Yesterday we received the annual facts and figures from our web host and they made pleasant and satisfying reading. 400,000 visits from 156 countries in 12 months cannot be bad, and I would like to thank all of our readers and advertisers for their support. It is clear that you approve of a web magazine that educates, informs, criticises and entertains – and always with the highest journalistic standards.
I know that the magazine is also read by a number of people who are not pipers or in pipe bands. Introducing them to our great piping and pipe band tradition is another source of satisfaction.
I say again, we attracted readers from 156 countries. As you might expect the UK was the main source of interest, but the US and Canada were not far behind. The Home Page got the most visits with our Letters column in second, the Results in third, the Richard Parkes feature in fourth and our news story on the new venue for the British Pipe Band Championships in fifth.
As the print media continues to decline around the world, more and more people are turning to the web for their information. We welcome you all, and I can say that our pledge for 2016 is to maintain our standards and output. And with the continuing levels of support from our advertisers and customers at the Piping Press Shop, we are confident we can deliver the magazine free at the point of use for the next 12 months at least.
Read the fully audited stats here.
So to the rest of our review of 2015. Our Piper of the Year is Angus MacColl. Winning the Former Winners’ MSR at the Argyllshire Gathering and placing second in the Clasp at Inverness, plus securing multifarious other top awards, put Angus firmly in the frame. But it was the manner of his win at Oban that clinched it. No safety first, give-me-a-prize-at-all costs playing, but beautifully measured music from start to finish. Have a listen.
Our Piobaireachd Performance of the Year must go to Callum Beaumont for his rendition of MacLeod of Colbeck’s Lament in winning the Clasp at Inverness. Here was the complete package from a young man whose maturity in delivery defies his age. This is a long piece with technical demand. To deliver it with such chutzpah under the pressure dome that is the main stage at Eden Court takes some doing. Only a true Champion Piper can do so – and Callum is certainly that.
Pipe Band of the Year has to be Shotts & Dykehead (above), coming as they did from nowhere to win the World Championship. It wasn’t that much of a surprise, however, to those of us who had followed their progress during the early part of the season. Whether they can repeat the success in 2016 after the unseemly turmoil surrounding the departure of former Leading Drummer Jim Kilpatrick remains to be seen. But Shotts have been here before; given time they will recover, that’s for sure.
Running Shotts very close for the accolade had to be St Laurence O’Toole from Dublin. A bit like Angus MacColl, they played with heart in all five majors, winning one and featuring high up the lists at other times. Still in Ireland, I expect Field Marshal to enter the fray in 2016 with fresh intent and supreme focus. Their ‘Impact’ concert will be a must see.
Home bands: 2016 could be the year for Inveraray. With Stuart Liddell and Steven McWhirter in charge anything can happen. Changes at the top at Boghall and Glasgow Police will re-invigorate both bands. Look out for Fife Police, and, after ten years at the helm, might this be the coming of age for P/M Christopher Armstrong and his Scottish Power band?
Looking back on the solo calendar I hope the London Championship will have a serious re-think about setting modern tunes for the Bratach Gorm. This premier event only attracted a handful of players and, though I’m sure the winners all played well, this is really not the sort of attendance we identify with a premier event.
Still with the solos, our Feelgood Award goes to John Angus Smith who, after 20 years of toiling at the Gold Medal coal face, finally secured the big one. The look on his face when Dr Jack Taylor, the Senior Adjudicator, broke the news to him was one of the happiest sights of 2015 and cast a rosy glow round Oban for the remainder of the Argyllshire Gathering. Stuart Liddell was a popular winner of the Senior Piobaireachd.
A word too for Finlay Johnston. Finlay joined the elite club of Double Gold Medallists with his win in tough company at the Northern Meeting; superb instrument, technique and control. The latter competition gets our Enjoyment Prize. In the 2/3 days at Inverness we heard some superb playing all in comfortable surroundings. The crowd figures were up; the old atmosphere returning.
Our Steward’s Trophy goes jointly to Jamie Mellor and Torquil Telfer at the Argyllshire Gathering. Determined to uphold the contest’s west coast traditions, these two gentlemen do everything with competence, a ready smile and courtesy.
Best Dressed Piper? P/M Gordon Walker for the umpteenth time. Gordon continues to show the way in this department. Anyone who believes how we look unimportant fails to understand our true piping tradition. The denims and tee-shirts of the folk piping world should stay just there.
Black Mark of the Year to CPA President Cameron Drummond for refusing to wear a bonnet at the Captain John MacLellan Memorial competition. Disrespectful to all concerned, not least the late captain.
In closing, a Happy New Year to everyone and see you all in 2016.
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