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Last Updated: Monday, 25 August, 2003, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Pipes 'pose no health risks'
The survey was carried out by a magazine
Fears for the health of bagpipe players have been dismissed as "a load of bunk" by the principal of the College of Piping.

Robert Wallace said the dangers of playing the pipes were no greater than those faced by other musicians.

And the leading professional piper dismissed claims about a hard-drinking culture as a throwback to music hall days.

He was speaking after the publication of the results of a survey by Piper and Drummer magazine.

Half of those who took part reported hearing loss and repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

One in 10 said that their passion for the pipes had led to marital breakdowns, while 84% claimed to know pipe band members who had become alcoholics.

Confined space

Bagpiper James Bousquet, who is also an acoustics expert, has found that noise levels from a single chanter can reach 122 decibels.

He said: "Regular annual hearing tests are a good idea. Sounds don't have to be uncomfortably loud to be damaging."

However, Mr Wallace said: "No responsible piper would play his instrument in a confined space without proper ear protection or play an instrument wrongly."

He did not know of anyone who had experienced RSI from piping.

The playing of the pipes is not in any way detrimental to health
Robert Wallace
College of Piping
"Some have suffered the odd hearing problem after a lifetime of playing pipes - possibly to do with the proximity of drums in the band, which are far louder than pipes.

"But the playing of the pipes is not in any way detrimental to health," he said.

Mr Wallace dismissed the survey's findings as "nonsense".

"It is very easy to make fun of the instrument," he told BBC News Online Scotland.

"We have to be conscious of the importance of it as Scotland's music and treat it seriously, which is what we do here at the college.

Ear plugs

"These people who run these surveys do the national instrument of Scotland no favours at all. It is a load of bunk."

Mr Wallace said musicians in the back row of an orchestra also wore ear plugs, as did those playing in rock bands.

He also dismissed talk of a hard-drinking culture among pipers.

He said this dated back to the old music hall gags about a drunken piper.

After-piping drinking

"You cannot play the bagpipes drunk," he stressed.

Mr Wallace said after-piping drinking was no worse than that associated with golf or other sports.

"People like to gather before and after events to discuss the event. That is no different from any other pursuit," he added.

Based in Glasgow, the College of Piping was established almost 60 years ago.

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