PP Ed’s Blog: Oz Summer School/ Canada on Blackwood/ Malcolm’s Funeral

P/M Douglas Murray of Fife Police will join his brother James, Ian Lyons and Brett Tidswell as the main piping instructors at the Pipe Bands Australia summer school in Melbourne later this month. Lead Drumming Instructor is Steven McWhirter, the current World Solo Champion, ably supported by Dean Hall and others. Here’s the link.

I hear that Douglas has had to pull out of the Wheel of Fortune contest owing to pressure of work. It still looks like a good line-up for what is always a very enjoyable day out.

It seems Canada is quite clear that customers buying pipes from the UK DO NOT need an import licence for blackwood pipes. Their government website states: ‘Appendix II: Are not currently rare or endangered but could become so if trade is not regulated. International trade is possible, controlled by permits. Specimens to be imported into Canada must be accompanied by a CITES export permit issued by the exporting country. Specimens to be exported from Canada must be accompanied by a Canadian CITES export permit.’ So all pipemakers here have to do is get the appropriate £59 export permit and trade with Canada can continue as before. Thanks to Alastair Dunn of RG Hardie for passing this on.

Nicholas Taitz in South Africa has sent this: ‘Hi Rob, All the best for the New Year! I thought you might find this account, which I found on the internet a few years back, of some interest. Maybe it’s already well-known, I am not sure, but it is very interesting in itself:

‘By Ronald Smith of Perthshire, a former pupil of Malcolm MacPherson. When Malcolm passed away, in early November 1966, he was staying in VanBurgh Place in Leith but was penniless, so his protector and friend, Dr. Roderick Ross, took it upon himself to arrange the funeral, as a last gesture for the piper whose playing interpretation of piobaireachd had seemed like a gift from the Gods and had inspired him to immortalise it in the collection ‘Binneas is Boreraig’.

Dr Roddy Ross

‘I tried to get a squad of soldiers from the army to fire a volley over the grave’, he announced, clutching a glass of whisky in the West End Hotel lounge bar, ‘but it emerged Calum had been dishonorably discharged. So they refused. Roddy himself had served in Burma, where he had once offered to parachute into a Japanese POW camp to help the sick, but even this would not make the Army change its mind.

‘For most people, that would have been that, but the good doctor, who considered himself descended from the MacCrimmons – his father was from Glendale in Skye next to where they lived and knew the genealogy by heart – was not so easily daunted. Not so long before, when the question of a nuclear deterrent was being debated in the same bar, he halted the discussion by snarling ‘what do we need a deterrent for? We should ATTACK!’

‘I saw Captain Ian MacArthur. He was in the Commandos. He’s going to help. He’ll set off a charge of gelignite nearby instead.’ The others nodded sagely, as one does after a couple of whiskies and something outrageous is proposed. Where did he get the explosive? To have such a thing was highly illegal. But he was a Jekyll and Hyde figure, with underworld contacts, and it was likely he got someone with coal mining connections to steal it – we never heard the details.

The Macpherson memorial cairn at Badenoch not far from where the funeral took place

‘So there was a certain frisson in the air when the cortege of several cars and a hearse set off up the A9 for Badenoch in the Highlands. At the new hotel in Dalwhinnie, everyone pulled in for a snifter – only the solitary coffin remaining in the glass-sided funeral hearse. ‘I’ll bet that’s the only time Calum ever waited outside a pub,’ someone observed. The service was in the church in Laggan. After it finished, the mourners gathered around the open grave next to Malcolm’s grandfather’s, the famous Calum Piobaire, and John MacLellan, the Instructor at the Army School of Piping played ‘Lament for the Only Son’.

‘Malcolm’s father, old Angus, watched impassively as the coffin was lowered, earth was shovelled in, and a small rowan tree was inserted by an Edinburgh ‘strong man’, a theatrical touch arranged by the doctor who then disappeared behind the church with his camera. The plan was to use the flashbulb to signal to Captain MacArthur lying on a crag across the glen to the south with a car battery attached to the gelignite by a long wire.

‘The next moment there was an ear-splitting explosion, like the Crack of Doom at The End of the World – totally out of proportion with the quiet solemnities being enacted. As the echoes rolled up and down the glen, a squall of rain-swept in from the west, scattering the mourners, who fled to their cars and the nearest bar. And that was Malcolm MacPherson’s last farewell. Later, I climbed to the crag where the blast had occurred. The granite had been pulverized and a few pieces lay about. I still have one, over forty years since.’

What a story! Thank you Nicholas and thank you Ronald. The picture up top was taken in happier times with Malcolm pictured with his father Angus Macpherson, Invershin.

1 thought on “PP Ed’s Blog: Oz Summer School/ Canada on Blackwood/ Malcolm’s Funeral

  1. The article on Malcolm MacPherson’s funeral is indeed a great tale, shame it was lifted from a page on the SPSL website clearly marked © 2008 scottishpipingsocietyoflondon.com all rights reserved

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