Celtic culture clash leads to Ottawa boycott

A Scottish cultural group has called for a boycott of Ottawa after merchants at a popular open-air market asked a bagpiping busker to leave.

A Scottish cultural group has called for a boycott of travel to Ottawa after merchants at the city's popular ByWard Market asked a bagpiping busker to move along.

The Robert Burns Association of North America has condemned the merchants' treatment of 17-year-old George Muggleton, who was trying to make money for a trip to Scotland with his pipe band.

Nearby shopowners didn't seem to mind Muggleton playing his fiddle in the same area, but drew the line when he hauled out his bagpipes three weeks ago.

Citing noise bylaws, they swiftly called in staff of the ByWard Market Business Improvement Area, who told Muggleton that bagpipes were not allowed in the open-air market.

"The nature of bagpipes is that you can't play them quietly," said executive director Meg McCallum at the time. "They're just too loud."

Now the Robert Burns Association, which met in the nearby town of Merrickville over the weekend, has gotten involved in the musical melée.

Director Gary Clarke said the group has asked its members to boycott trips to Ottawa unless the market merchants apologize to Muggleton and make it clear that bagpipes are just as welcome as any other musical instrument.

"They've singled out a particular instrument that has a very special meaning for Canadians," said Clarke.

The association has 50 chapters throughout North America. They celebrate Scottish culture, perhaps best personified by the work of poet Robert Burns.

As for the teenager who started it all, he has now made enough money for his trip to Scotland, thanks in part to publicity that landed him a regular engagement at a local pub.

Muggleton regrets the Scottish cultural association's decision to boycott the entire city of Ottawa, however, saying only the market merchants should be punished.

"I do find it frustrating," he said of the bagpipe ban. "They've got everybody else down there, chanting, singing and playing their guitars."