PP Editor’s Blog: GWoS Indoor, RSPS Champion, Spring Gathering, New England camp, Rab Mathieson

Here are a couple of pictures missed from the report on Saturday’s successful Glasgow & West Indoor contest at Coatbridge. They are of Adult Section drumming champion Craig Lawrie (below) of Lomond & Clyde PB and the other trophy winners (above).

Craig Lawrie
Drumming Champion Craig Lawrie

Good to see one of the ‘old stagers’, Eric Ward, putting his reputation on the line against the younger generation. I am sure the promoters appreciated his support for the competition.

Other thoughts on the day: Walter and John Cowan were there supporting P/M Ross and his Lanarkshire Schools band. Walter tells me he is judging with Ian McLellan at the Highlands & Islands on Saturday.

We all agreed that the sound produced by young Keith Bowes, the new P/M of the Johnstone band, was something special – that and Greater Glasgow Police the highlights of the day. With tone like that I am sure Keith will take a good few prizes this season and Saturday was a good start.

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Milngavie Pipe Band at the Indoor

How long will it be before the bands at the outdoor contests adopt the performance format of the indoor? It all looked so sensible in the auditorium with the pipers facing the judges in a semi-circle and the drummers playing through them (above). The judges, Jim Campbell, G Wilson, John McInnes, Jim Baxter, were seated and relaxed and could see and hear everything that was going on; the projection in sound was so much better. The only person with his back to the audience was the conductor – the pipe major.

I have not yet heard one good reason – one good reason – why this set up should not be adopted outside. The circle is a dated, military hangover and it is time the bands and the administrators  got over it. It is anti-music and anti-audience.


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RSPS Champion Piper for 2015, John Frater

Congratulations to John Frater the champion piper at the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society members’ competition on Saturday. This was the third year in a row that John has gone off with the P/M William Ross trophy. His winning piobaireachd was Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbert’s Salute, a seldom heard piece from Book 15. John goes out of his way to learn these unusual tunes and must be the most knowledgeable amateur piobaireachd player we have following in the tradition of Kilberry, Rothiemurchus, Gen. Richardson, DJS Murray and Norman Matheson etc. John also placed first in the MSR & Jig, proving once more his all-round capability. (Glen Caladh Castle, Cal Soc of London, Lexy MacAskill, Donald MacLennan’s Tuning Phrase.) Judges for the piobaireachd were Jack Taylor and Patricia Henderson. Still a young lad, John tells me he has won the MSR in five different decades!


Over in Northern Ireland the Spring Gathering was held in the Ramada Hotel, Shawsbridge, Belfast. For the first time they held an invitational solo piping competition. Six pipers were invited and each was judged by four secret judges. Each piper had to play an MSR and Hornpipe and jig in a 20 minute performance.  The rest of the time was freestyle playing of the pipers’ choice. Result:

1st. Gordon Walker
2nd Gordon McCready
3rd Ashley McMichael

Well done to Gordon Walker showing a return to form after the recent bug that ruled him out of the Donald MacLeod.


Welcome to all those who have signed up for the New England Piping Academy in June. The organisers had a good conference call the other day and we are all looking forward to the first get together. The people at the Adelynrood Retreat – renowned for its dining by the way – couldn’t be more helpful and we will have the whole establishment to ourselves. Those who can’t manage for the duration have the option of coming on a daily rate basis. Check out the school by clicking on the ad below.


I have been pleasantly surprised at the interest in our PP Academy with thousands of readers tuning in for the various articles and bits of advice we’ve published. The thirst for knowledge in the piping and pipe band worlds is as strong as ever and everyone can rest assured that the Academy will only get more fulsome as the weeks go on. It will remain a free resource – and thanks to our advertisers and our ppresshop customers for allowing us to make it so.


I hear that the piping world’s answer to Caravaggio, P/M Robert Mathieson, has completed a new portrait of GS McLennan and there is to be an unveiling ceremony at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen with their last P/M, Stuart Samson, giving a few tunes. Well done to all concerned especially Rab! Hope someone will send on a photo.

I’m quite a dab hand with the brush myself and rattled out this one of Rab…..just for my own amusement you understand but am open to offers.rab mathieson