PP Ed’s Blog: J Ban MacKenzie/ Weekend contests/ Govan concert/ Donald McBride

A painting of John Ban MacKenzie reputed to be worth £10,000 has been stolen from a house in East Lothian in what police have described as a ‘targeted theft’.

The picture entitled ‘Piper to the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane’ by JM Barclay, which dates from 1842, was taken from a house near Kippielaw Farm, near East Linton. The BBC reported that four other paintings of black and gold Asian-style design were also taken. Police are appealing for witnesses.

Police inspector Andrew Hill was quoted as saying : ‘Based upon the specific nature of the property taken it is likely that this is a targeted theft. The paintings stolen are all originals and very distinctive. Crimes such as this are fortunately rare. However, apart from the financial loss to the owner, they also involve a loss of history and heritage. If anyone has information about suspicious activity in this area, or knowledge of where these works of art are now located, please get in touch.’

Here’s a full length version of the pic of the painting:

John Ban was born 1796 in Achilty, Ross-shire, and died April 24, 1864 at Munlochy on the Black Isle near Inverness. He was a champion piper and pipe maker and it is believed he made the Prize Pipes for the Northern Meeting from 1846 to 1864 winning an instrument of his own make in 1849. Get more on this in Jeannie Campbell’s ‘Highland Bagpipemakers’ book.

It is clear from the picture that John Ban has excellent posture, no facial grimace, blowstick centred in the mouth, upright bearing. He plays the chanter angled to the right however which may, for some, detract from his generally good stature. He is playing a swan necked bag (probably made by himself) and, even allowing for artistic licence, is fingering an open C. This was pretty common in Scotland well into the 20th century and is believed to have been discouraged once the pitch of the chanter started to rise, the open C producing a false note. (Handy though when making birls from a short C.) More information on this appreciated.

In the background can be seen Taymouth Castle now a hotel and golf resort.



The Scottish Pipers’ Association have their monthly meeting in the College of Piping tonight at 7pm so get along to that if you are in town and want to listen to some piping. Also tonight is the Donald MacDonald Quaich recital/competition in the Clan Donald Centre, Sleat, Skye. 7 for 7.30 start with ticket at £8 and £4 unwaged. The pipers are Callum Beaumont, Finlay Johnston, Stuart Liddell, Iain Speirs and all the way from Canada, last year’s double Gold Medallist, Ian K. MacDonald. Result here later.

Other events this weekend are band contests at Shotts and Cookstown, Northern Ireland, on Saturday and at Girvan and Markinch on Sunday. There are also solos at Markinch. Check here for results.


Top piper Donald McBride has sent this picture from 20 years ago. It’s of himself and myself guesting with the sorely missed Lothian & Borders Police band in 1997 when Donald’s brother Kenny was pipe major:

Donald writes: ‘Thought you’d like to see this. Twenty years ago. Me and thee 4th and 5th from left. That was the last time I wore a number one uniform. Strangely enough, I don’t miss it!’

It was an enjoyable trip. Sharing the bill with the L&Bs were blues legend BB King and Irish group the Corrs and we got to chat to them in the Green Room.

Donald has sent us some recordings of a recital he did in 2010. The playing is of the highest order, as good as anything you will hear. I hope to post it on the PP Audio Archive next week. Donald is one of the tutors at the New England Pipe and Drum Academy in a couple of weeks so if you live locally don’t miss the opportunity of lessons from him.



One for the diary with all proceeds going to the Govan Piping Project. Support this if you can. There’s great work being done for piping and drumming in this less well-off part of Glasgo


Lomond & Clyde Pipe Major David Wilton teaches piping at Dundee High School and reminds us: ‘We are looking to get a part time bagpipe instructor into the High School, as my position has grown past capacity.

‘Here is a description of the post linked from our website: http://www.highschoolofdundee.org.uk/about/working_for_the_school/instructor_of_bagpipes .’