PP Editor’s Blog: Campbeltown Band/ Poll/ Angus Nicol/ Willie Lawrie/ Shotts Contest/ Glenn’s Job

The picture above is from Iain Duncan, formerly the RSPBA’s Librarian at Washington Street HQ. Iain’s father was Archie Duncan the Kintyre composer whose tunes I remember playing in the Muirheads band. Was the Friendly Piper one of them?

Anyway Iain tells me the pic was taken on the Old Quay in Campbeltown and when speaking with John Wilson at the Worlds (John’s another scion of the old town), they couldn’t be sure of the year. It may be the late 40s in which case it would be of the Campbeltown Ex-Serviceman’s Pipe Band.  The pipe major is (wee) Peter McCallum and the pipe sergeant is Willie Wilson (John Wilson’s father).

Said Iain: ‘We can’t identify any other bandsmen and of course with the loss of old Willie McCallum earlier this year we have lost the last remaining link. The first jackets used by the band after the war were battledress dyed dark blue or black, so this looks like an upgrade of uniform.’

If anyone has further info please forward.



Don’t forget to offer your opinion on the Champion of Champions poll above. Now that Cowal is past, visitors might have a better idea of how the event could handle re-instituting the awards there.

Still with the bands, a good letter today on the Worlds and Grade 1 players being allowed to play ‘down’. Correspondent Jim Johnson, like all those with any sense, believes the open circle formation can’t come quickly enough. Read Jim’s letter here. We’ll have more on the ‘playing down’ issue later. Here’s what i propose:band position copy


By Angus Nicol

One notable missing from the Argyllshire Gathering last week was Angus Nicol of the Highland Society of London. On the phone the other day, Angus, now out of hospital, frail but recovering, told me that this year was the first Gathering he had missed since 1936 when he was aged three! My goodness, think of the piping history he has witnessed. Angus hopes to be up and about in time for the London Championship in November. Angus’s duties at Oban were taken on and efficiently handled by Neil Mulvie, also a representative of the HSL.


A rare shot of Willie Lawrie pictured during WW1
A rare shot of Willie Lawrie pictured during WW1

I hope everyone appreciated the nice gesture at Oban where Angus MacColl played a tribute to the fallen at the Battle of the Somme and in particular to the composer of the retreat of the same name Willie Lawrie. Allan MacColl included a nice story about Willie in the programme for the recent Lochaber Gathering.

It reads: ‘In 1903 Willie and his friend and pupil Hugh MacDonald’s only means of getting to Fort William was on a shared bicycle. The pair agreed that Willie would pedal the 15 miles from Ballachulish and Hugh would ride on the back with the two sets of pipes in tow.

‘Willie peddled furiously and they arrived just in time. Willie told Hugh that he was in possession of a new shorthand book of pipe music [probably a copy of Gen. Thomason’s ‘Ceol Mor’] and he was going to play his tune as written there. He duly did so and was then called to the bench and asked to explain why he played as he did. 

‘Willie responded firmly that that was how it should be played and if they didn’t agree they could keep their prizes! Much to his surprise he was placed first and went on to win all the competitions that day.’


shotts logoEwan McAllister, Chairman of Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band has sent this note about their forthcoming junior contest: ‘Hi Robert, Just thought I would drop you a quick message to let you know that we are again holding our junior competition. This year, the competition will take place on the 3rd December and will again be held in Calderhead High School in Shotts. If you can help once again by promoting the event through Piping Press, that would be great and would be much appreciated.’ 

Happy to do that Ewan and please forward the entry form and we’ll post that for download.


Still with Shotts, their P/Sgt Glenn Brown tells me he has taken up a teaching job at St Thomas’ Episcopal School in Houston, Texas, where that other top North American piper Mike Cusack is headmaster. Shotts fans needn’t worry about losing Gold Medallist Glenn’s talent. He’ll be flying back as required to play with the band as required. We wish Glenn all the best in his new job.


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