Donald MacLeod Memorial Results

The annual competition was held today in the Caladh Inn, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. Champion Piper was Niall Stewart, Kyle, who placed first in Ceol Mor and fourth in MSR. Runner up: Ian K MacDonald, Ontario. Niall is pictured above receiving his trophy. The Hornpipe & Jig result is not considered in the overall prize assessment.

1 Niall Stewart, Queen Elizabeth ll’s Sal
2 Roderick MacLeod, Cabar Feidh gu Bragh
3 Finlay Johnston, Cronan Padruig Seumas
4 William McCallum, Roderick MacDonald’s Salute

1 Ian K MacDonald, Hills of Kintail, P/M John Stewart, Susan Macleod, Piper’s Bonnet, Neil Angus MacDonald, John Morrison, Assynt House
2 Angus MacColl, Brig o’ Feuch, MacLean of Pennycross, Cat Lodge Shepherd’s Crook, Drumlithie, Lachlan MacPhee of Tiree
3 William McCallum, Glasgow Skye Association Centenary Gathering, Cast. Campbell of Drum a Voisk, Duncan Lamont, Ewe wi’ the Crookit Horn, Roddy MacDonald’s Fancy, Lt. Col. DJS Murray
4 Niall Stewart, Duncan MacColl, 74th’s Farewell to Edinburgh, Sandy MacPherson, P/M Hector MacLean, Kildonan, Mrs MacPherson of Inveran

Pipers were entitled to play their tunes in any order.

1 Angus MacColl, Kyle Howie’s Hornpipe, Callum’s Bridge
2 Alasdair Henderson, Hazel Thompson, John Paterson’s Mare
3 Finlay Johnston, Joe McGann’s Fiddle, Old Wife of the Mill Dust
4 Roderick MacLeod, Joe McGann’s Fiddle, Donnie MacGregor

Judges for all events: A Forbes, I MacFadyen, J Wilson

Fear an Tighe: Dr John Smith

P/M Iain McLeod, Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band

It is with regret that we report the death of P/M Iain McLeod, World Championship winning pipe major of the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band.

P/M McLeod, passed away last night.  He had been in hospital until recently as a result of breaking his hip following a fall at home.

It is understood that Iain’s funeral will be private to family and close friends but the family want to arrange some form of celebration of Iain’s life for later in the year.

Iain was an outstanding pipe major taking the Edinburgh Police to their greatest ever series of victories. He was also an accomplished solo performer of ceol beag winning many of the top awards in this discipline. He eschewed the judging of pipe bands but until a few years ago was active as a commentator and as a judge of solo piping. After police service he went into business with the Gillanders firm of bagpipe makers forming Gillanders and MacLeod.

P/M McLeod playing in Princes Street Gardens in 1974

The Edinburgh Police band begun as a military band in 1882. Its origins can be traced to the early 1880s when the idea of band was discussed at a meeting of the Lord Provost’s Committee of the town council. In February 1882 it was recommended that a pipe band should be formed making it one of the oldest in the world. A concert at the Waverley Market on Saturday June 2 1883 is the earliest record of a public performance. The band  took part in a victory parade in Princes Street at the end of the Second World War  and were inspected by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The band went on to win seven world championships, with famous pipe majors including P/M MacLeod, John D. Burgess and Donald Shaw Ramsay.  During its glory years between 1950 and 1975, the band won seven World Championships, five under P/M MacLeod.

A couple of years ago P/M MacLeod, the greatest ever pipe major in the history of the band, spoke for the first time about the demise of the band he led to so many World Championship titles. P/M MacLeod said: ‘I have been greatly saddened in recent years to witness the decline of the Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band, formerly the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band. It seems incredible that this once proud, respected, highly successful and renowned band, having survived throughout years of the austerity of two world wars, has now been allowed to decline to the point of extinction.

‘I would hope that Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Police Service now take steps to ensure that the pipe band’s achievements and its role in promoting both the city and its police service over 131 years; are now formally recognised by way of a permanent record in the history and archives of the city.’

Sincere condolences to Iain’s family at this time. Iain is pictured top second left with his fellow World Championship winning Pipe Majors, RT Shepherd, Dysart & Dundonald, Tom McAllister, Shotts & Dykehead and Ian McLellan, Strathclyde Police.

PP Ed’s Blog: Pipe Band Anger/ PB Mag/ Braemar/ SPA/ Dunedin/ Letters

Apart from running Pipe Band Magazine for the RSPBA and reporting on competitions, I have no direct involvement in the pipe band competition milieu. I am essentially on the periphery – the best place for the fourth estate in that fraught world.

It was not always so given that I learned piping via the pipe band system in the Boys Brigade and later graduated to Muirhead & Sons at age 17. I remember the bitter feuding and fierce competition. How the system was against you when you lost; judges were corrupt when they failed to give you what you were due.

Yet we never heard a full competition from any point of preferred vantage the way adjudicators do. We played – Grade 1 or Juvenile – and then went to the beer tent or down town for a carry-on. Come the results there we were sounding off never having even heard the victorious opposition. There were some injustices no doubt but by and large I think our angst all a huge waste of time and energy. It is an unfortunate downside of our competition system that the politics is often promoted above the music. I was as guilty as anyone. But looking back one comes to realise that whilst one endures the other becomes rather passé very quickly.

Sanctimony aside, I hope those consumed with anger over the situation at Pipe Bands Australia will reflect on this for a few moments today. Teaching, passing on what you know, getting your band to play well is so much more important than personal attack and politics. With the right approach the latter all washes away through time leaving little chips of musical gold.

New letters today on P/M Robert Pinkman and on my pipes at the Uist & Barra in 1991. Read them here.

Smart new ad for Braemar Gathering:

Click on ad for details

Get along to the College of Piping tomorrow for the Adult Amateur competition run by the Scottish Pipers Association. It is one of the few amateur contests open to adults of all grades. SPA officials – please forward the results with picture if poss.

Over in the sun in Florida we have the Dunedin Games. Our correspondent has sent the draw in the Professional and Grade 1 Piping: 

Click on the link above for more. Results to follow.

Pipe Band Magazine now available to read, free, courtesy the RSPBA:

A fantastic week of world class teaching and serious good fun!

Latest Edition Pipe Band Magazine/ Preview of Dunedin Games, Florida

The new edition of Pipe Band Magazine, the official publication of the RSPBA, will be available this weekend. Features include:

Know Your Judges: Adjudicator Tony Sloane talks of the Worlds, band music, his favourite bands and what he’s looking for.

All Our Yesterdays: Wallacestone & District one of our oldest pipe bands with some super pix.

Analysis: Alistair Aitken looks at the vexed question of adjudicator positions and band formation – and how something ought to change.

By the Right: Headquarters reports on the bands which have received cash from the National Juvenile Pipe Band Fund, the new regulations governing registrations and the regradings for the new season.

Review: Inveraray and Bagad Kemper’s concert at Celtic Connections makes the front page and gets the once over from our reviewer.

Diary: A full calendar of this summer’s contests – five pages of contact info.

Obituary: Alex Dingwall, Life Member of Perth & District Pipe Band and a servant for 80+ years.

Branches: Live Back in Ireland, Vale results, RAF Lossiemouth, Aberdeen Schools

Pipe Band Magazine is offered free to the public courtesy the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association. It is available via their website at and also on Piping Press.

From our American Correspondent: City of Dunedin, Florida – Annual Highland Games 

This weekend (31st March – 2nd April) sees the 51st annual Dunedin Highland Games in Florida, hosted by the City with strong connections to the old country – the City of Dunedin is twinned with Stirling, and is the home of the North American Grade 2 Champions, led by P/M Iain Donaldson.

The City band is also well supported through an exceptionally strong Schools’ programme, with the local High School and Middle School programmes. As a sanctioned EUSPBA event, there are expected to be 17 bands competing in Grades 2-4 and, a hundred or more solo pipers and drummers in competition too. Most eyes will be on the Grade 2 head to head between hometown City of Dunedin versus the Texans from St Thomas Alumni. With Dunedin already heading to Glasgow Green this August, it will be interesting to see which band picks up the early win. 

The weekend will kick off on Friday 31st with a recital by P/M and soloist Stuart Liddell of Inveraray & District, followed by a parade of the competing bands through downtown Dunedin. Stuart will join the judging bench on the Saturday morning, alongside others including Terry Lee, Ken Eller, Dan Cole, Andrew Lee and June Hanley. 

The piping cognoscenti are joined by drumming judges John Fisher, Steve McClure and lead drummer of Dunedin, Eric MacNeil, the former SFU man. There are 40 solo Piping, Drumming and Drum Major events going on in the morning, followed by the band competition in the afternoon. A sunny 78 degrees is forecast. Tough for those out there! Results will be posted as we receive them.

Don’t miss this opportunity for world-class piping and drumming tuition

Australia: President of PBA Responds to Recent Resignation of Drumming Principal

The President of Pipe Bands Australia (PBA), Mr Chris Earl, has today responded to the recent resignation by Mr Greg Bassani from his position as Drumming Principal at PBA.

Mr Earl thanked Mr Bassani for all his work for pipe bands in Australia and said that through it he had ‘engaged hundreds of drummers at workshops and in structured progressive examinations over two decades’.

In his response Mr Earl also speaks of the ‘betrayal’ of PBA by those involved in the alleged misappropriation of association funds and that as a result a new management and control structure was now in place. Mr Bassani’s resignation earlier this month came in a strongly worded letter to the PBA. Personal comments have been redacted. The edited letter reads:

Mr Bassani

‘Dear Secretary, I write to advise you of my decision to resign from my position as Principal of Drumming for Pipe Bands Australia. I now find that my disillusionment with the lack of effective and capable leadership of the Association ….. and some highly questionable decisions in recent times make my continuation in this position untenable.

‘I do not agree with actions taken in respect to the City of Whitehorse Pipe Band as this, to me, was a clear demonstration that we have confused our priorities and, consequently, have ignored the purposes of the Association, as per our rules. I also feel that the Music Board has been undermined …. on a number of occasions and totally ignored on others, and personally, that there have been attempts to undermine my own position and discredit me. I consider myself to be a person of high integrity, and I choose not to retain office in the PBA under such circumstances.

City of Whitehorse Pipe Band

‘Unfortunately, I do not see a positive future under the current leadership, only one plagued by more controversy. The recent alleged fraudulent activity by a former office bearer, while truly being a monumental betrayal, is also an example of our leadership’s monumental failure in observing its governance responsibilities for the Association, since the Act requires them to oversee the Association’s financial affairs ……. This is what the Incorporated Associations Act would have been referring to when it makes reference to ‘overseeing the Association’s financial affairs’. Council has made its decision in respect of defeating the no-confidence motion in the President, as is its right.

‘There has also been a picture of ‘consultation’ painted by the leadership but this is not to be believed in my opinion. Matters are being put before the wider membership for voting without any discussion and debate by council, and, in effect, no due diligence being undertaken in testing such proposals and possible ramifications before going to the membership. This is dangerous and allows vested interests to gain a foothold and be driven through. I also note most of these proposals emanating from a single Branch; take from that what you will.

‘I feel that I have more to offer in the position but my own sense of ethics and self-worth has led me to this decision. Most others in resigning from such a position would simply walk away, but having invested over 20 years in this role, I care too much for the Association to do this without stating my reasons in the hope that you will be able to bring the Association back into line and the Committee to a position of due diligence and accountability.

‘Kind regards,
Greg Bassani, OAM. BEd. BTech, DipT, JP’

Mr Earl

In his reply Mr Earl writes: ‘Pipe Bands Australia acknowledges and thanks Greg Bassani for his long-term contribution as Principal Drumming towards the advancement of drumming standards and proficiency in Australia through the development of a comprehensive syllabus.

‘Under Greg’s stewardship of the drumming division of college, the state branch network of vice-principals has engaged hundreds of drummers at workshops and in structured progressive examinations over the two decades. The Australian drumming syllabus is also used in several overseas countries, including Hong Kong and other south-east Asian countries where regular examination days are held.

‘Several leadership positions within Pipe Bands Australia have changed this year with the appointment of Tim Bodey as new national treasurer, Tony Bidgood OAM (Principal Drill and Dress) filling a vacancy on national management committee and Jamie Forsyth being appointed Principal Rules and Administration. The discovery of alleged misappropriation of funds was a betrayal of our association, our bands and members. It was a jolt of massive proportions that exposed the inadequacies of reporting platforms and some procedures that the association had followed for many years.

‘These factors combined to facilitate the swift implementation over the past two months of a new financial platform that now sees regular reporting at both national level and in all branches of the association that remains solvent. That platform was first canvassed in 2016 as moves were underway to improve the transparency and robustness of financial accounting and remove it from the ‘cottage industry’ model of the past. A strong committee and council continues to meet challenges as it has over the past year with a firm focus on supporting bands across Australia and now Papua New Guinea with that nation’s fledgling pipe band association having been admitted to associate membership of PBA.

‘Bands and council are mid-way through voting in the annual ballot that includes proposals to adopt the RSPBA Grade 4A MSR requirement in Australia while still retaining the option for bands to play two parts each of strathspey and reel and modifying the drum major solo course to be in line with requirements at Scottish competitions.’

Don’t miss this opportunity for world-class piping and drumming tuition

CITES Latest – Repairs Freed from Regulation

Overseas pipers sending broken blackwood joints back to manufacturers in the UK for repair will not have to comply with the new legislation covering the import and export of African blackwood products.

A spokesman for the UK’s regulator, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), said the European Union had issued a directive confirming the above. Other countries around the world seem to have adopted a similar stance though he said pipers overseas should check locally.

‘It makes sense that wood which has already been through the licensing procedure is exempted from further examination,’ he added.

The spokesman also reported that bagpipe manufacturers in the UK were having their licensing of shipments readily agreed and that they had reported no glitches in the system. Most new wood was coming directly into the UK from outwith Europe was coming from Indonesia and India and these countries had systems in place to handle the paperwork surrounding protected species.

It costs bagpipemakers £59 for an export licence from APHA in Bristol. For further information here are a couple of links

• Link to the EU guidance (page 5 for non-commercial trading
• Guidance on charges:
A CITES parcel from RG Hardie
RG Hardie Man
aging Director Alastair Dunn with the new trophy his sponsored last year at the Argyllshire Gathering

Alasdair Dunn, Managing Director of RG Hardie said: ‘We have been receiving permits and exporting blackwood bagpipes without any issue. They have arrived safely in North America and Australia for example.
‘It is important we communicate a positive message regarding the availability of blackwood products and also for people travelling with instruments. Serial numbers are not required, however we do engrave our pipes with the year of manufacture and in the case of Hendersons, a serial number on the bass stock.’

Background information on the mpingo African Blackwood tree: ‘The African blackwood, also known as the mpingo tree (botanical name dalbergia melanoxylon) is regarded as one of the most precious timbers in the world. Ranging from reddish to pure black, its lustrous heartwood has mechanical properties that make it  ideal for making carvings.

‘It is naturally oily, finely grained and has a unique density. Its tonal qualities are particularly valued when used in woodwind instruments mainly clarinets, oboes, bagpipes and piccolos. The African blackwood being highly durable protects the instrument from the acidity of saliva and oily hands. In addition it is environmentally stable and does not distort when exposed to increased humidity thus significantly prevents the tone and pitch of a musical instrument from altering.

Blackwood sets ready for turning…..they now have to be properly accounted for and registered

‘With all these qualities it is no wonder that African blackwood manufactures some of the world’s best woodwind instruments. In fact it is believed to be the most expensive hardwood in the world costing up to $25,000 per cubic metre.

‘Mpingo also has many traditional uses; different parts of the tree are used in medicine. The bark, leaves and pods can all be used as animal feed; the heart and sapwood can be burnt as fuel or made in to charcoal. The wood when boiled produces a broth believed to impart strength when used to bathe newborn babies.

‘Mpingo generally grows under a wide range of environmental conditions and is able to survive fires that destroy grasslands and other vegetation. It is indigenous to 26 African countries from northern Ethiopia to the south in Angola and from Senegal across to Tanzania and Mozambique. It is frequently found on dry, rocky sites from sea level to 1,200 metres. It survives on very little water; in fact once its root system is set up, the tree requires little or no rainfall to mature.’

Read more on the CITES blackwood regulations here.