PP Editor’s Blog: Trip to Tobermory

To Mull for a weekend workshop and examinations with local schoolkids. They are taught by piper Calum MacLean who teaches courtesy the local authority Argyllshire & Bute Council two days a week.

His patch covers an extensive area of the beautiful of islands of Mull and Iona. He has 56 young charges all at various stages of learning. Each Thursday Calum has a round trip from his home in Tobermory of 114 miles taking Bunessan, Lochdon, Salen and Iona. The other day he has Dervaig, Ulva Ferry and Tobermory primary and high schools.

A class local to Tobermory fitted in today’s lessons round the local Mod where some of them were competing. Tomorrow we will do PDQB exams at various levels.The judge today was Iain Hurst formerly P/M of the Oban band. Ian is still actively involved with the band as P/Sgt for P/M Euan Dewar, and enjoying his piping more now that he has less responsibility.

Calum has lived on Mull all his life – a true Muilleach – and comes from a family of musicians. His father also Calum, was a noted box player and composer and sadly passed away earlier this year. Calum Jnr.’s great-grandfather, Angus Livingstone, was a piper and knew John MacColl, Oban, the great composer. This music, in John’s own hand, was given to Angus by John:

 It is of Dugald MacColl’s Farewell to France, the tune he composed to celebrate his son’s safe return from WW1. Wonderful to have such an important relic in your family’s heirloom, especially if you are a piper. Notice the taorluaths written with the ‘redundant’ A and no dots or cuts in the music – for speed I would venture rather than any direction in playing.

Calum also has posters from Inverness and Oban for 1958. Here’s one. Note the line banning women and girls from competing. Thankfully that all changed in the early 70s. Note too the much later date: IMG_0890

Today was spent sorting pipes and correcting some finger work in preparation for tomorrow’s PDQB/SCQF 2 & 4 piping exams. They all did exceptionally well. Good groundwork always pays off when teaching youngsters. Calum tells me he has a battle keeping them off the tight fingered kitchen piping but is managing to do so – so far. That stuff’s fine when they have mastered the rudiments, but not before. Class pic: