PP Ed’s Blog: Piob Soc Conf./ Tain Games/ Donald MacKinnon/ Gillie’s Family

The Piobaireachd Society conference enters its second day today and I must say it has been a roaring success so far. I’ll have a full report later as the there is not a lot of time before the next session on the 2017 set tunes begins.

The weather up here in Birnam has been amazing – as it has been in much of the UK. Last night’s ceilidh went on until 1am, 2am if we add in the move to British Summer Time. It brought us into line with our European visitors, namely Patrick Molard and a French film crew over making a programme about him and Scotland. I gave them a short interview on Patrick and his work on the new Campbell Canntaireachd book. As mentioned, report on the conf. to follow.


Spent part of the evening with Duncan MacGillivray down from his farm up in Nigg, Easter Ross. Like his father before him (Gold Medallist Donald P. MacGillivray, Duncan is a cattle breeder and this week lost a prize cow shortly after she gave birth to a bull calf. To cheer himself up Duncan gave us some fine old 6/8s from the Patrick MacDonald Collection at the ceilidh. He is pictured above during his performance.


Duncan is the piping convenor at Tain Games sponsored by Glenmorangie malt whisky. He tells me the date has been moved to July 8, the earliest they have ever been and the first free Saturday in the calendar they could find. ‘It used to be on a Thursday in August and was clashing with too many other events,’ said Duncan. ‘There are so many piping contests in early August the decision was taken to bring it forward. There are contests for senior and junior (15 and under and 15 -18), piobaireachd, march, strathspey and reel and jig.



Judges are Jimmy Jackson for the seniors and George Stewart on the juniors. Everyone is welcome. There is no entry fee. Entries on the field. Late comers allowed to play, no one turned away. Free soup and sandwiches and a free dram all courtesy Glenmorangie. Good prize money. Sounds like a good day out and worth the drive north. True Highland games if you ask me; relaxed and easy-going with a bit of slack round. 


Cailean Maclean of Skye Media is looking for help. Cailean, host of the excellent BBC radio piping programme ‘Crunluath’, writes: Do you know anything about Donald MacKinnon, composer of the Sound of Sleat? I know he was from Skye (I am trying to trace his origins here) and that he was a Pipe Major with the KOSBs and served in Korea. Why he was in the KOSBs rather than the local regiment is anyone’s guess. He emigrated to Queensland in Australia where he died.

‘A friend, Norman MacDonald and I have produced two volumes of what we call ‘The Great Book of Skye’ and we would like to include an item in the forthcoming third volume on Donald MacKinnon.’

I do remember fairly recently carrying something on Donald MacKinnon, I think from the Queensland connection. Come on everyone – thinking caps on and help Cailean out.


This has come in from Piping at Forres, promoters of the European Pipe Band Championships: A search launched by a one-day piping event to find a family with the most ties to piping resulted in nominations coming from as far afield as Canada and the quest going viral on social media. Piping At Forres, the European Pipe Band Championships, launched a search to find a family whose lives are immersed in the piping scene. The search went viral with the social media posts reaching over 20,000 people in just 48 hours and one nomination coming from Canada.

But it was the McNab family, from Pitlochry in Perthshire whose interest in piping and drumming spans four generations who wowed the judges. 

Currently, they have 11 family members, spanning three generations all playing in the same band and they will now be attending the event’s launch party in April when tickets go on sale and have also won a family pass to the June extravaganza along with one of the sought after Piping At Forres hampers.  Joanna Taylor, a director of Forres Events Ltd, the company that organises Piping At Forres which is sponsored by Benromach Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky said she was delighted with the entries that were received: ‘As soon as the story hit the media and our social media pages there was great interaction and we were delighted to get so many quality entries. It was a very tough decision with nominations coming in from far and wide.

‘Some of the families that entered have won world championships, at least two have found their spouses through piping and there were many that span multiple generations. It has revealed some lovely and heart-warming stories. However, the McNab family cinched it due to the numerous years they have been involved in piping, the number of members still currently playing and the new generations starting to learn.’

It was head of the clan, Gillie McNab who entered her family into the contest. They have 11 family members either playing pipes or drums for the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band or just starting to learn the instruments. Gillie said: ‘We are delighted that we have been chosen as the winners. All we seem to do is eat and sleep pipe bands. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I found out. The whole family was surprised, but we feel very honoured.’