The Northern Meeting
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History  
Charity No. SC 002731

One of the prime concerns of the Northern Meeting is to support and encourage the traditional music of The Highlands. In 1841, what was billed as ‘An exhibition of Pipers and Dancers’ was included in the programme for the Games, and this was the origin of the internationally famous Northern Meeting Piping Competitions, held each year in early September. In 1849 The Highland Society of London (who had held their own piping competitions from 1781, until they lapsed after 1844) accepted that the Northern Meeting Competitions had become the proper successors to their own competitions, and offered a Gold Medal to be awarded annually to the winner of the Pibroch event. Later the Northern Meeting presented its own award, the Gold Clasp, for competition among previous winners of the Gold Medal. These prizes remain to this day among the most prestigious accolades in the piping world. The Northern Meeting also gives financial support to encourage talented young musicians to learn the fiddle or the pipes, the traditional lifeblood of Scottish musical heritage. 

To mark the Bicentenary of the Northern Meeting in 1988 a full week of events was organised, a reminder of the week-long gatherings of the early years. A reception was held in the Town House to mark the publication of the book ‘The Northern Meeting 1788-1988’, written by Angus Fairrie and a copy of the book was presented to the Provost of Inverness. The two day Piping Competitions were held in the Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, and the Highland Regional Council entertained members of the Northern Meeting to a luncheon in the Council Headquarters, emphasising the long association between The Northern Meeting and the capital of The Highlands. The Summer Ball, the centre-piece of the celebrations, was held at Beaufort Castle by kind invitation of Simon Fraser, Master of Lovat, and was attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret. A thousand people danced to a band of twelve fiddlers formed especially for the occasion, and the Pipers of the Queen’s Own Highlanders played for the eightsome and foursome reels, continuing a tradition of dancing to the pipes dating back to the earliest days of the Ball. Seldom has there been a more impressive occasion!

The new millennium finds the Northern Meeting a vibrant and enthusiastic society, although changed to some extent by an increasingly ex-patriot and itinerant membership. The annual autumn and Christmas Balls are highlights of the year. Despite the modern trend of informality that tends to flatten so many events elsewhere, the Northern Meeting Balls still have the aura of a ‘grand occasion’. The combination of exhilarating music, the friendly formality of the reels, the colour of the Highland dress, creates an unforgettable atmosphere.

The Northern Meeting continues to provide its members with ‘The pleasure and innocent amusement’ which its founders prescribed over 200 years ago. At the same time, by running and funding the premier Piping Competition in the world, the Northern Meeting makes a unique contribution to the Highlands, very much in tune with its original purpose of bringing concord and enjoyment to the northern Highlands of Scotland.

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