PP Ed’s Blog: Glasgow Pic/ Mary MacLeod/ Beattie Collection/ Games News/ NI President’s Charity

My comments on the Lament for Mary MacLeod (see British Championships 2018 – Grade 1 Review) may have baffled some non-piobaireachd players in the pipe band world but you can listen to the whole 12 minute or so tune here (scroll down the page a bit) played by maestro Donald MacPherson and you might get an idea of what I was talking about.

To pick and mix ‘tuney’ sections of ceol mor is to misunderstand what the music is about. Playing selected portions in this way renders them out of context with the whole composition. They were never meant to be played in isolation from it.

It does not encourage piobaireachd playing to do this, it demeans it. Scottish Power are not alone I have to say. At a Piobaireachd Society recital at Piping Live last year or maybe the year before, we heard the same thing with some of our top players guilty. Thus we had the ‘tuney’ variation from Lord Lovat and snatches from the Lament for the Children.

Whilst technically pretty easy to manage, piobaireachd is not easy to grasp musically. It most certainly is not slow airs dressed up with a few weird bits of technique. You need instruction to get a proper handle on it and like anything worth having it takes time and application to fully understand and absorb. We do this great music no service by cannibalising it.


Isn’t that a great picture up top? We are grateful to piping historian Keith Sanger for supplying it. Keith writes: ‘The attached picture comes from the Glasgow City archive, piping as it was in the dear green place circa 1900. Notice, apart from the pipes obviously being borrowed from a right shoulder player, the built-in air conditioning for the building.’ Here’s the full pic:


Some of us noticed the absence of Leading Drummer Mick O’Neill from the snare section of Fife Police last Saturday. I hear that Mick has been unwell but hopes to be back leading his corps at some point during the season. All the best to you Mick and I am sure the lads and lassies doing so well on Saturday will have cheered you up.


Stephen Beattie of the Black Watch Association (Stoke on Trent) Pipe Band has produced an interesting new book of pipe music. The ‘Beattie Collection’ has 47 tunes all very well laid out. There is also a selection of photographs relating to the band and the author’s family. In his acknowledgements Stephen says that he wrote his first tune in 1990 and has continued to write tunes ‘on and off’ since. He also expresses his thanks to, among others, his first tutor James (Hamish) Thow, Pipe Major of the Dumfries Royal British Legion Pipe Band. Contact Stephen here.



News from the games. David Girvan writes: Hello Piping Press, Girvan Attractions, the organisers of the Carrick Lowland Gathering, are holding their third Juvenile Solo Piping Competition on the 3rd June 2018. The only problem is we are two weeks away and not have one entry and some of our usual competitors are elsewhere. Is there any way you could help us get the word out there or any suggestion how we can advertise. This is our online entry form – https://www.girvanattractions.co.uk/juvenile-piping.php

P/M Ian McLellan: Just a quick message to let you know that Helensburgh Highland Games are re-introducing solo piping this year. Just light music to start with and if they get a good entry will in all probability introduce ceol mor. The date is the Sat 2nd June. The contact is Sephton McQuire, mobile no.:  07739049176.  He should be able to give you more information if required.

Check out the PP Guide to the Games here. I have also heard a whisper that Crieff may be re-starting their solo contests. Can anyone confirm?


An interesting letter from Duncan Watson re the article on the John MacFadyen double at the Northern Meeting from the Oban Times. Duncan writes:…‘John W Riach was the Pipe Major. He was known as ‘Carra’, a name given to him by Pipe Major Donald Maclean of the Seaforths. Carra was a piper in the regiment and was stationed for a period at Fort George. He become close friends with Pipe Major Donald MacLeod. As a result of this friendship Carra obtained set tune tape recordings from Donald….’ 

Two other letters concerning the article on Charles MacLeod Williamson are also published today. Read all letters here.


John Kelly reports: Winston Pinkerton, President of RSPBANI, launched his new chosen charity, Air Ambulance Northern Ireland, at its operational base in Lisburn. Collections will now take place at the Province’s band competitions throughout the season. Mr Pinkerton said: ‘The reason I chose Air Ambulance Northern Ireland is because I personally witnessed their work when my nephew had a very serious motorcycle accident. This service without doubt saves lives.’

Over £11,000 was raised from collections during the 2016 and 2017 NI championships season. The 2018 roster is:  Enniskillen (26th May), Cookstown (Saturday 2nd June), Lurgan (Saturday 9th June), Stormont (Saturday 16th June), Antrim (Saturday 23rd June), Glenarm (Saturday 14thJuly), Newcastle (Saturday 21st July), Moira (Saturday 4th August) and Portrush (Saturday 11th August).


6 thoughts on “PP Ed’s Blog: Glasgow Pic/ Mary MacLeod/ Beattie Collection/ Games News/ NI President’s Charity

  1. True that Piobaireachd is best on a perfect pipe in a perfect venue and we’ll hear that at the concert in St Cecilia’s Hall Edinburgh on 12th August. But Scottish Power didn’t cannibalise it. They did something wacky with it, bringing it to the attention of a wider audience. Hearing the Mary MacLeod melody might just make a few few folk say “lets get into this”. That must be good.

    1. It reminds me of the popularity of ‘Highlight’ recordings in classical music. Few will listen to an entire Fidelio, but a great many will enjoy the Prisoners Chorus. I see both points of view. I feel something akin to pain (LOL) when someone informs me that they love Fidelio when they mean that beautiful Prisoners Chorus which is SO wonderful and which is on the Highlights from Opera CD in the car. . I think aaaaargh it’s removed from it’s ‘out of this world’ context, and they’re missing so much by not listening to the entire thing. And also that it does it a huge injustice, to extract a nice tune bit as if that’s it. And in the process, perhaps to ‘nice-tune-it’ a bit more and square it up a bit. It’s perhaps in line with fast food, and quick response everything. On the other hand, if thousands are attracted to Beethoven or even specifically Fidelio through the profundity and beauty of the Prisoners Chorus, and of those a handful go further and investigate the whole piece, that seems to make it so worthwhile. And heck, if people enjoy a McDonalds, why not. Let them get on with it. Long may they enjoy, and feel free to pick as they choose from the vast buffet of music in our world. Interesting though that I picked Fidelio —the great rescue opera.

      1. I have never known anyone to be introduced to ceol mor in this way. Usually they are enticed in and are disappointed when they find that most of the music does not conform to the slow air melodic parameters that they understand and thought they were about to enjoy. As a result of this disappointment they are turned off rather than turned on. It is the piping equivalent of Classic FM radio. Play the tuney bits of symphonies and operas for popular appeal. Justify piobaireachd by saying that MacIntosh’s Lament has Dvorak in it; that BBC SSO founder Ian Whyte thought the Lament for the Children the greatest one line melody ever written. This approach is self defeating as the music so promoted is seen ultimately (and wrongly) as a fraud by those prime time converts gathering on first base. I am with Janet on that. Ceol mor is what it is. Don’t deface or defame or cannibalize in an effort to imbue your pipe band with some sort of musical superiority.

    2. verb [with object]
      1 use (a machine) as a source of spare parts for another, similar machine: cannibalizing two broken-down cars might provide spare parts to make one working car.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.