Famous Pipers: Angus MacKay/ Forres Thoughts

The first part of our latest Famous Pipers column is carried today. It concerns one of the great piping figures of the past, Angus MacKay. Not only did Angus MacKay provide the modern era with a link to the MacCrimmons, he also produced a book of music highly esteemed since it first appeared in 1838.

In addition to this, MacKay co-invented the ‘competition’ pipe march, was the first Sovereign’s Piper and secured for our instrument a place of importance in the most influential strata of 19th century British society.

FM's Richard Parkes receives the European PB G1 trophy
FM’s Richard Parkes receives the European PB G1 trophy. Photo courtesy P Hazzard

The Editor: How close can you get? Three bands tie for first at the European Pipe Band Championships at Forres at the weekend, Field Marshal prevailing on ensemble preference. I was not there but have to say I am not surprised. I said in my report on the UK Championships at Stormont that it was next to impossible to separate the top four bands, and three of my top four were in the tie at Forres: FM, SLoT and Shotts. It all makes for a very exciting Scottish Championships at Dumbarton on July 29 – and even more so, the Worlds.

You cannot take it away from Field Marshal. Despite the proximity of the chasing pack, they are still on course for an amazing 2015 grand slam. They will be feeling a touch of heat, but will also know that it is going to take a very good outfit to best them. Theirs is a confidence born of experience, supreme talent and hard work. Shotts are getting ever closer however. I would not like to bet against them lifting a major this year – and remember Jim Kilpatrick’s corps are the reigning World Champions. If Shotts do take either the Scottish or the Worlds it will be thoroughly deserved. And if they don’t, watch them go in 2016.

The Worlds is a different animal than the other championships mind you. Sixteen judges, eight in the final. Any band that prevails after that sort of scrutiny has to have earned the prize. It calls for a consistency of performance of the highest order. In the past there has been a tendency for some bands to play safe in the MSR looking for an error free, if not spectacular, run. They save the magic for the Medley. I don’t think that will be enough this year. A band that is to win the Grade 1 title will have to try to win both sections, playing right on the edge, for first, both times.

Before closing, what about St Laurence? Hasn’t Alen Tully done a fine job since taking over from his father? If ever there was a seamless transition of power then this has to be it.  Everyone in the SLoT organisation has to be congratulated on the way it was carried through. The band is playing as well as ever.
There is a lesson here for every pipes and drums in the land. No P/M goes on forever – future proof your band by having a handover strategy in place.

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