A Look Back at the Scottish Piping Society of London Competitions 2015

By Angus Nicol
By Angus Nicol

Because of the vagaries of the calendar, the Scottish Piping Society of London’s annual competitions took place on 31st October and not in November. They were held on Oidhche Shamhna, the eve of An t-Samhain, which is the ancient Celtic New Year’s day.  It is a great feat of organisation to fit 14 adult  and three junior competitions into one day, but under the excellent administration of Jackie Roberts, the Society’s secretary, this works, year after year. 

Pictured above are three of the main winners at London, Alasdair Henderson, Alastair Donaghy from Northern Ireland, and Greig Canning.

There was a difference to this year’s competitions.  The principal piobaireachd competition, the Bratach Gorm (Blue Banner), first presented in 1938, is for pipers who have already won the Highland Society of Londoh’s Gold Medal at either Oban or Inverness.  This year the Society gave a set list of tunes, all of them Twentieth Century tunes.  Out of this list of ten tunes each competitor had to submit four, and would be asked to play one of those four.  In fact the competitors were given their tunes on the Wednesday week before the competition, giving them ten days in which to forget three of them and concentrate upon the fourth.  Unsurprisingly, there was a lower entry this year. Of the eight who entered, only six played.

IMG_3251The first to play was John-Angus Smith, winner of the Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering this year.  He was asked to play Archibald Campbell of Kilberry’s tune, the Lament for Angus Campbell, composed after the death of his son.

Callum Beaumont. who won the Clasp at the Northern Meeting this year, played the Lament for the Iolaire.  The Iolaire (which means Eagle) was a ship that was bringing home a large number of Lewis soldiers who had fought in the Great War, on 1st January 1919.  The ship struck the Beasts of Holm, near the entrance to Stornoway harbour and sank, in full view of their families and friends.  There were, tragically, few survivors. The tune was composed by Donald MacLeod, and Callum Beaumont’s performance won him third prize.

William McCallum played The Raising of the Standard to win fourth prize. This tune was composed by his uncle, Hugh MacCallum, to commemorate, though long after the event, the raising of the Standard of Prince Charles Edward in 1745: not where the imposing statue is in Glenfinnan, but about a quarter of a mile inland of that point, the place where the standard actually was raised.

Next to play was Glenn Brown, with another of Donald MacLeod’s tunes: A Son’s salute to his Parents. Of this tune, the composer said: ‘A tribute to my parents and, through them, to all parents who, even beyond the bounds of parental duty, made many sacrifices on the altar of a family.’


Gordon Walker played Archie Kenneth’s tune, the Salute to James Campbell.  James Campbell was the son of Archibald Campbell of Kilberry, and a lifelong friend of Archie Kenneth.  The tune is interesting also because of its structure.  There is no time signature and the tune is divided throughout into bars of eight crotchets, so that it seems to be 3, 3, 2 in structure.  But each of these very long bars contains the whole of a phrase, so that the effect is not unlike the phrasing as it would be in the canntaireachd.   Gordon Walker won second prize with this performance.

Last to play, and winner of the Bratach Gorm, was Roderick MacLeod, Principal of the National Piping Centre in Glasgow.  He, too, played A Son’s Salute to this Parents. The judges for this event were Dr Jack Taylor, William Wotherspoon and Neil Mulvie.

The second of the five ceòl mór events is for the William Gillies Memorial Challenge Cup.  Entry is restricted to holders of the Gold Medal at either Oban or Inverness, those selected by the Joint Committee to compete for the Gold Medal at either Oban or Inverness, pipers graded ‘A’ by the CPA, previous winners of the Silver Medal at either Oban or Inverness, and previous winners of the RG Lawrie Ram’s Head Snuff Mull at the London competitions. There was an entry of 20 for this event, of which 19 played. For this competition, entrants had to submit six tunes of their own choice, and would be asked to play one of them.

The winner was Chris Armstrong, who played Lord Lovat’s Lament. This Lord Lovat was he who was executed at Carlisle in 1747 for his part in the ’45  Roderick MacLeod came second with Isobel MacKay, a tune in praise of a beautiful and talented young lady of that name who was the subject of a well-known poem by Rob Donn MacKay. The poem was intended to be in the varying metre of a piobaireachd, The Prince’s Salute, but not this tune, which was written some years after the poem.


 

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In third place, Cameron Drummond played The Desperate Battle of the Birds.  This tune is said to portray the peaceful conversation of some birds, the variations imitating the increasing ferocity of a battle between them, and the repetition of the ground shewing that all is peaceful once more.

Willie McCallum took fourth prize with Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbert’s Fancy. Nothing is known about this tune, not even its real name.  It is a tune that Lachlan MacNeill Campbell, a noted piper in his day in the 19th century, was known to like and which he often played.  In fifth place, Jamie Forester played The Stewarts’ White Banner. The judges for this even were John Wilson, Andrew Wright, and Roddy Livingstone.

The third ceòl mór competition was that for the R G Lawrie Ram’s Head Snuff Mull, which is for those eligible to compete for the William Gillies Cup except for those eligible to compete for the Bratach Gorm, and for former winners of the John Roe Plate since 2009.

This competition was won by Cameron Drummond, who played the Battle of the Pass of Crieff.  In second place, Alasdair Henderson played the Battle of Auldearn (No. 2).  Derek Midgley came third with the Gathering of Clan Chattan. Dr Innes Smith took fourth prize with The Old Men of the Shells. His performance of The Big Spree gained fifth prize for Peter McCalister.  The judges were Ronald MacShannon and Hugh Jamieson.

John Roe Plate winner Xavier Boderiou
John Roe Plate winner Xavier Boderiou

The competition for the John Roe Plate is for those selected to compete for the Silver Medal at either Oban or Inverness, those in the CPA Grade B, and previous first prize winners in the National Piping Centre Piobaireachd trophy competition.  The winner this year was Xavier Bodériou, from Brittany, who played The Glen is Mine.  Greg Canning played the Battle of Bealach nam Bròg for second prize.  Ben McClamrock came third with his performance of Ronald MacDonald of Morar’s Lament.  In fourth place, Nick Hudson played the Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay. The judges were Robert Wallace and Archie MacLean.

The last piobaireachd competition was for the National Piping Centre’s Trophy, which is for those in the CPA Grade C. There were 17 competitors. This was won by Ross MacKay with MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart. Craig Holmquist took second prize with I am Proud to Play a Pipe. Third prize was taken by Jonathan Simpson, who played the Lament for Donald of Laggan.  In fourth place, John MacLeod played the Lament for Captain MacDougall. The fifth prize was won by Callum Carslaw with The Little Spree. The judges were Alan Forbes and Andrew Frater.

There are nine competitions for ceòl beag, at various levels. The London Medallion and the John MacFadyen Quaich are both for those eligible to compete in the Former Winners March, Strathspey and Reel at either Oban or Inverness and for previous first prize winners in tha Strachan Memorial Trophy. These two competitions were held together.  Competitors were asked to submit six 2/4 marches, six strathspeys, and six reels, of each of which they had to play two, once through each.  The winner was Callum Beaumont. The judges were Walter Cowan, James Banks, and Robert Worrall.

The Strachan Memorial Trophy is for former winners of the Grade A march, strathspey and reel competitions at either Oban or Inverness, for those graded Premier or ‘A’ Grade but not eligible to compete in the London Medallion, first prize winners in the B Grade march, strathspey and reel competitions at either Oban or Inverness, and former first prize winners in the London Scottish Hodden Grey event.  They, too, had to submit six tunes in each category, and were asked to play one of each.  The winner was Steven Leask.  The judges were the same as for the London Medallion.


The London Scottish Hodden Grey competition, also for march, strathspey and reel, is open to those selected to compete in Grade B at either Oban or Inverness, and to former winners of the Robert Crabb Memorial Trophy.  They submitted three of each category of tune, and were asked to play one of each, once through.  The winner was Lachie Dick.  The judges were  Colin MacLellan, Euan Anderson, and Dixie Ingram.

The Pipe Major Robert Crabb trophy, for march, strathspey and reel, is open to pipers in Grade C and those who are not eligible to compete in any of the above events, each competitor submitting three tunes in each category, of which two of each were to be played.  The winner was Alasdair Donaghy from Northern Ireland. The judges were Ronald MacShannon and Hugh Jamieson.

The competition for the JB Robertson Silver Rose Bowl was heard together with the Mary Flora Beaton Cup competition for hornpipe and jig.  The JB Robertson trophy, which is for marches only, was won by Alasdair Henderson, and the Mary Flora Beaton Cup by Cameron Drummond.  The judges were Ian McLellan, Euan Anderson and Andrew Frater.

The Donald Forbes Medal is a hornpipe and jig competition for those competing in the ‘B’ grade. This was won by Steven Leask.  The judges were Ian McLellan, Euan Anderson and Andrew Frater.

The Hugh MacMillan Trophy is a hornpipe and jig competition for those competing in the London Scottish Hodden Grey and former first prize winners of the Scottish Piping Society of London’s hornpipe and jig competition.  This was won by Callum Watson.  The judges were Dr Jack Taylor, William Wotherspoon and Neil Mulvie.

The SPSL Hornpipe and Jig Trophy is for pipers in CPA Grade C.  This was won by Alastair Donaghy. The judges were John Wilson, Andrew Wright and Roderick Livingstone.

The Overall Champion of the competitions, is the piper who gains the highest points scored in the Bratach Gorm, the William Gillies Cup, the London Medallion and John MacFadyen Quaich, and the Mary Flora Beaton Cup. The winner was Roderick MacLeod, for the eighth time.

The Terry MacGinn Memorial Trophy is awarded for the highest aggregate points in the ‘A’ Grade events:  the R G Lawrie Snuff Mull, the Strachan Memorial Trophy, and the Donald Forbes Medal.  The winner this year was Steven Leask.

The Angus Nicol Quaich is awarded for the highest aggregate in the Grade B competitions: the John Roe Plate, the London Scottish Hodden Grey Trophy and the Hugh MacMillan Trophy.  It was won by Greig Canning.

The overall C Grade prize was won by Ross MacKay. There are also three juvenile competitions, all for pipers under 18 years of age.  The SPSL Piobaireachd competition, for which competitors had to submit one tune of their own choice, was won by Callum Craib.  The judges were Colin MacLellan and Alan Forbes.

The British Airways Pipe Band Award, for march, strathspey and reel, one of each to be submitted by each competitor, was won by Calum Brown.  The judges were Dr. Jack Taylor, William Wotherspoon and  Neil Mulvie.

Robbie MacIsaac pictured at the Northern Meeting
Robbie MacIsaac pictured at the Northern Meeting

The Highlands and Islands Society Trophy, for a Gaelic air and jig, was won by  Robbie MacIsaac. The judges were Colin MacLellan, Euan Anderson and Dixie Ingram.

The Jim Caution Memorial Trophy for the best aggregate in the juvenile events was won by Calum Brown.

OTHER RESULTS

London Medallion and John MacFadyen Quaich
1. Callum Beaumont  2. William McCallum  3. Cameron Drummond  4. Roderick MacLeod  5. Glen Brown

J B Robertson March
Alasdair Henderson  2. Gordon Walker  3. Callum Beaumont  4. Cameron Drummond  5. Chris Armstrong

Strachan Memorial Trophy
1. Steven Leask  2. Jenny Hazzard  3. Ben McClamrock  4. Ross Miller  5. Ashley McMichael

London Scottish Hodden Grey
1. Lachie Dick  2. Callum Moffat  3. Greig Canning  4. Andrew Hall  5. Graham Mulholland

PM Robert Crabb Memorial
1. Alastair Donaghy  2. Edward Gaul  3. Ross MacKay  4. Katherine Belcher  5. Craig |Holmquist

Mary Flora Beaton Cup
1. Cameron Drummond  2. Alasdair Henderson  3. Callum Beaumont

Donald Forbes Medal
1. Steven Leask  2. Ross Miller  3. Ashley McMichael

Hugh MacMillan Trophy
1. Callum Watson  2. Callum Moffat  3. Andrew Wilson

SPSL Hornpipe and Jig Trophy
1. Alastair Donaghy  2. Greg McAllister  3. Andrew Bell

Juvenile Piobaireachd
1. Calum Brown  2. Robbie MacIsaac  3. Harris Maclennan

Highlands and Islands Society Trophy
1. Robbie MacIsaac  2. Callum Brown  3. Harris Maclennan

• Read an earlier report on London here.