One of the prime concerns of the Northern Meeting is to support and encourage the traditional music of the Highlands.
The Northern Meeting (NM) Society was formed in 1788 in Inverness ‘to provide pleasure and entertainment’ in the seven Northern Counties in the aftermath of Culloden. The first Highland Ball was held in the former Town House in Inverness in 1788.
The NM Society held it first Highland Games in 1837 on the Longman. Some four years later, in 1841 an ‘exhibition of Pipers and Dancers’ was included and this was the start of the NM Piping Competitions.
In 1849 The Highland Society of London accepted that the Northern Meeting Competition had become the proper successors to their own competition, 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.
Key dates in history
- In 1864 The Highland Games moved to the new Northern Meeting Park – paid for by the NM Society – between the Cathedral and what is now Eden Court.
- In 1939 the Games were cancelled by the NM due to a clash with the Nairn Games but also because the Games were running at a loss.
- In 1946 the NM had to sell the NM Park to the Inverness Town Council and the NM Games were not re-started.
However the Piping Competitions survived as organised by the Piping Sub Committee and were held in a number of hotels and rooms in Inverness until they moved to Eden Court in 1981.
Financial support and independence
In 1978 The NM Society decided that the Piping Competitions should be given more independence from the NM Society’s Committee of Management and the NM Charitable Piping Trust was set up with a grant of £20K from the Society to help the Piping Sub Committee to run the Competition.
Following the move to Eden Court in 1981, the NM Society granted the Piping Trust a further £60k to give it an even better financial position.
The Northern Meeting Society set up the ‘NM Charitable Trust Fund’ in 2015 and- through the generosity of NM Society members- this Fund distributes grants to local organisations involved in local culture, the arts, music, dance ,sport and adventure.
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 Competition was held in the Eden Court Theatre 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.
Independent of the NM Society, the Northern Meeting Piping Trust is responsible for the NM Piping Competition which is run by the NM Piping Committee whose members include distinguished pipers, members of the Inverness Committee of the Highland Council and members of the Northern Meeting Society.