PP Ed’s Blog: SPJA/ Iolaire Disaster/ Joe Wilson/ St Andrews PB, Brisbane

The latest post on the Eagle Pipers Society blog has been brought to my attention and it is good to see its writer, Euan Anderson, has retained his sense of humour. He was the judge selected by the Solo Piping Judges Association to investigate the risible ‘sore arm gate’ complaint against me.

These kangaroo court inquiries against fellow judges are reprehensible and my advice to anyone asked to undertake them would be to give them a wide berth. There’s always lasting collateral damage. If the association gets a complaint it should facilitate a meeting between the parties and leave it at that.

Euan talks of the fraternal meetings the Eagles have and it is good to see that they are going from strength to strength in such a vein. The SPJA could learn a thing or two from them.


Canadian poet Karen Clavelle has written a long poem on the Iolaire disaster, the subject of the fine piobaireachd by P/M Donald MacLeod (pictured top). The book was launched last month and the tune was played in the background during the event. Karen, of the University of Manitoba, had written: ‘Having listened to the Lament for the Iolaire on your site, I would respectfully ask if I might have permission to use it at the launch for the book. Malcolm MacDonald of the Stornoway Historical Society kindly referred me to you. I would inquire at this time also, whether the score for the Lament would be available, a question raised by the past-president of our local St. Andrew’s Society. I will forward your response to him.’ The ground of Donald’s tune Karen:

The blurb for her book: December 31, 1918. The war to end all wars was over and nearly three hundred men were returning home to their families, long left behind. When the HMS Iolaire left port on her fateful journey she was overflowing with joyful soldiers who had survived the gun but would not survive the sea. It was the Beast of Holm that sank her that night, plunging the men into the frigid waters no more than 20 feet from shore. 205 died, 82 survived. Iolaire, Karen Clavelle’s debut collection of poetry, takes letters, news clippings and her own unique voice to stitch together one of the most tragic tales in maritime history. Get the book here.

On the Piobaireachd Society website you can listen to the tune played beautifully by Iain Speirs.



Regular correspondent Ken Rogers of Calgary has written following my mention of Joe Wilson a couple of weeks back: ‘Hi Rob, I am happy that you included a piece on P/M Joe Wilson.  I was in his class at the College. I can remember coming upstairs to make a cup of tea and you asked me how I was enjoying the class. I can’t remember verbatim what I said to you in the Principal’s Office, but it was that Joe was the ‘real thing’.  The Friday morning when I came to perform my recital I was properly dressed in my kilt, Argyll jacket, and highly polished shoes and Joe gave me his nod of approval. I passed my recital and had Joe sign my certificate.  He wrote a response to an email I sent him before he passed away and I will always remember him in his blue suit and tie standing at the doorway of our classroom. In my mind he was a gentleman and that’s not overstated.’ Hear, hear to that Ken. Joe’s sadly missed.


The St Andrews Pipe Band, Brisbane, have sent this: ‘The band has recently announced a new lead side, Brady Swan. He will take this position after the Australian Championships in April 2018. Having recently been placed 9th in the juvenile world side solos in 2017, Brady at 19 years old, becomes arguably the youngest-ever lead side of an Australian Grade 2 band. Brady has been lead side of the St Andrews College Pipe Band in NZ, past winners of the World Juvenile Pipe Band title in 2013. He has also been playing in the Canterbury Caledonian NZ Grade 1 Band for a number of years under James Laughlan.

The current St Andrews Brisbane Lead Side, Simon Want, had developed the side corp over the last seven years into a significant force in Grade 2 drum corps, with a large focus on dynamics and expression. He has led the corps in the band’s first and second tours in Scotland where in their 2017 attendance saw the corps be placed over some first grade corps in open competitions. Due to his work commitments however, Simon has decided to step down from the lead position and will remain in the St Andrews corps as drum corporal assisting Brady into the future.

St Andrews pictured at the Worlds

The Pipe Major, Wayne Kennedy, is delighted with the situation: ‘In line with our focus on younger players, it is great to welcome Brady into this position. But it is important to recognise how Simon has been a backbone of our band and our many achievements.  The fact that Simon will stay on to assist is testament to the stability and dedication within the band.’

The band has recently returned from the Worlds and lead up contests.  To which Wayne further adds: ‘The last few years, especially the two Scotland tours, have been a learning and development process for our band. We also found that the standard in the contests attended in Scotland had increased in 2017 than what it had been in 2015. But the experience gained by our players was priceless and this will be built-on for our return to the world stage in another couple of years where we will be stronger than before and a force to be reckoned with.’


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