PP Ed’s Blog: Skye Concert/ Two-Drone Pipes/ Paisley Cancelled/ Ayr Society PB

A great night of good music looks in store on the island of Skye tonight. If you are on the island or anywhere close, get along to hear Skye Piping Society’s concert featuring Patrick Molard, all the way from Brittany, Brighde Chaimbeul and Gaelic singer Isla MacLeod (see poster above). Tickets are £7/£4.

Re the two-drone bagpipe item I carried last week, Avi Bloomenstiel of Dallas, Texas, has written: ‘According to the Library of Congress’s Print & Media Archives, the two-drone piper poster was printed by David Allen & Sons, Ltd. in Dublin in 1915.’ Avi points us to this website which has the following: ‘The modern two-droned pipes were in use in Ireland in the 1800s. While pipers were not listed on the official rolls of the Irish regiments, unofficial pipers were in every regiment. These two droned sets were being played by both military and civilian pipers.

‘Henry Starck, a London musical instrument maker, and some other makers in Ireland began to market this unique Irish instrument. In 1893 the Gaelic League was founded to promote Irish Language, culture, sport and arts. The League strongly promoted a return to the pipes as a Gaelic instrument. The two droned pipe was the instrument favored by the League’s members. This instrument was seen not just all over Ireland, but was favored by Irish Nationalist movement in England as well. The warpipe was used in the Irish music competitions including the All Ireland’s of the day.

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‘Rebel groups like the Cork Volunteer (IRA) pipe band and others including solo pipers like Louis Noble, began to develop all over Ireland. Photos of both the Cork Volunteers and Louis Noble are in the galleries on this site. When the army made pipers and bands official in the Irish regiments they required the use of two-droned sets and saffron kilts for a true Irish identity. Contrary to belief, the army did not invent the saffron kilt or the two-droned warpipe.

‘The two-droned warpipe stayed in use by the army until 1968 when the existing Irish regiments were amalgamated to form the Royal Irish Rangers and the three droned Highland pipe became the standard instrument. With the demise of the warpipe in the army, the civilian use of the instrument began to fade. The last known civilian band to use the instrument, the Deptford Irish Pipe Band, played its last performance on New Year’s Eve 2006. Most of the members were WWII veterans who carried on the proud tradition as long as they could……

‘The first known warpipe band in London was the Borough Pipe Band. It was founded in 1892 and was still performing in 2003. This band was followed by several Boys Brigade Pipe Bands including Haverstock Hill Catholic Boys Brigade which contributed a good number of drummers to the London Irish Rifles 2nd Btn.’s WWI pipe band. By the 1920s the Canning Town Brian Boru Pipe Band, Tottenham Irish Pipe Band and the Great Western Railway Pipe band were active in London. The 1930s saw the ascendancy of the Dagenham Town Irish Pipe Band. ‘In 1931 the Ford Motor Company closed its works in Ireland’s county Cork and moved its operation to a newly built facility in Dagenham, London. In the transferred Irish workforce were pipers and drummers from the Cork Volunteer Pipe Band. These musicians immediately formed the Dagenham Town Irish Pipe Band. When WWII began many of these Irish joined the London Irish Rifles. These included Tim McCarthy, Alan Nicholson, Eddie, Toddie and Jack Shanahan, Pat O’Brien, Sandy O’Callaghan and George Willis.’

Ailean Nicholson (as he preferred to be known) was a regular on the London scene for many years. He would attend the Bratach Gorm contest and composed many tunes all in the Irish style. I still have some of them somewhere. 

Dave Livingstone of Galashiels also writes: ‘I’m no expert, but the Royal Irish Fusiliers certainly played two-drone pipes. Alex Peters (who sadly passed away at the end of last year) transferred from the Cameron Highlanders as their Pipe Major and is pictured [the pictured has been reversed – pipes should be on the left shoulder] playing two drone pipes on the 1964 North Irish Brigade band’s tour of the USA: 
Thanks to Dave and Avi for the info.

The RSPBA’s Glasgow & West of Scotland Branch has announced that they have cancelled this year’s contest due be held at Paisley on July 21. Get the full 2018 run down of contests here.
Still with the bands, Margaret McGarva has written looking for some help: ‘Hi, My dad Tony McGarva was in Ayr Pipe Band and I wondered if you had  any photos of the band in the ’60s? Thank you in anticipation.’ I’m afraid the oldest we have Margaret is the one above from 1977. Can any reader help her?

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