PP Ed’s Blog: Judging Debacle/ NPC Juniors/ Martin at New Year/ Boghall Concert/ Blackthorn

The interesting aspect of the Argyllshire Gathering’s statement on the recent judges debacle is the very fact that they were prepared to say anything at all. Reading between the lines they clearly have misgivings about this shameful ruling, a ruling based on no evidence but which implicitly (perhaps explicitly) deems that there has been corruption in the past and that the judges themselves have admitted it.

Oban have said they will not police any alleged ‘misdemeanours’ and by that I take it that they mean that when a transgressor is spotted lurking behind his/her pencil they are not prepared to be involved in any consequent inquiry by the Solo Piping Judges Association and/or the Competing Pipers’ Association. Quite right too.

Let’s hope it never comes to this and that over time this episode will be quietly forgotten and contests such as Oban can continue to run things as they have done for the last 145 years of their existence, selecting judges and trusting their professionalism and integrity in doing the job for which they are paid. Pipers are still queueing up to play there so they must be getting something right.

The National Piping Centre’s Junior Competition will be held on Saturday, February 18th, 2017. Entries are now open and close on  3rd February 2017. Youngsters wishing to play should get their name down now as places are allocated on a first come/ first served basis with the numbers cut off at 30 and with priority given to those who submit fees with their entry form. Here’s the link.

The pre-Christmas meeting of Ulster’s Blackthorn Piping Society was held last Wednesday. John Kelly reports: ‘Richard McGrath was the Blackthorn Piper at the meeting held in the new Belfast city centre venue, the Discover Ulster-Scots Centre.  Richard played a great selection of tunes including the MSR the Marchioness of Tullibardine, Islay Ball and the Rejected Suitor and then the piobaireachd Lament for the Dead. 

‘Frank Carlisle (Society Chairman) welcomed the piping enthusiasts, some of whom had donned Christmas jumpers for the festive occasion.  Also taking part were brother and sister Nathan and Samantha Coburn and their friend Ellie followed by father and son duo Brian & Mark Hasson.  Grahame Harris (Society Secretary) concluded the evening by playing a selection of Christmas tunes including, ‘Jingle Bells’.  Seasonal refreshments were served by Kim Harris and Lorraine McIlwaine (Blackthorn Piping Society committee members).


Richard McGrath former Pipe Major of Cullybackey Pipe Band and now with Scottish Power

‘Brief overview of Richard McGrath’s piping career and hobbies: Richard started piping in 1994 (age 10) and was taught by Martin Clarke (Bellaghy Pipe Band). He played in Bellaghy Pipe Band (1994 – 2013), Ballycoan Pipe Band as their Pipe Major (2007 – 2012), Manawatu Pipe Band (2013 & 2016), Cullybackey Pipe Band as their Pipe Major (2015) and since October 2016 he has been a member of Scottish Power Pipe Band.  Other than piping, Richard’s hobbies are fishing, hunting, hiking and bushcraft, and last but by no means least, self-sufficient living.  Richard owns a smallholding in Mid Ulster. He keeps laying hens, ducks, goats, sheep and pigs. Between that and hunting, he is about 80% self-sufficient with his meat, eggs, milk and vegetables.’

Thanks for that John. As we head for 2017 this society seems to be going from strength to strength. What an interesting character Richard seems.

It’s been announced that Bucksburn Pipe Band’s now annual concert will be held on May 26, 2017 in the Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen. Guest band are Boghall & Bathgate in what will be relatively new pipe major Ross Harvey’s first outing on to the concert stage. This band’s form may have been patchy last season but they showed enough to indicate that, all things being equal, it won’t be long before they are back in the prizelists at the majors.

The concert will mark Bucksburn’s 70th Anniversary so early congratulations to them on achieving this milestone. Boghall played their first concert in 2010.

Duty piper for the BBC’s Hogmanay Show will be the Army’s Senior Pipe Major, Martin MacDonald. Whilst the rest of us are celebrating, Martin will be out on the frozen ramparts of Edinburgh Castle watched by millions for the traditional piping out of the old year and the piping in of the new.

He is no stranger to the big occasion. The magnificent picture up top, courtesy the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (tickets now available), shows him thrilling the crowds as Lone Piper, and last year at the Highland Tattoo at Fort George he recreated the bravery shown by Piper Kenneth MacKay at the Battle of Waterloo. Martin also played at the Albert Hall at the D-Day Remembrance ceremony and at the opening of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.