Backlash against ban on bagpipes

Simon McLean
Simon McLean
Dunedin residents have labelled some George St retailers "small minded" and in need of "a life" after they had a top Dunedin bagpiper banned from busking in the city for 72 hours.

Simon McLean (21) was performing outside the Scottish Shop in George St on Monday with a busking permit and the store's permission when a noise control officer told him to move.

The incident has angered many residents, including Margaret Barber, who was left wondering what the world was coming to.

"I am absolutely appalled at the small-mindedness of the business people who have complained. Most of the businesses in the main street have billboards cluttering up the street. These are more of a nuisance than Simon is.

"These business people need to get a life. At least it is decent music and enjoyed by many people. I have heard Simon playing and must say he is an accomplished musician . . .

"Simon is a good ambassador for our city and an attraction to the many tourists who visit our city via the many cruise ships."

While most George St businesses spoken to by the Otago Daily Times were shocked and disappointed Mr McLean had been moved on, two businesses said they were pleased.

An anonymous business owner said the bagpipes were painful and annoying to listen to.

"It's OK for residents. They don't have him standing outside their door."

Many of the businesses who supported Mr McLean said the council should issue noise control notices to boy racers and noisy buses instead.

Mornington resident Marion Potter said the council action was "surprising and petty", given Dunedin was a place of Scottish ancestry in the midst of celebrating Robbie Burns' 250th anniversary.

She was also upset the council could act so quickly to hush a piper in George St and yet be so slow to get her Mornington neighbours to turn down their stereo.

Happy Hens owner Yvonne Sutherland said the incident was "utter nonsense and an embarrassment for Dunedin".

"Bring back the pipes. I can't believe the stupidity of the bagpipe ban."

DCC environmental health team leader Ros MacGill said the council received five complaints in four days from George St businesses about Mr McLean's music-making and she stood by the council's decision.

• Mr McLeod blew in the face of the council and was playing in George St again yesterday.

"I took the risk and played in places where I hadn't had complaints about my playing before. It was great - really supportive crowds."


Dunedin's ban on Bagpiping

Having read this outrage, it doesn't surprise me that PCness and Nanni-ism would happen in Scotland too. Canadian bagpipers have had to deal with the same tiresome, petty-bureaucrud, nonsense as this lad now faces. So the lad is a championship piper - kindly leave him well enough alone and let him earn his pitence; at least he's not selling crack to children or molesting women is he?.

He's further more contributing to keeping the majesty and power of the Great Highland Bagpipe alive and that is something you lot on that city council should be greatful for. 

To this lad I would encourage him to bring all his piping friends and drummers along too, while he's at it, inform all piping organizations in Scotland including the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association of this travesty. 

Far too many times, we pipers are confronted by prejudice and bigotry toward our instrument and our form of music - yes music, not noise, not caterwalling but music.

I would love to know what your Isla St-Claire would have to say about young people who only wish to preserve their form of Scottish music, but who must then deal with prejuduice and bigotry from their own countrymen. Bagpipers of the world unite.


Interesting option for your poll, 'Yes, I thought Dunedin was a Scottish City'. Those, of course, were the days before the current 'Chinese Democracy'. Perhaps Mr McLean would be supported more if he took up playing the GuZheng?


I enjoy the bagpipes, in small doses. I can understand shopkeeprs becoming irate if Mr McLean was playing outside their door all day and every day.
Is it not possible for him to move around, so that no one gets too full a dose?


On the one hand, it seems pretty harsh to ban Mr McLean. He's not using amplification, or staying in any one place too long, and his repertoire is a lot larger than most pipers you hear.
On the other hand, the Highland pipes are probably the loudest purely acoustic instrument known to humanity - most pipers wear earplugs to play the things. I would suggest to Mr McLean that it might be an idea to pick up the Lowland pipes, which are not blown, and which are a much more manageable volume for passers-by.
The people I believe need banned are the pan-pipe players. Those guys are using a sound system (which I'm pretty sure is illegal) and play nothing but the most atrocious and hackneyed material (My Heart Will Go On, anyone?) over and over again, to the accompaniment of a pre-sequenced backing-track.