As the current members of Wallacestone & District Pipe Band celebrate its 130th anniversary, they will also be keeping one eye open for a potential new leading drummer. The current holder of the post, Stewart Gardiner, pictured above second left, is leaving to take up a teaching job in Oman.
Stewart took on the position of Wallacestone L/D when Pipe Major Neil Henderson joined the band from Vale of Atholl in November 2011. Stewart began his playing career in the early 1970s with 1st Denny & Dunipace Boys Brigade before moving to Wallacestone & District at the end of 1972. He stayed with the band until 1985, by which time they had risen from Grade Four to Grade One under Tom and Peter Anderson’s direction.
Stewart said: ‘I will be sad to be leaving the band as I first joined as a 10-year-old 45 years ago and only left in the 80s when I joined Lothian & Borders Police. I hadn’t really intended coming back to Wallacestone after competing with L&B for 25 years, but as both my children had played with the band I thought I could help out with a bit of teaching. As is the way with these things, I soon ended up playing again and the following season took on the leading drummer’s job, which has not only been a privilege, but great fun as well.’
The band’s current partnership has worked well over the past five seasons, with the Wallacestone being promoted twice during this time and finishing in second place in grade 3B at the World Championships last year. But now Stewart is once again on the move, heading to Oman in September.
He will be taking over the Royal Guard of Oman (RGO) drumming instructor’s post currently held by former Scots Dragoon Guard’s drummer Dave Macbeth. Stewart will be working alongside Colin Fairbairn who looks after the regiment’s four pipe bands and Alan Johnston, the piping instructor based at their piping school at Halban, near Muscat.
Stewart said: ‘I spent a week in Oman in February and was shown round their band’s facilities, which really are second to none. I also had the chance to meet the people I’ll be working with at the RGO, although I already knew Colin from his time with the L&B police band. It’s a wonderful opportunity I’ve been given and I’m really looking forward to getting started.’
Pipe Major Neil Henderson hopes to fill the vacant post as near to the end of this season’s competitions as possible, as it will give the drum corps the full winter to work with the new leading drummer.
He said: ‘Stewart has been a huge help to me since I took over and him leaving will be a big loss to myself and the band, however we are both looking forward to having another successful season before he goes.
‘His departure does offer a great opportunity for someone to come in and continue the push to get Wallacestone back up the grades.
We have a settled and ambitious band and that should provide a great platform for someone with aspiration and drive to come in and show what they can do.’
Interested parties can contact the band strict confidence through their Facebook page or website before the end of the season or in person at a contest.
• Read more about Wallacestone Pipe Band and their 130th Anniversary in the current edition of Pipe Band Magazine.
Third placed in the Original Piobaireachd Composing Competition run by California’s Shasta Piping Society was John Bottomley. Here’s a bit about John and his tune:
John has been piping for more than 50 years, starting out with the Amityville American Legion Pipe Band in 1963. He is currently the Director of Bagpiping at the United States Military Academy at West Point. John played in the groundbreaking Guelph Pipe Band in the 1970s, and has led a number of successful pipe bands. He is the publisher of the EUSPBA Voice magazine. A long-time judge in the EUSPBA, he is recognized internationally as a top piobaireachd player and authority.
The name of the piobaireachd is derived from The Knight of Glin, also known as the Black Knight or Knight of the Valley. This was a hereditary title held by the FitzGerald families of County Limerick, since the early 14th century. Like the Knights of Kerry, the Knights of Glin descended from one of the younger or illegitimate sons of the 1st Baron Desmond and Honora (daughter of Hugh O’Connor of Kerry).
Lord Desmond was also known as Sir John FitzJohn or Seán Mór na Sursainge, and he lived c. 1260. The last knight, Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin, died on 14 September 2011. My wife, Claire, read about the death of the last knight (neither one of us remembers where) and mentioned it to me. When I found out he was also known as the Black Knight, I had to write a tune. I wanted a strong tune to honor the title, with just a touch of lament because of the ending of the line of knights.
• Listen to John’s tune and those of the other prizewinners, Jori Chisholm (1st) and Dave Mason (2nd), here.