Winning the Clasp competition at the Northern Meeting or the Senior Piobaireachd event at the Argyllshire Gathering is the height of achievement for any piper. To win one is defining – to win three of either before your are aged 30 is remarkable. Only a very special piper is capable of such a feat – which brings us neatly to the Editor’s chat with 2018 Clasp winner Callum Beaumont……
Callum began by talking of his decision to include his winning tune. Farewell to the Queen’s Ferry, by Captain John MacLellan: ‘It was actually a last minute decision. I’d been through the full list [of prescribed tunes] trying to pick my four and in many ways I thought the Queen’s Ferry was the most difficult tune I could have selected. But I like a challenge and it is maybe one of my strong points in that I pick those types of tunes. They work for me.’
This was his third Clasp aged only 29; did he think he might overtake Donald MacPherson’s record of nine? ‘I don’t think so!’
The bagpipe? Anything different? ‘Not really. I changed from my full silver McCallums last year and I have been playing the new MacRae pipes from McCallums pretty much all year. Other than that the chanter’s the same, drone reeds are the same, bag’s the same. I’ve been really happy with these drones they seem to be working well for me.’
Callum left Inveraray & District Pipe Band after their Worlds win last year. Had that afforded him more time for the solos? ‘Definitely, although I still have a huge band committment with Dollar Academy and that extends throughout the summer as well. That said, Inveraray had such a great solo style of playing that it wasn’t so different from the solos. But I do think being able to just concentrate solely on my own work has helped, and the March, Strathspey and Reel yesterday showed that. [Callum also won the ‘A’ grade MSR at the Northern Meeting meaning he now qualifies for the Former Winners’ event.]
‘I do miss the bands but it is almost worth it when you get the Clasp. However, as I say, I do have band involvement with Dollar. We won the Grand Slam of all five major championships with the Novice A band this year so all in all it has been quite a year for me.’
Alan Forbes, Piping Convener of the Northern Meeting said the event, held in the Highland capital since 1841, had been a huge success. ‘We had a record entry for our competitions and we enjoyed two days of outstanding piping. We had over 100 competitors taking part and at any one time there were eight different competitions taking place. As always, we had a large contingent from overseas which adds to the colour of the occasion and this year we had more junior pipers travelling from across the globe. This is great to see and hopefully means their enthusiasm and appetite for competing at the Northern Meeting will see it continue for many more years to come.’
He added: ‘I want to congratulate all our winners and extend particular congratulations to Angus MacColl, overall champion, for once again winning the Northern Meeting Quaich.’ In the picture up top Angus is pictured on the banks of the Ness with the precariously perched Quaich.
There was also a special gift presented to Jack Lee from Surrey, British Columbia, for his commitment to the contest. Jack has been travelling to Inverness to take part in it for 40 years.
Alan said: ‘Having someone coming year in year out all the way from Vancouver for four decades really does show how special and prestigious this contest is. However, we also wanted to recognise Jack’s commitment to our competition and to the encouragement of piping in Canada. Travelling from overseas is costly, yet every year Jack has made the journey to compete with us.’
• Stay tuned for the Editor’s thoughts on this year’s NM.