PP Editor’s Blog: Hamish Henderson/ Virginia Tattoo/ Murray Henderson/ Funding for Youngsters

hamishTerrific programme the other night on the late Scottish poet, songwriter and folklorist Hamish Henderson (left). Well done to Producer Alasdair MacCuish and his Bees Nees team, and to broadcaster MG Alba for a real quality show which did the great man full justice.

Poignant film of the late Martyn Bennett on smallpipes accompanying Hamish on ‘Freedom Come All Ye’ and remarkable, historic footage of the Pipes and Drums of various Scottish Regiments playing in Rome after its liberation in WW2.

I liked the story of how Captain Henderson corralled pipers from the Gordons, Black Watch, Seaforths etc to form the ‘Anzio Pipe Band’ (pictured top) to play up the Appian Way. Some shots even showed Hamish marching beside the Pipe Major as they entered the great city.

If you are in the UK you can catch the programme here for the next three weeks.


virginia-tattoo-logo-newI asked organiser Scott Jackson about the involvement of Grade 1 bands the 2017 Virginia Tattoo contest. Scott replied: ‘Correct – no grade 1 contest for 2017.

‘I spoke with all of the pipe majors after last year’s event and my sense was that the North American Grade 1 bands’ top travel priority is attending the Worlds every year. A significant trip to Virginia is a big commitment of time off and money on top of the Worlds so there was much more enthusiasm for an every other year schedule vs every year amongst the Grade 1s.

‘We didn’t want to end up with a Grade 1 competition that took place every year with only two or three bands. We thought it would be better to give the Grade 1 competition a year off and come back with a strong field of bands in 2018. The Grade 2 bands seemed to have more interest in annual participation in Virginia because they are not as committed to an annual trip to the Worlds. So we decided for Grade 2 and 3 in 2017 with an eye toward returning to Grade 1 and 2 in 2018.’ Read our earlier story on this contest here.


hall-of-fame-logoCongratulations to Murray Henderson (pictured below) on being inducted into the Traditional Music Hall of Fame. Murray, a winner of multiple Clasp first prizes, and many other top awards was recognised for this achievement and his ongoing commitment to teaching. He arrived in Scotland in 1972 from his native New Zealand and the rest is piping history. Murray joins other famous pipers such as Ian Duncan of Vale of Atholl, John Burgess and P/M Ian McLellan in the Hall.murray-henderson


scottish schools pipes and drums trust logoThe Scottish School Piping and Drumming Trust have reported a stellar year of activities. Here are facts from their first annual report:

  • Over a quarter of a million pounds channelled into school tuition.
  • Over 1000 school pupils in Scotland are now receiving tuition under schemes funded by the SSPDT.
  • Backing from finance firm Virgin Money and charity William Grant Foundation
  • Simple funding application process on their website

Chief Executive Alexandra Duncan said: ‘Our trust aims to protect the heritage of our national instrument…We are working closely with local authorities who see the benefits of offering piping and drumming alongside other instruments. We are working to establish partnerships with councils to provide piping and drumming teaching. We have agreements with Virgin Money and the William Grant Foundation who are supporting separate schemes in Ayrshire.

Tutor Book half page adMs Duncan said the SSPDT had recently introduced a fast track small grant scheme that can help kick-start programmes or boost programmes being run in schools already. ‘We have a simple application process on our website for grants of up to £5,000 that can be put towards instruments or tuition.  We also fund longer term programmes over three years, and loan bagpipes,’ she added.

Stephen Pearson, Senior Advisor at Virgin Money said: ‘Virgin Money is very pleased to support this unique musical education project in the Ayrshire region, an area that has a rich cultural reputation for piping and drumming excellence. We look forward to working with our partners to make a positive and sustainable difference to as many young people as possible.’

david-johnston,-SSPDTSSPDT convener David Johnston (left) said: ‘The qualities needed for success in a pipe band serve the individual well in the rest of their life and a thriving pipe band is a focus for the whole learning community that gives a school pride and focus. It is no coincidence that nearly every independent school in Scotland has piping and drumming on the curriculum and at the centre of school life. We are aiming to bring those benefits to the state sector too.’

One of the Trust’s new programmes centres on Banff Academy in Aberdeenshire where until recently there was no in-school piping and drumming tuition. Working with the SSPDT the local authority has employed a piping tutor and drum tutor who are teaching nearly 120 pupils a week.

A hearty well done to all involved and in particular to the new William Grant Foundation and to Virgin Money for supporting the Trust. William Grant in particular should be singled out for praise given that this company which has done so much for piping is now targeting some of its resources at the most needy area of piping development. Their support hitherto has always been at the ‘black tie’ end of the piping food chain. We applaud wholeheartedly their shift in policy which will, over time, see many disadvantaged youngsters benefit from their generosity.

Whilst we are on the subject of support for young pipers and drummers a reminder that applications for the National Juvenile Pipe Band Fund close on October 31. Applications are welcome from all RSPBA registered Juvenile and Novice bands. (Download the form from the RSPBA website and include a covering letter if possible). A committee comprising Association Finance Director Kenny Crothers and myself process all applications with assistance from the RSPBA Chief Executive Ian Embelton as necessary. Once the allocations have been made bands are notified by Headquarters and are then not eligible for further funding for two years.


Still with the kids, I hear there are record entries for the Festival of Juvenile Solo Piping to be held in a few weeks. Venue: Auchenharvie Academy, Ardrossan, Ayrshire. Date: Saturday, 15th October 2016. Doors open: 8.45am