PP Editor’s Blog (Updated): SPA KO & Dates/ Owen MacNiven/ Piob Soc/ WW1 Memorial

Revised dates for Scottish Pipers’ Association contests are as follows: The Professional competition will now be held on April 16. The provisional date was April 23rd but for various reasons this was unsuitable.  The Adult Amateur and Veterans contest is on March 26 to allow some of those attending the Piobaireachd Society Conference from overseas to stay on for a week to compete.

The Juvenile/ Amateur contest will be in September, possibly the 10th. All events will be at the College of Piping and entry forms will be available via Piping Press as soon as they are ready.

Still with the SPA, President Tom Johnstone has sent this re Saturday’s KO: ‘Ally Henderson played first and played exceptionally well on an outstanding instrument. In the second half Angus MacColl also played extremely well and got the audience vote to go through to the semi finals. Angus won the contest in 2002. There was a very good turnout, including Ian McLellan BEM who won the contest in 1967. The next heat is on Saturday 6th February and features Douglas Murray against Steven Leask. The contest was on Livestream (College of Piping) and viewers should be able to see it for about one month.’


Letter about Owen MacNiven today. Owen, pictured above and below, was a pupil of Robert Reid’s. Read letter here.

Owen MacNiven pictured in 1936
Owen MacNiven pictured in 1936

new-piob-soc-logoWelcome to the Piobaireachd Society as one of our advertisers. The Society is advertising its Annual Conference which will be held in Birnam Hotel, Dunkeld, Perthshire, 18-20 March. Papers to be given are as follows:

  • David Hester The Alt Pibroch Club: ‘Re-extending the Tradition to Recover our Idiom’.
  • Simon Chadwick ‘Clarsach Ceol Mor’.
  • Colin MacLellan ‘The Piobaireachd Compositions of John MacLellan’.
  • There will also be a demonstration of the 2016 Set Tunes.
Day Rate (including coffee/tea/lunch) £35 (Saturday only)
Day Rate (including banquet/ceilidh) £60
All inclusive room rate Single occupancy £170
All inclusive room rate 2 sharing £135/person

Click on the ad for more information and to book your place.


P/M Jimmy Banks MBE has sent this: ‘We have the next round of the Scots Guards Club KO on Sunday 17th January at 4pm  at 2 Clifton Terrace,  Haymarket, Edinburgh. Scott Barrie and Greig Canning will provide the music and the club will provide the normal tasty curry. Tickets £10.’


For those who haven’t seen it, this story appeared in the The Times of London last week:

‘A century ago a piper played a band of young Scots off to war as they embarked for France and the carnage of the Somme. He was Sergeant William Duguid, pipe-major of ‘McCrae’s Battalion’ — the 16th Royal Scots — which boasted among its ranks a sporting elite of some of the finest footballers in the country.

After piping McCrae’s out of Edinburgh and then off to France on January 8, 1916 at Southampton docks, his great sorrow was that he was unable to pipe them all home. Up to three-quarters of the battalion were wiped out on the battlefield. Yet despite an extensive military career, Pipe-major Duguid was buried in an unmarked grave for almost 90 years. 

William and Jock
William and Jock

Now the McCrae’s Battalion Trust is aiming ‘to right an old wrong’ when it unveils a new memorial today to coincide with the centenary of the soldiers’ departure for the First World War battlefront. A carved stone plaque will mark his resting place in an Edinburgh cemetery. The memorial also commemorates the battalion’s formidable mascot, Jock, a great dane. 

James Alexander, the historian who designed the memorial, said: ‘It’s another piece of the jigsaw puzzle. We need to keep the tradition of remembrance alive among young people. McCrae’s Battalion were very idealistic, optimistic young men and it all ended in tragedy. This commemorates the gravestone of the man who led them to France. He was an older man who suffered watching his younger comrades wiped out.’

The first volunteers who signed up to McCrae’s were 11 professional football players from Heart of Midlothian, along with contemporaries from Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Hibernian and Dunfermline. It was the first of the ‘footballers’ battalions’ and was destined to reach the Western Front just in time for the Battle of the Somme. On their first day over the top, out of 810 men, three-quarters were killed or wounded in half an hour — a casualty return that was replicated across the front. 

A Scottish cairn now stands in the French village of Contalmaison in memory of their sacrifice. When the First World War broke out in 1914, Pipe-major Duguid was already 40 and a 12-year veteran of the Gordon Highlanders. In 1897, he led his battalion up the Dargai Heights on the northwest frontier in Pakistan, and in 1899 he fought the Boers in South Africa. After an honourable discharge, Duguid eventually joined McCrae’s when war broke out again. 

Pipers in Scottish battalions were used as stretcher bearers and on the first day of the Somme, and Duguid braved German machineguns to rescue his wounded comrades. But after he witnessed the slaughter, friends said he was left broken. He died in 1929, aged 53. His family could not afford a headstone and laid him to rest in an unmarked grave at Piershill Cemetery in Edinburgh.’

The memorial to William and his family and to Jock
The memorial to William and his family and to Jock dedicated last week