Members of the LBPS committee playing at Arbroath Abbey earlier today.

The Lowland & Border Pipers’ Society (LBPS) today marked in music a major milestone in Scottish history.

The major milestone was the 700th anniversary of the so-called Declaration of Arbroath, the letter that was submitted to Pope John XXII in Avignon, France in the spring of 1320. The letter was essentially an appeal from Scotland’s leading nobles to request that the Pope lift his excommunication of Robert the Bruce and to recognise him as the country’s rightful king rather than John de Balliol. It was signed with the seals of the country’s leading nobles of the day. In August 1320, the Pope replied to the letter.

The Declaration of Arbroath was an important document in mediaeval European history. In the late 17th century the text, in Latin, was translated into English. Scholars are divided over whether the document inspired the American Declaration of Independence.

The LBPS had planned to mark the milestone at its annual competition earlier this year but this event was one of the first to be cancelled as lockdown restrictions came into place.

Stuart Letford, LBPS Convenor, explained: “To mark the 700th anniversary of this important document we had added a one-off element to our annual competition. An invitational contest was to have been held at the end of the day, one where six professional pipers would make their own musical ‘declaration’. However, our competition, like most others this year, had to be cancelled.

“During the summer it became obvious to us that the restrictions placed on us all would continue and that the 700th anniversary of this document would go unmarked culturally. So, being one of Scotland’s leading cultural organisations, we thought it would be a good idea if a few of us simply went to Arbroath Abbey and played a tune that one of our members had written especially for the anniversary.

“We had a fantastic day today and our thanks go to Historic Environment Scotland (HES) for allowing us to do this. We’d conducted a Risk Assessment prior to our visit and on the day we were all socially distanced and observing official guidelines. It was a great day and a very worthwhile thing to do.” Mr Letford believes the LBPS is the only piping organisation to have been allowed to play at any of Scotland’s historic civic properties this year purely because their bagpipes are bellows blown and therefore no aerosol can be transmitted via the instrument.

A tune amid the Abbey ruins. L-R: Scott Campbell (drummer), Anne Duncan, Bill Bennett and Rona MacDonald. A camerman can be seen filming in front of Campbell. A framed engraving of the Declaration of Arbroath is in the foreground.

The half dozen members were joined by Scots language broadcaster, Alistair Heather who read out the text of the Declaration in Scots. The LBPS filmed the performances and hopes to upload the footage to its website and social media in due course.

The 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath was on April 6.

The LBPS is a Scottish-based, non-political piping organisation was formed in the early 1980s to research and develop the Scottish bellows pipe, which includes smallpipes and Lowland or Border pipes.