PP Ed’s Blog: Piping on Skye/ Ian McLellan/ Strachur/Coatbridge Bands/ Tradfest

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The Donald MacDonald Quaich will be held on Friday 15 June 2018, 7.30pm – 9.30pm at Armadale Castle, Sleat, Skye. Five pipers, last year’s winner Callum Beaumont, Glenn Brown, Alasdair Henderson, Iain Speirs and Craig Sutherland will take part. The judge is to be Allan MacDonald brother of the organiser Dr Angus MacDonald. Each piper will receive £1,000 with a further £1,000 for the winner.

It is good to see that the invites to such a lucrative pay day have gone to those who deserve it. Alasdair and Craig are last year’s Gold Medallists, Glenn and Iain won the 2018 senior piobaireachd events at Oban and Inverness and Callum is the holder of the Quaich.

Callum Beaumont, the winner, Stuart Liddell and Finlay Johnston at the 2017 Quaich

Am I alone in immediately being struck by the contrast between the wealth of this event and the demise of the Silver Chanter on the same island? On the one hand we have a situation where there is ‘nae cash’ for a contest of long-standing and at which we hear the greatest music ever composed for the pipes and at the other an event with ‘loadsamoney’ where we hear settings of dubious provenance and dubious tradition – and that’s putting it mildly. Could the organisers not have got together to keep both going?

To lighten the load during the evening at the Quaich there will be songs from the wonderful Gaelic singer Christine Primrose.

When I was up visiting P/M Ian McLellan to discuss his former P/M Tommy Shearer he gave me a copy of this picture of him as a young boy with his first practice chanter: Ian is pictured with his father, mother and grandfather. The man on the right is the legendary Alex Ibell who taught boys in the 214 BB, myself included, how to play. Alex was a friend of Ian’s father. They worked together on Sunderland flying boats at Blackburn Aircraft in Dumbarton during WW2. Alex cycled everywhere (hence the plus fours) and had arrived at Shandon (near Helensburgh on the Firth of Clyde) clutching the practice chanter Ian holds and a copy of Logan’s Tutor.

Alex collected fruit at the farm for his wife’s jam making and being the man he was, saw a new recruit in Ian. What great things sprang from these two acts of kindness!  I don’t need to rehearse Ian’s career but if you need to brush up on this pipe band legend click here.

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That well-deserved Balvenie Medal winner Catherine Paton continues her great work for piping. Kate has sent in details of the 40th annual summer school to be run by the Strachur and District Piping Association from July 2 -6 inclusive in Strachur Memorial Hall and pavilion catering for beginner chanters through to under 18 yrs on bagpipe. Other details: Certificates – yes; Group size – no more than seven in each group; Meals – Bring packed lunch or can purchase lunch; Overnight accommodation on request; Concert on Friday evening; Tuition – classes from 10 to 3.30pm; Workshops on tuning, maintenance, time signatures; Piobaireachd offered to all piping groups; Beginner chanters group: competition held on Friday afternoon; All breaks are supervised.

Busy….Strachur Summer School

The Association was started in 1968 to promote piping in the district, particularly among the youth of the area. Regular concerts and ceilidhs are held in the Memorial Hall and there is free tuition given to young pipers on Friday nights throughout the year. From almost its inception the Association has held a Piping Competition and 5 day Summer School at the start of the school summer holidays. These were inaugurated by Mr Niall Campbell BEM of Succoth who also started, and was Pipe Major of, the Dunoon Grammar School Pipe Band. So the links with the Grammar School are very strong and the summer events are jointly sponsored and held across the Memorial Hall and Strachurmore Pavilion. The annual Strachur junior competition is on 6th October. Details from Jean Gibson on gibsonjean@talk21.com or by calling 01369 860744.


I don’t know why more bands don’t support the Glasgow & West of Scotland Branch full band contest to take place at Coatbridge High School this Sat (April 28). I would have thought it would have been an ideal warm up for the season. Here’s the draw:

G4B and NJ B
1 13:40 Kilbarchan 2 13:48 Renfrewshire Schools
3 13:56 Strathendrick 4 14:04 North Lanarkshire Schools N/JB
5 14:12 Rothesay and District 6 14:20 Uddingston Strathclyde
7 14:28 Scottish Fire & Rescue Service

G4A and NJA
1 14:50 Kilsyth Thistle 2 14:58 Fraserburgh RBL

1 15:10 North Lanarkshire School N/JB 2 15:18 George Heriot’s School 3 15:26 North Lanarkshire School Juv

Grade 3
1 15:40 Johnstone 2 15:48 Milngavie 3 15:56 Fraserburgh RBL

Grade 2
1 16:10 George Heriot’s School 2 16:19 Johnstone
3 16:28 North Lanarkshire School Juv 4 16:37 Milngavie

A fresh take on the piobaireachd A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick can be experienced in Edinburgh on Monday (April 30). The blurb reads: ‘Fresh as today’s headlines, a contemporary story of murder, treachery and revenge based on a tale from the annals of Highland clan history.

‘Musicians Calum MacCrimmon, John Mulhearn (Breabach, Tryst, Big Music Society) and storyteller David Francis lay out the story of Skelly Pat, Big Donnie, Devil MacKay and Mad Dog Mackenzie, in words and music drawn from the famous and dramatic pibroch, A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick.’ Here’s the link for tickets.

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