandra Duncan

Four thousand miles away in Fort Riley, Kansas, Andi Gamblin has just packed up her bagpipes, taken them downtown, and posted them … all the way to Scotland.

Andi is a great example of someone who has been moved by the Bagpipe Amnesty, organised by the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust (SSPDT). It is calling on people to dig out their unused pipes from lofts and cupboards, so that young players in Scotland who can’t afford a set, can get the chance to learn. Andi is delighted that her old pipes are going to give a young person new opportunities in life.

Surprisingly, pupils in Scottish state schools do not get the same opportunities to learn the pipes or drums as other instruments. Yet pipe bands are much more than a musical pastime; they develop life and employability skills including teamwork, individual and shared achievement, discipline, commitment and self confidence – and they open the doors to travel.

The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust is helping over 1000 pupils in Scots state schools learn the pipes and drums. It also supports schools to form pipe bands in areas of deprivation and in rural areas. With more young people wanting to learn, the charity needs more pipes to loan out to players.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are providing drop off points at fully staffed fire stations across the country until 14th February. Thereafter, SSPDT will pick up pipes direct from donors’ homes. Wallace Bagpipes have made a great contribution to the appeal too by refurbishing pipes free of charge.

The bagpipe amnesty is a great cause – and we are so pleased that the appeal is sparking interest across the world.

As well as Andi, it has inspired regulars at a Glasgow pub who had retained a set of pipes for a decade waiting for the owner who left them on the pavement outside, to donate them to the appeal; or Lyndsey Spiers from Aberdeen, who got her first job at 16 when the interviewer found she played in a pipe band – and who now is donating three sets of pipes.

But we need more. If you can help, go to or call 
0808 281 9405.

• Alexandra Duncan, Chief Executive, Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust

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