PP Ed’s Blog: Stuart Liddell/ Dave’s Tune/ Wallace Bagpipes/ Band Season Starts

Fortunate to catch Cailean Maclean’s excellent ‘Crunluath’ programme on BBC Radio Alba last weekend. One track featured the astonishing Stuart Liddell playing some Gaelic airs and kitchen piping.

The finger work he is capable of defies belief and all on a richly toned bagpipe with perfect chanter intervals. The problem with this sort of brilliance is that youngsters start trying to imitate what Stuart does before they’ve perfect the basics of the art.

Stuart sees this grandstanding stuff as an adjunct to his serious competition staples. He can do the lot, ‘big’ MSRs and ceol mor. But not everyone is so extraordinarily gifted. My message to all you youngsters out there is this: don’t try the finger gymnastics until, like Stuart, you have mastered the basics, otherwise you risk compromising your technique and your ability to control more rhythmically difficult tunes such as competition 2/4 marches.

Hearing Stuart caused me to  muse on the county of Argyll and its equally astonishing contribution to piping. Not only has it given us two of the best players of their generation in Stuart and Angus MacColl, but it was here that the Piobaireachd Society was first mooted (at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1901) and it was here too that Willie Lawrie and John MacColl, two of our greatest composers, were born and grew up, as did John MacLellan, Dunoon, perhaps the greatest of them all (pictured).

There is a whole host of other composers to speak of (see the new Argylls book to be launched Aug 10 during World’s Week) and a whole host of other expert pipers such as the previous generation’s Hugh MacCallum and John Wilson, and the up and coming Alasdair Henderson and Sarah Muir. Must be something in the water.

Alasdair Henderson, rising star in Argyll piping


Two bagpipe firms are on the move. Pipe bag maker James Begg is closing his Glasgow city centre shop and moving his business to an address in Kirkintilloch, a town north and east of Glasgow. Craig Munro has confirmed that Wallace Bagpipes have settled in to their new purpose-built factory in Paisley, not far from Glasgow Airport and not far from where this month’s British Pipe Band Championships will be held. The firm’s new address is: Wallace Bagpipes Ltd, 40 Blythswood Drive, Paisley, PA3 2ES. Here’s how you get there from Glasgow city centre :

In case anyone asks again, I am not connected to this firm in any way! And a reminder re the British Champs. on May 20 – admission is free.


We gave you the story of Dave Mason’s second placed tune in the Shasta Original Piobaireachd Composing Competition and now here is an opportunity to hear it played by Dave himself. Have a listen to the winning tune by Jori Chisholm too and see if you agree with the judges. Dave’s tune is called Salute to Angus McDonald of the Great Divide. The story is here. And the recording here.

We’ll have something on John Bottomley’s third place composition later. The good news is that the Society is so pleased with the outcome of this first contest that they are considering repeating the exercise next year. I think that is a great credit to them and very encouraging for composers. Watch here for details.


This weekend sees pipe band contests at Dunbar and at Bangor in Northern Ireland where the Ards and North Down Championships will take place. Both these events are on Saturday May 13. Six bands in Grade 1 at Bangor.
Playing times and draw:
3.10 Vale of Atholl
3.19 Field Marshal
3.28 Bleary
3.37 Closkelt
3.46 PSNI
3.55 Ravara

The following day we have contests at Banchory, Dundee and Gourock in Scotland all on Sunday May 14. Seven bands in Grade 1 at Gourock. Playing times and draw:
15:35 Scottish Power
15:45 Inveraray and District
15:55 Lomond and Clyde
16:05 Shotts
16:15 Johnstone
16:25 Glasgow Skye Association
16:35 Glasgow Police

Weather forecast reasonable. So here we go with the 2017 pipe band season and the best of luck to everyone.