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The following exchange of emails was sent to me by Ian Clabburn:

Original Message to

Use of wrong type of bagpipes in programmes about Scotland.

There have been a number of wonderful BBC programmes about Scotland,

in particular the recent History of Scotland, where to provide a sense of Scottish culture bagpipe music is heard. But time and time again it is Irish bagpipes (Uillean pipes), that are played, NOT the Scottish warpipes that ordinary people associate with Scotland. The current series on the Diplomatic Service, Getting Our Way, skips into Edinburgh. Chris- topher Meyer is met with a proper Scottish bagpiper, then Irish pipes come in. Irish pipes have a beautiful sound, but they are not Scottish. Why is there this complete inability to recognise the difference?

Chris Shaw And the reply:

Dear Mr Shaw

Thanks for your e-mail regarding BBC FOUR’s ‘Getting Our Way’.

While I was pleased to read that you’ve enjoyed some of our programmes focusing on Scotland, I note that you feel we’ve used Irish bagpipes instead of Scottish bagpipes to associate with the culture.

I can assure you that we never set out to cause offence with any of the content of our programmes. Feedback like your own helps to inform the discussion about our pro- gramme’s content and the reactions of our audiences are closely studied by our producers and senior management to ensure the right judgement is being made about what’s accept- able to the audience in general.

As I’m aware that you feel frequently the wrong type of bagpipes has been used I’d like to assure you that I’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s circulated to many BBC staff, including pro- gramme makers, members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Regards, Craig Thompson, BBC Complaints

Chris then contacted Ian Clabburn:

Ian, They do listen! But I’ll wait and see :-) It always annoys me when in a Scottish pro- gramme they look round and say, right, we want some bagpipes, and just use any old


Chris Shaw

Hi Chris,

I agree with you entirely! We even get uilleann pipes in programmes about

Northumbria !

Cheers, Ian

And that’s not even to mention what they get up to in the movies! The supposedly won- derful ‘Braveheart’ died for me when it opened to the strains of Uilleann pipes, and died still further if that was possible, when the blue-faced Mel Gibson declared they should fight for something they’ve never had before - a country of their own… Er, this was sup- posedly Scotland wasn’t it?

Another cringeworthy moment in the movies is when ‘Highlander’, a rather en- tertaining film and much less far-fetched than Braveheart, opens with a band of Scots sometime in the 1500s marching across a bridge led by the inevitable pipers playing modern Highland pipes. Annoying, but at least they were still Scottish bagpipes, even if from a little later in history. A minor error really compared to Sean Connery complete with his usual accent appearing later in the film as an immortal ancient Egyptian…

With any luck this copy of Chanter should reach you just before the forthcoming Blowout, which, being over the bank holiday weekend will be longer than usual with a full day and evening on the Sunday as well as the Saturday. I never used to go to the Blowout myself until I became the Chanter editor, as I live so far from

where it used to be held in Milton Keynes - a 7 hour drive for me! Since starting to at- tend, I wouldn’t miss it for anything - it’s definitely one of the highlights of the year. Hopefully, I’ll see you there…