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The Origin of the William Livingstone Sr Invitational Piping Competition (aka “The Livingstone”)

As the story goes, in the early 1970’s William “Bill” Livingstone Jr. (of 78th Fraser Highlanders acclaim) and his father William “Bill” Livingstone Sr. attended an event known as the Eagle Pipers’ Society Contest in the Old Town Hall (c. 1829) in Leith, Scotland. 


The Eagle Pipers’ Society event was a knock-out format and pipers were required to play an MSR and a H/J. These pipers included the likes of the venerable Iain Morrisson, John MacDougall, Norman Gillies Jimmie MacGregor, and Hugh MacCallum just to name a few in attendance. There were a great many piping characters in Edinburgh in the 1970s and 80s. More on the Eagle Piper’s Society - https://bit.ly/EaglePipersSociety


Bill Jr. and Sr. were equally inspired and thus the WILLIAM LIVINGSTONE SR. INVITATIONAL PIPING COMPETITION (or the “Livingstone”) was born. A contest intended to foster quality piping in North America while extending a platform that promotes our heritage, instruments, and music. 


The inaugural "Livingstone Invitational” in 1978 was organised and run by William “Bill” Livingstone Sr. helped by his family and friends. The following year the Niagara-Hamilton Branch of the PPBSO took over management of the contest and have run the event since.


The original format included a March, Strathspey, Reel, Hornpipe and Jig played in the afternoon with the best eight passing through to the evening contest. In 1984 the format changed to include Piobaireachd in the afternoon and the MSRH/J in the evening.


With humble beginnings and a similar format to the Eagle Piper’s Society, the contest grew bigger and more popular eventually moving to its current location at the impressive John Weir Foote Armoury in the Officers Mess Hall in Hamilton, Ontario.


Over the years different formats and venues have been tried for the “Livingstone Invitational” while at the same time ensuring "Old Bill's" dream is kept alive. Note that the current Niagara-Hamilton Branch President, Julie Stewart attended the inaugural “Livingstone Invitational” that “Old Bill” organized - and has been fortunate enough to attend every one since.


The 44th Annual Livingstone Invitational will be held on Saturday, May 11th, 2024 at the John Weir Foote Armoury in the Officers Mess Hall, Hamilton, Ontario and will feature a dozen of the foremost pipers from across North America including Joe Biggs, Tyler Bridge, Andrew Carlisle, Jacob Dicker, Alex Gandy, Nick Hudson, Daniel Carr, Ian K. MacDonald, Matt MacIsaac, Ben McClamrock, Sean McKeown, and Derek Midgley


Our auspicious judges for the event include Fred Morrison, Michael Grey and Peter Aumonier. For more information on the event or tickets please visit- https://www.ppbso-niagara-hamilton.org/the-livingstone


About Bill Livingstone Sr.

Bill Livingstone Sr. was born in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1908 and his fondest wish as a youngster was to play the pipes. The wages he earned working in the pits as a young boy paid for lessons that grew into a love of piping for many years.


”Old Bill” immigrated to Canada in 1929 where he settled in Copper Cliff, Ontario working in the smelter as a general foreman in the nickel mine. During the forty years he spent in this northern community Bill Sr. formed pipe bands and taught many aspiring pipers. During WWII he was even the Pipe Major of the Canadian Forces Pipe Band stationed in Cape Breton. 


William Livingstone Sr.'s knowledge of pipes, piping, and music was unsurpassed and he had a story to share about every tune. He always made himself available to young pipers. 


William “Bill” Livingstone Sr.’s legacy to the North American piping community by dreaming big and starting this prestigious piping contest cannot be overstated.

“Gach onoir d'a ainm.”


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