Pipers are curbed by safety code
By Kate Devlin

(Filed: 24/07/2006)

The Black Watch regiment with their bagpipes. Bagpipes are bloody annoying with just one person playing them. But with hundreds of British soldiers playing them at the same time, they could turn a person suicidal.

Soldiers learning to play the bagpipes have been told to limit their practice sessions to only 24 minutes a day, or 15 minutes when indoors.

Pipers will also have to wear ear plugs under the new guidelines brought in by health and safety officials.

The advice, aimed at preventing soldiers from suffering hearing problems, was issued after a study by the Army Medical Directorate environmental health team.

Tests showed that outdoors the sound of bagpipes could reach 111 decibels, slightly louder than a pneumatic drill. Indoors, the instrument could reach 116 decibels, or as loud as a chainsaw.

Bagpipes have played a crucial role in Scottish regiments, which have traditionally been led into battle by kilted pipers.

Davy Garrett, who played the pipes in the Army for 12 years and now runs a piping school, said: "This is just another example of the nanny state and one that I am very concerned could ruin the future of piping in Scotland."

Bill Lark, 85, a Black Watch piper who led his comrades into action against the Japanese in 1944, said the rules were "ridiculous".

He said: "The pipes should be played loudly. That's how they inspire soldiers and scare the enemy." [[and they must do a pretty good job at scaring someone away]]

A spokesman for the Army in Scotland said the rules were a "prudent precaution".