PP Ed’s Blog: Worlds G1 Draw/ Donald’s Pipes/ Dick York/ Donald Campbell/ Solo Judges

Reader Ian Forbes on the Grade 1 Worlds qualifying draw… ‘I have several comments. The current system is to divide up the top six bands from last year’s results, and split them with three bands going into each heat with the other bands drawn at random. However, this system, while having its merits, does not take account of the current season’s results and there are two additional bands, Fife Police and Boghall unplaced in last year’s Worlds, that have been regularly placed this year. Both these latter bands are in Qual. Heat 1, meaning that there are five top bands (for six qualifying spaces) in this heat; Qual. Heat 2 has three seeded bands from last year’s results with three available spaces for qualification making this an easier heat.

‘Additionally, there are three New Zealand bands that did not attend last year’s championships; but when they did last attend the Worlds they have all been qualifiers. So how do we assess their current standing? It’s difficult, and unfortunately these three NZ bands are all in the same tough Qual. Heat 1. I admit there may not be a perfect system for making these draws, but the current system could be improved upon by taking into account this season’s results to date, and also the historical performance/geographical location of overseas bands that may not attend the Worlds every year.

‘I am not a current band player, so I have no axe to grind. All I am interested in is fairness. For many bands outside the elite, the qualifier is more important than the final itself. Many bands invest thousands of man-hours in practice, and thousands of pounds in travel to Glasgow Green, so in the interests of fair play and integrity, the RSPBA should ensure that the qualifier draw is as fair as possible and leave no stone unturned in tweaking the rules to achieve this.’

No one could disagree with any of that Ian and I am sure the hierarchy at the RSPBA will be taking note of your and many other comments on the qualifying set up. I still can’t believe that these NZ bands will travel all that way with the prospect of nothing to do on the main day but listen. Surely a ‘best of the rest’ G1 contest on the Saturday has to happen.

Here are the Friday draws courtesy the RSPBA:
Qual. 1: Johnstone (pictured), SLoT, SFU, Manawatu NZ, NZ Police, Canterbury Cal. NZ, Fife Police, PSNI, Inveraray, Boghall, Cap Caval – Brittany
Qual. 2: Glasgow Police, 78th Frasers, Lomond & Clyde, Shotts, Glasgow Skye, Vale of Atholl, FMM, Scottish Power, Denny &Dun., Buchan Peterson, Triumph St


More positive news about Donald MacPherson’s pipes has arrived from Australia. Dr Alastair McInnes, the piper who got to try the famed instrument, has written following our recent story. Dr McInnes confirms that until he tried them the pipes had not been played for six years and that despite the reported ‘drastic’ measures needed to get them going they are completely undamaged and still sounding as good as when Donald had them. They ‘tuned to perfection almost immediately and with incredible ease’, says the doctor. It was the most amazing experience he has ever had as a piper, he says. Dr McInnes also confirmed that the sale price was not £35,000 as we reported but £29,800 and that the owner bought another, similar, set of Lawries so that he could compare both. Read Dr McInnes’s letter here.



Does anyone remember the 60s TV sitcom ‘Bewitched’? Darren was the dopey husband to a lovely wife with magical powers. Darren was played by actor Dick York and after an accident on the set of an earlier film he suffered from severe back pain. Constant use of painkillers brought on an addiction and Wikipedia reports: ‘For the next 18 months York was largely bed-ridden in a haze of prescription painkillers. In his memoir, he describes the struggle to break his addiction… which led to six months of difficult withdrawal and recovery. ‘I had a band playing in my head; bagpipes night and day…..It just went on and on and on and on and on. . . . You can’t sleep. You hallucinate. I used to make a tape recording of rain so I could listen to the rain lying in bed at night to drown out those damned bagpipes.’ These nuggets of necessary knowledge are what PP is all about, don’t you think?

Dick York, Agnes Moorehead and Elizabeth Montgomery, the cast of ‘Bewitched’

I had occasion to visit Glasgow University the other week and was glad to see that they have a nice picture of the late Donald Campbell, piper to the former Vice Chancellor, on prominent display. It wasn’t so long ago I had Donald in at the College of Piping to sit his PDQB exams. Donald was a pupil of Kenny MacDonald and had Tiree connections. He was a fine piper and taken far too early.

Glasgow University piper Donald Campbell remembered

After his death his brother Alastair, former press secretary to Prime Minister Tony Blair and himself a piper, wrote a touching piece in the Sunday Times about Donald’s life long mental health difficulties. Much in vogue at the moment, the new attitude to mental health all came too late for Donald.


Judges and Torquil at Tobe….apple juice all round

One point that needs to be made about the judging fraternity is the genuine camaraderie among us – well most of us. I think this picture from Tobermory tells you all you need to know. Any difficulties that you may read about are very much the exception to the rule. It pays to get along, especially when you have to sit all afternoon or all day with colleagues on a bench. Talking of the games, I think the numbers of pipers having a tune are up this year. If I am correct, then well done to all those who have made the effort. I think the wonderful summer we have had here in Scotland has played its part, but nevertheless, good news all round. Still many weeks of competition left and let’s hope the momentum continues to build.


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