Listening to part of the Former Winners’ MSR at the Northern Meeting this year I was struck by the number of comparatively easy tunes some pipers are submitting. All great tunes of course, but is Mrs MacDonald of Dunacht suitable for this level? And whilst I love Donald MacLeod’s music I’m not sure that some of the reels such as Drumlithie are as much of a test as, say, eight parts of Pretty Marion; well I know they’re not.
I think this latest trend is a consequence of Inverness’s decision – some years ago now – to go with two different marches, strathspeys and reels, rather than stick with the old format still used at the Argyllshire Gathering of twice through the same tune. When the easy stuff is paired up with the more testing pieces the piper gets away with it. No chance if he has to play Mrs MacDonald twice through; but stick it in with Abercairney and no one notices the easier ride.
These contests are always very difficult to adjudicate and consideration of the weight of tune should, in my view, form part of the prizelist discussion – especially when it can be such a fine art trying to separate these expert players.
It is rewarding when we see readers delving into the resource material on Piping Press – even months after the story first appeared. Katherine Vickers posted this comment on the late Geoff Hore’s piece on the Logan publishing dynasty: ‘Very interesting. James Logan was my great-grandfather. He and his wife Margaret had several children one of which was my grandmother, Margaret (Logan) Gollan. She was a music scholar and sang opera (per my mom’s account). She and my grandfather (Robert) married in 1912 in Calcutta, India. He was a piper from Drumnadrochit and also a tea planter in Bengal, India. I do not know when James died.’ Anyone from Drum have any information on Robert Logan?
From the archives….I came across a prize list from the 1971 Uist & Barra contest the other day. The competition was then held in the Kingston Halls, Glasgow, just over the river and near where the eponymous bridge was soon to be constructed. I remember attending the contest there in 1975. As we sat listening stones were thrown at the windows creating quite a din inside the hall. (Local teenagers showing their appreciation of the music.) Out dashed big Ronnie Lawrie to sort things out. I don’t need to tell you that not so much as a grain of sand came our way for the rest of the afternoon. The U&B list from 13th February 1971:
1 Andrew Wright – the Desperate Battle (Andrew is pictured up top)
2 Tom Speirs – MacIntosh’s Lament
3 Iain MacFadyen – I Got a Kiss of the King’s Hand
4 Kenny MacDonald – Donald Gruamach’s March
5 Jean-Francois Allain (Brittany) – Black Donald’s March
Judges: Hector MacFadyen, John MacKenzie, Andrew MacNeill
Other players: Brian MacRae – Glengarry’s March. Brian, later to become Sovereign’s Piper, broke down. Other breakdowns were from Willie Dickson, Dundee (Earl of Seaforth) and George Lumsden, City of Edinburgh Police PB, (Lament for Patrick Og). Other pipers not placed were John Matheson (does anyone have information on this gentleman), Flora MacDonald (again, no information), Norman Graham, a pupil of Iain MacFadyen’s who played MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart, Duncan MacFadyen (MacDonald’s Salute) and Ronald Lawrie (MacFarlanes’ Gathering).
From memory Jean-Francois Allain was a student of John MacFadyen’s and spent some time here in the early 70s going round the games and learning the music; like Jakez Pincet and Patrick Molard another real pioneer for Breton piping. Jean Francois may have had a brother, also a piper. Grateful for further input.
In the light music the results were:
1 Ian McLellan (Glasgow Police, later the multiple Worlds winning pipe major of Strathclyde Police Pipe Band; click the link for more on Ian’s career.)
2 Iain Morrison (pupil of Donald MacLeod’s and then emerging as a beautifully musical piper from Lewis but at the time serving in the Queen’s Own Highlanders).
3 Norman Gillies (Alasdair’s father, and at least as good a march player as his son.)
4 Iain MacFadyen (Iain at that time was still in Glasgow; the move to Kyle happened a few years later and the impact in the north was immediate and historic.)
Strathspey & Reel
1 Ian McLellan (Ian’s band success tends to divert our attention to the supreme quality of his MSR playing – as he was an ex-214 BB boy we should expect nothing less.)
2 Iain Morrison
3 Davy Hutton (Davy was a quality player who benefited much from his association with P/M RG Hardie and the Muirhead & Sons Pipe Band. Davy played with the band during its glory years in the 60s eventually taking over as P/Sgt from Andrew Dowie.)
4 Iain MacFadyen
1 Ian McLellan (yes, him again)
2 Iain Morrison
3 Iain MacFadyen
4 Kenny MacDonald
Unfortunately no information on the judges. Be interested to hear from anyone who was there all those years ago.