PP Editor’s Blog: History/ SPA/ John Wilson/ NEPADA/ Lorient etc

Last month we had the British Pipe Band Championships at Paisley but younger readers may not know that the area hosted the same championships for many years prior to 2016. In the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s it was held at nearby Renfrew.

Here’s a report from the Piping, Drumming and Dancing Journal from before WW2:
British Pipe Band Championship, Renfrew
The annual Pipe Band Contest organised by the Renfrew Pipe band under SPBA rules was held at Western park, Renfrew, on Saturday June 26th. Although weather conditions were most unfavourable, the contest was well supported and thirty-four bands took part in all com petitions which included Boys Brigade and Grades 1, 2 and 3.

‘The Grade 1 contest was for the British Championship and ranked as one of the most important contests of the season. A Highland dancing contest was also held, but the Editor regrets e was unable to obtain full particulars. The Hon. President of the Gathering was Mr JW Gibson MA, Provost of Renfrew and the Secretary and Treasurer was Mr JB Marshall, Renfrew. Mrs MacLean, Councillor Wm. MacLean and Mr RC Whitelaw represented the SPBA. Pipe Majors Hamish MacColl and Nicol McCallum, Glasgow, judged the Piping and Drum Major A Scott of Dalmuir the Drumming. Mr Robert Cuthbertson, Glasgow, was Highland Dancing adjudicator. The following is a list of the contest winners:
Grade 1
1 (Daily Record Cup) Clan MacRae (P/M Nicholl) MacRae tartan , 95 and a half points
2 Shotts & Dykehead (P/M McAllister) 94 points
3 Dalziel Highland (P/M Hastie) 92 and three-quarters points
4 Edinburgh City Police (P/M Cameron) 91 and a half points
Grade 2
1 Rutherglen (P/M J Baxter) 2 Govan Red Hackle (P/M MacLeod)
3 Wishaw Highland (P/M Jenkins) 4 Camelon (P/M Wilson)
Grade 3
1 Ayr (P/M Dungavel) 2 Newmains (P/M Clark) 3 Allandale
BB Contest
1 6th Paisley 2 47th Edinburgh 3 24th Glasgow’

Mention of John Wilson and his hand injury the other day must have been an inspiration to all pipers like Tom Hyatt. When you look at the photograph of Wilson’s hand it is amazing that he could play at all:

John Wilson’s hand in later life

How he went on to become one of the top pipers of his time is incredible. He was only 12 years of age when the accident happened, but incredible nevertheless. He won the Marches at Oban in 1924 and the Gold Medal there in 1925 following it up with the Gold Medal at Inverness in 1927. He went on to take many other top prizes including the Former Winners MSR at Oban and the Clasp at Inverness.

Wilson produced two excellent books of ceol beag featuring tunes such as the Loch Ness Monster, John Morrison, Assynt House, Inspector Campbell (Ness), Dora MacLeod and many others.
John Wilson, Edinburgh and Toronto, pictured in 1927
John Wilson, Edinburgh and Toronto, pictured in 1927

The Scottish Pipers Association have announced that John Patrick will give a recital in the autumn. John was due to play in the final of the Association’s Knock Out competition against Stuart Liddell last May but had to call off due to illness. ‘John has agreed to do a recital for us so that will make up in some way for not hearing him in the final against Stuart,’ said SPA President Tom Johnston. ‘The recital will be fun September and that’s also the month we have our annual juvenile contest so there will be plenty going on.’

IMG_4129We are all heading home after a very fine week of instruction and friendship at the New England Pipe & Drum Academy. Read a short report via the link. It was rewarding hearing the progress of so many of the students. This year we introduced drumming for the first time and that seemed to go down well with a number of bands saying they would be supporting the programme by sending both pipers and drummers to next year’s school. The dates will be announced soon. The plan is to return to the Adelynrood Retreat in Byfield, Mass. They are very accommodating and the chefs always do us proud in the gastro department.

A number of the students said they would be looking at attending our sister Academy in South Florida.  Not only would it give them some winter sun but coming in February it would be the ideal way to maintain the progress made in the summer. The curriculum is the same using tutor books 1-3. Our piobaireachd class this year used Book 3 and we managed to cover a few of the basics and learned the ground and doubling and suibhal of the first tune the Wee Spree. They really took to its haunting melody and we sang and played it at the closing concert.

This last was very well attended by locals and the ladies who run the retreat at Adelynrood. Thanks to them all for their hospitality and courtesy.  Good luck to the Clan MacPherson band when they come over to the Worlds. It was a pleasure working with them.IMG_4122

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 06.51.39Madrid-based Galician Pipe Band Lume Biqueira have sent this: ‘Our band’s travelling next August to Brittany, to play at August 11th around 12:00 to 14:00 hours, at the Breizh Stadium, in Lorient. From 12th to 15th August we are in the Filets Bleus Festival, in Concarneau. See the programme here.

Lume de Biqueira Pipe Band’s a Galician bagpipes (gaitas) band established in Madrid (Spain). Created at the Madrid Galician Centre, which became independent soon, and from modest beginnings, that band has evolved into what it’s today, with high probability, the most spectacular Pipe Band in Spain.

In its concerts, Lume de Biqueira combines tradition and modernity, with a varied repertoire that goes from the most authentic Art and known Galician folklore surprising Brazilian sambas parts, rumbas, flamenco or adapted parts of the classical music, through folk rhythms from the Atlantic Europe, generically known how ‘Celtic Music’.

A number of readers have pointed out that a pipe version of ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ is in piper Allan MacDonald’s ‘Moidart Collection’ book 1. It has been suggested in an earlier article we ran that it was the inspiration for the retreat march When the Battle’s O’er by P/M William Robb.

Reminder: the entry for the Lochaber Gathering is available here.

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