A MAN who was once pitted against Scotland’s high jump champion at the Forres Highland Games and has worked tirelessly to encourage young people into piping and drumming has been chosen as this year’s Games’ chieftain.

John Channon, the chairman of the Forres and District Pipe Band said he was honoured to have been chosen for the role for the 91st Forres Highland Games which will take place in Grant Park on July 6.

However, he admitted he would miss playing with the band on the day which last year won the trophy for deportment and dress.

John who lives in Dyke said: “I couldn’t believe it when I got the letter. I kept it to myself for a while and when I eventually did tell the band, they of course all already knew. The worst kept secret.”

John added: “I really do consider this a great honour and I am really looking forward to the day and being able to meet the stallholders, visitors, those involved in organising the Games, the judges and adjudicators and of course the competitors. It’s a great day out and I am thrilled to be this year’s Chieftain.”

It was during the 1960s and 1970s that John took part in the Forres Highland Games in the high jump and sprint.

“I know the Forres Games well and not just via my association with the pipe band. For about 12 years I took part in the high jump and sprint events. In 1972 I competed against Crawford Fairbrother in the high jump. He was the Scottish champion high jumper and that year he jumped a height of 6ft 4ins which beat me by a clear five inches. I’ll refrain from having a go this year.”

John Channon (right) took part in the Forres Highland Games as a high jumper for many years. Here he is pictured with Scottish champion Crawford Fairbrother.

Originally from Sale in Cheshire, John moved to Moray in 1964 when he was posted to RAF Kinloss. It was during his time in the RAF that he took up piping and in 2009 he joined the Forres and District Pipe Band.

Now the chairman, John has been responsible for putting together the Moray Youth Tuition Scheme which provides free tuition in piping and drumming for 8 to 12-year olds.

Attract young pipers

He explained how the scheme was founded: “It was a long process, but when I first got involved the band was on a downward spiral. We didn’t have enough numbers to even turn out a band. Then it was announced that the European Pipe Band Championships was coming to Forres and it seemed only right that the local band took part. We invited the Major General Seymour Monro as our president to give us some gravitas and we were very lucky to receive investment from the Budge Foundation which helped us revamp the band.”

He added: “At that first Piping At Forres in 2013, we got a band pulled together and we got the biggest cheer of the day from the crowd. At that same event, the Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation had an education tent where people could come and try and pipes and drums which we manned. Seeing people have a go and be inspired by the piping going on around them was really the catalyst for setting up the Moray Youth Tuition Scheme.”

The Moray Youth Tuition Scheme has been running for three years and has seen around 60 young people learn either the pipes or drums for free.

“It has been a huge success and what it means is that our band and others will continue as there is a throughput of young people who have been given the opportunity to learn,” explained John.

New tuition direction

“However, we are winding up the scheme in its current format and will instead be taking our tuition directly into the Forres area schools. It will be geared towards primary four pupils upwards and will include Forres Academy pupils too. This again will ensure the future of piping, drumming and of course pipe bands.”

The Forres Highland Games will take place in Grant Park on July 6 and offers a fun afternoon for all the family.

The event will commence with the Forres and District Pipe Band leading a procession through the town centre into Grant Park where the Games’ flag will be raised above the arena.

During the day, visitors can also enjoy craft and artisan food stalls, fairground attractions, a beer tent and food outlets.

There is Highland dancing, solo piping and massed pipe bands.

Unique to the Forres Games is the Message Bike Race where spectators can turn participant and race the field on an old traditional message bike in hope of lifting the winner’s trophy!

Posted on: 24.04.2019