PP Ed’s Blog: Northern Meeting Names/ Capt. John Contest Draw/ Worlds Pictures/ Tom Knobel, South Africa

Thanks to Greig Canning for supplying the missing names and awards from in Tuesday’s picture from the 2004 Northern Meeting at Inverness rerun above.

Names and prizes are (standing l – r):  James Beaumont (‘B’ S&R), Alastair Dunn (Silver Medal), Ian K MacDonald (‘A’ H&J), Richard Hawke (‘A’ MSR), Simon McKerral (2nd ‘A’ MSR), P/M Michael Gray (Dress & Deportment?), and Donald MacPhee (2nd Gold Medal). Seated from the left we see Faye Henderson (U-15 March), Billy Stewart (2nd U-15 March), James MacKenzie (1st U-18 MSR & Jnr. Piob.), Ewen Henderson (2nd Jnr. Piob.) , Fraser Maitland (3rd U-18 MSR) and Ross McCrindle (‘B’ March).

Worlds winners pictures

The fine set of pictures of trophy winners from this year’s Worlds and printed in this month’s Pipe Band Magazine are available in high resolution for anyone who is interested in a hard copy print of their big day. A high resolution digital copy of your chosen image is perfect for printing and for framing. Your digital copy will be emailed as soon as possible thereafter. What you get is the picture file NOT a hard copy print. Simply save the picture file to a USB drive and take it to your nearest photographic print centre or order your print online from a company which has a hard copy print service.

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The draws  for Saturday’s Captain John MacLellan Memorial contest are published below though on first look there appear to be some discrepancies. For example Faye Henderson is listed for the B MSR but not the A Piob though she won this contest a year ago. Perhaps the organisers could forward any corrections/ updates. The contest is held at the Army School of Piping, Redford Barracks, Edinburgh, from 9am. Refreshments and good piping available all day. 

Former President of the Scottish Piping Society of the Witwatersrand, Alan Munro, has sent this tribute to the late society secretary and adjudicator Tom Knobel: ‘We came into contact with one another in the mid-1980s, when we worked together at the ‘good old’ Gold Fields of South Africa head office. As a qualified lawyer, the part of Tom’s job, which really suited him was that which required  him to get out of the office to persuade land owners, usually farmers, to allow us to explore their land for possible ore deposits and if successful gain the right to mine those.

In terms of the applicable Roman Dutch common law, which prevailed in those days, the landowners also owned the rights to any minerals which lay on or below the surface of their land. However, these rights could be separated and sold or bequeathed to other parties. This was before all mineral rights were nationalised.

To gain the right to explore any piece of land one might have to reach an agreement with the owner regarding access to his land and preferably an option over the mineral rights, from whoever then owned them, rather than an outright purchase agreement. This was therefore a complicated business rendered all the trickier if the owners thought the ‘verdomde Engelse’ were trying to cheat them out of a bonanza which they could realise for themselves. It was thus up to Tom and his colleagues to gain their confidence and trust as honest brokers.

This could take a long time, perhaps years, but he was very successful at it, being an obviously hard-working, humble and honest man without any inclination to impose himself, or his acquisition offers, on them.  He also enjoyed being out and about interacting with a wide range of solid people rather than being endlessly cooped up with the same old ‘head office wallahs’. Another attribute of Tom’s which contributed to this success was his quiet enthusiasm,  his sense of humour and of fun plus the ability to mock himself.

His smile was always ready and genuine. Our interaction was invariably in the office and included the time after he stepped into the breach in 1988 as Honorary Secretary to the (then) Scottish Piping Society of the Witwatersrand (now of Southern Africa). The Society was at a rather low ebb having recently lost its President following  a most unfortunate incident. Tom had big boots to fill taking over from a very long serving Honorary Secretary, the legendary Nick Kinsey. He did this with aplomb and served in that capacity for five years continuing as an Executive Committee member for a number more. He contributed significantly in these capacities to keeping the Society’s head above water through a very lean period.

He also contributed as a competitive player with a developing passion for piobaireachd. He helped organise the schools, recitals and judging for visiting pipers brought out from Scotland by the Society for this purpose. He established a strong bond with one such, Murray Henderson, whose residential schools Tom attended and received the first class grounding which set him on a road which led to his role in the judging of some of the premier South African piobaireachd contests. There exists a photograph of Tom and Murray attempting to ease a motorcar along a very muddy fish farm road – which is amusing enough but better yet is that both are stripped to their underwear in order to save their clothes from ruination

Tom’s support of the Society continued right up until his untimely death which is mourned by so many. Our ways parted shortly before Gold Fields fell into the hands of controlling shareholders who were bean counters without any passion for mining and who had no understanding of the merit of group concept. The ensuing castration of Gold Fields proved a blessing in disguise for Tom – he went out on his own and built a very successful small business based not only on his understanding and  experience in the field of mineral rights but also the more extensive related legal aspects of establishing a mining proposition. His clients included foreign investors who quickly recognised him for what he was – someone with whom one could easily establish a rock solid business relationship – a person best described as the salt of the earth.

Over the last twenty years we had little more intimate contact with one another than a few beers together at various the piping contests where he had judged. This contact has sufficed to claim him as a very good friend of long-standing – not all that close but close enough to know that nothing would ever cause Tom to change from the infinitely likeable, warm, straightforward, honest, trustworthy and loyal man that he was, in fact a true gentleman.

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