PP Ed’s Blog: Judging Pupils/ Craig’s Book/Piob Concert/ Inverness Recital/ Black Watch Book

At risk of boring everyone rigid, myself included, I repeat again that I do not have any problem with suitably qualified individuals being part of a judging bench when they have a student playing provided the usual declaration of interest is observed. Senior pipers must judge AND teach if we are to keep producing our Gordon Walkers, our Stuart Liddells, the Angus MacColls. 

However, it sticks in the craw rather when you see arch advocates of the ‘don’t judge your students’ policy doing just that. It is happening.  Have these witch hunters in chief no shame?  

I also believe that the Competing Pipers Association are wrong to ask their members to put the pipes back in the box when, on arriving at a contest, they discover a tutor on the bench. Often the piper will be unaware that their tutor has been hired and just want to have a tune – and will have probably committed a lot of time and money to do so. This CPA ruling, like the CLASP one mentioned last week, is a restrictive practice. We need to slacken off the underwear a little guys.


Craig Turnbull

Former Duncan Johnstone student and Glasgow Skye and City of Glasgow piper Craig Turnbull has put together an interesting volume of tunes known as ‘Second City Culture’ (Glasgow was once dubbed the British Empire’s ‘second city’). Craig, who learned the pipes in the 278th Glasgow Company of the Boys’ Brigade, writes: ‘Many of the tunes in this collection were played by ‘the City’ and others were inspired by events and by individuals who played in the band. My thanks go to those who have been kind enough to let me use their tunes.

‘To Kenny MacKenzie, David Wotherspoon, Dougie Pincock and to Scott Wood, I am eternally grateful. Thanks also must go to Lorne McDougall and to the late, great Duncan Johnstone for arranging two of my tunes that I simply could not. The wish of any composer is to write something that someone else likes and plays. For me, that wish came true over 25 years ago. Some years later, Ryan Canning decided a couple of them were actually worth publishing.’

Craig has kindly made the volume available as a download via Piping Press. There is a nominal £1.50 charge to cover tech fees. See link above.



 The Edinburgh Fringe Festival programme is launched today (June 6) and gives me an opportunity to plug the Piobaireachd Society’s concert being held as part of the festival on August 12. The venue is St Cecilia’s Hall and the pipers are Callum Beaumont, Glenn Brown, Jamie Forrester and Ian K MacDonald. This is a unique event whereby each piper will launch into his chosen tune as the other leaves the stage – no tuning. Tickets are £10 (£8). Get them via the Fringe programme by clicking on the poster.


Alastair Campbell, Secretary, Inverness Piping Society: ‘Following on from a very well attended meeting last month with featured piper DJ MacIntyre, our next society meeting tonight (6 June) will feature a local feature piper double act of father and son Lewis and Gordon Barclay. Please do come along for an informal evening of piping and chat.’


Alastair Duthie, formerly P/M in the Black Watch is writing a book on pipers of his old regiment from 1725 till 2006. He’d like as many readers as possible who have a family connection with the regiment to get in touch, particularly those associated with the founders of the Red Hackle Pipe Band. Read Alastair’s letter in full on our Letters page.

In the picture up top the Black Watch are pictured piping at the funeral of US President John F Kennedy.


The Scotsman newspaper reported last week: ‘A Canadian bagpiper who generated huge public support after being fined for carrying a sgian dubh 18 months ago has had his case dropped and his knife returned. Jeff McCarthy from Montreal was carrying what authorities deemed to be a weapon in November 2016 while taking a break during a performance and was fined $221. Now, after months of appealing, the charges, which came from McCarthy carrying the traditional item – made by Loch Ness craftsman Rab Gordon – in his sock, have been dropped and his fine cancelled. But McCarthy has warned that as the case did not reach court and there was no decision made, other bagpipers in Canada could be at risk of the same happening in the future.

Piper Jeff

‘He told Scotland on Sunday that he wanted Montreal law to be changed to match Scottish laws which state that if someone is carrying a knife ‘as part of national dress’, they have a defence against prosecution. He said: ‘We would have liked it to go before the judge because we would have liked it to set a precedent; people who don Highland dress are not doing so for nefarious purposes and as such it should be recognised in a small amendment to the bylaw.’ The fine triggered uproar in Montreal’s Scottish community. Lawyer Daniel F O’Connor, former president of the St Andrew’s Society of Montreal, who agreed to represent McCarthy pro bono, claimed at the time of the fine that while there is a bylaw that prohibits the possession of a knife in public without a reasonable excuse, the piper had a legitimate reason because he was taking part in a performance at McGill University. McCarthy says he was stopped by three police officers who questioned him about the hilt of the Sgian Dubh, which was sticking out of his sock…..’

Read more here.


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