Firstly, sincere thanks to all those who sent messages of support and good wishes since my departure from the CoP. It is appreciated. I hope the many piping friends around the world will keep in touch via this website and please, everyone, send me on your news, results and photographs and I’ll make sure it is published. Here is the email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A large part of my work at the College was producing the Piping Times which typography and layout specialist Hugh Clarkson and I did on our own for 15 years. Together we produced 180 editions each one on time and, though I say it myself, to a professional level previously unseen in the piping world. (If in any doubt have a look and a read at some of the pre-1999 editions). In this old form the magazine may not have survived into the internet age. This should not be seen as a reflection on those who were tasked with producing the PT every month. It is not easy, and if you are not trained to the job it is extremely difficult to maintain standards. PT Editor Seumas MacNeill did it for a remarkable 38 years years. He was a talented writer but he had two main flaws in his work: he refused the right of reply on serious issues and he was overly critical at times. I too, on occasion, may have been guilty of the latter but never the former. It is not always easy to be rational, measured and to consider every ramification of what you write when you are on a deadline. That is why, when you are slightly off target, it is important to let the antis have their say.
In the 90s Andrew Berthoff’s ‘Piper and Drummer’ magazine was a serious overseas challenger – a very well done publication despite his frequent lack of balance. The EUSPBA’s ‘Voice’, when Paula Glendinning was involved, also reached the heights and current editor John Bottomly struggles manfully on, improving all the time. The National Piping Centre’s ‘Piping Today’ is glossy, expensive and beautifully laid out, but a bit short on serious journalism. These comments aside, I raise my hat to all those who are producing print magazines for the piping and pipe band world. With the web all around it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay afloat.
Once a writer, always a writer, and that is why my fingers will dance over the keyboard until the day I drop I suppose. People seem happy to follow my pig-headed rantings so I cannot promise any dulling of the cutting edge in these pages. However, I will try to bring the same level of integrity to this blog as I did to the PT – and the same determination to tell it as it is. I appreciate this is an alien concept for some people, but that is no good reason for compromise, quite the opposite. I will uphold, too,the principle of right of reply. If you hand out the brickbats you must be prepared to take them.
The first important event that I will cover here will be the Argyllshire Gathering beginning on Wednesday in Oban. Those who have never been before should try to make the trip if they can. There is a unique west coast feel to this championship and the hundreds of tourists in town give it a special atmosphere. Add to that the many good bars and restaurants and the top class piping – well, what more do you want?
I am looking forward to judging the Gold Medal with colleagues John Wilson and Iain MacFadyen. There are 29 entries, though I hear there have been two call offs. It starts at 9am in the lesser theatre of the Corran Halls with the Senior Piobaireachd next door in the main hall. If ceol mor is not your thing then stay around on the Wednesday evening for the Former Winners’ MSR.
Judging a competition at this level is a great responsibility and not one that I take lightly. To remain ‘semper vigilo’ for a full day and 27 tunes takes considerable concentration and alertness. However, the collective experience and achievement of the bench should instil a degree of confidence in competitors.
The games the next day begins with the march to the field from the pier with the winning Gold Medallist as pipe major. This is one of the great, unforgettable moments in any piper’s career, and it is always a joy to see the way the other pipers support the winner even though he (or she, Faye!) may have beaten them into the ground the day before.
Up at the park you’ll hear different grades of march, strathspey and reel and the jig contest. The whole two days is masterminded by Jamie Mellor and Argyllshire’s own Captain Fantastic, Torquil Telfer (the handsome guy with the beard and the worried look).