A Quick Look Back Over the Summer

Looking back over the summer I think it would be fair to say that it has provided a thoroughly enjoyable few months of piping and pipe band music, writes the Editor. All the band contests seemed to go off well, certainly the majors did. My only grumble, as you will have read earlier, is that it all finishes a few weeks too early. It will be worse next year with the Worlds reverting to its second weekend in August slot. I hope the powers that be give some thought to extending the season. If Cowal were conducive to change there’s might be an alternative to my earlier suggestion of a fresh ‘Champion of Champions’ event on the Ayrshire coast.


Yesterday’s report by Alan Clark must have given everyone a jolt. We don’t like to read of such foul ups do we? I hope the promoters and volunteers will react positively and, along with President Glenn Brown and the CPA, get things sorted out in plenty of time for next year. However I hear disturbing noises that Perth might be about to ‘do a Crieff’ and cancel solo piping altogether. Let’s hope not. This is what happens when the cracks appear. Before long another games committee with little commitment to piping solves all their problems with the ‘hire a pipe band’ solution. We all need to do what we can to prevent this idea spreading. Expansion is what we need not diminution. All these superstar indoor contests are not helping. Very few Gold Medallists turn out at the games any more, though well done to Angus MacColl, Glenn Brown and Calum Beaumont in this regard.


Talking of which I do hope the National Piping Centre, after successfully continuing the Silver Chanter, can now turn their thoughts to restoring it to its rightful home on the isle of Skye. The College of Piping used to run this showpiece from Otago Street after all. If the chief at Dunvegan is playing hard ball then hire the Aros Centre. All the pipers will be in Portree that day and many would stay on for the evening. Tourists would pack the place. The Skye Gathering contests at the home of piping will continue to suffer without the Chanter. Only three played in the Colonel Jock Clasp.

Iain Speirs, winner of the 2018 Silver Chanter; picture courtesy Derek Maxwell

I am a little bit surprised that the William Grant Foundation who bankroll the Chanter did not insist on its being returned to its Hebridean home. After all part of their mission statement is to help the arts and culture in rural areas. Piping in the Central Belt is coming out of our ears.


Jim MacMillan and his pupil Jack Lee

I congratulated Jack Lee on his well-deserved long service award at the Northern Meeting. I said that I was perhaps one of the few people in the hall who heard both his 1981 performances which won him the Gold Medal and the Former Winners’ MSR. Jack said that he remembered seeing me with my Afro hairdo. I wrote to Jim MacMillan, Jack’s teacher at the time (though he had had his winning tune Black Donald from Jimmy McIntosh). Jim (MacMillan) was thrilled as I described Jack’s superb playing and the way it galvanised the huge crowd. It was the early days of Eden Court and they seemed to get much better support back then.

You may not have heard of Jim MacMillan but he was a legendary figure in Western Canada. He studied with Captain John MacLellan at the Castle during WW2 but such was Jim’s ability I think Captain John would have learned much from Jim too. You will get an idea of Jim’s esteem when you realise that the famous blind piper Archie MacNeill (Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oban) composed a tune for him. It goes well. Here are the first two parts: 

Get the rest here:


Journalist and musician Erik Spence who I met at Inverness for the first time in about 30 years has forwarded this video filmed from the TV from the 1982 National Mod.


Patricia Grant, compiler of the John Milne Fine Arts Grampian Games Piping League, has sent this: ‘Calum Brown has again won the Light Music League and also came second in the Piobaireachd League which was won by Allan Russell (pictured top). This, I think, is Allan’s third win since the leagues were inaugurated. Anna Kummerlöw and Gordon Barclay shared third place and I would be obliged if Duncan Watson could give Anna £30 and I will reimburse him. I would also be obliged if Gordon could send me his address so that I can get his prize money. I would also be obliged if someone could let me have Alan Clark’s address. In the Juniors, Liam Brown won both leagues however I would be obliged if Angus MacPhee could let me have his address along with contact details for Joshua Reilly and Anna Smart. I also need to know if Anna Amal and Anna Smart are one and the same person. I am aware that Luke Kennedy plays with the Shotts band so I should be able to get a contact from them. This is the end of another season and I would like to thank all who helped me compile this league. I wish you all well for 2019. Please advise any alterations. Regards,  Patricia p.grant18@btinternet.com

Well done to Patricia and the sponsor and to everyone involved; the only problem I can see with the above is getting the money out of Watson!

Snr. Piob. 1 Allan Russell 2 Calum Brown 3 equal Anna Kummerlöw/Gordon Barclay 4 equal Ben Duncan, Grieg Canning, Alan Clark, Gordon McCready 5 equal Edward Gaul, Edward McIlwaine 6 equal Jonathan Simpson, James MacKenzie, John MacDonald, Jori Chisholm 7 equal Bradley Boxall, Dr Jack Taylor, Cameron MacDougall

Snr. LM 1 Calum Brown 2 Alan Clark 3 Allan Russell 4 Ben Duncan 5 equal Gordon Barclay, John MacDonald 6 Greig Canning 7 equal John Dew, Calum Watson 8 equal Andrew Hall, Anna Kummerlöw, Ben McClamrock, Nick Hudson, Finlay Cameron 9 equal David Duncan, Jonathan Simpson, James MacKenzie 10 James MacPetrie 11 Edward Gaul 12 equal Bruce MacDonald, Keith Christie, Craig Wilson, Gary MacKay, Cameron MacDougall

Jnr. Piob. 1 Liam Brown 2 equal Luke Kennedy, Joshua Reilly 3 Anna Small 4 Robbie Allan

Jnr. LM 1 Liam Brown 2 Joshua Reilly 3 Anna Smart 4 Robbie Allan 5 Owen Chalmers 6 Josh Davidson 7 Caryn Strachan 8 equal Calum Robertson, Campbell Wilson 9 Calum Barton, Abbie Wright, Luke Kennedy 10 Thomas Stevenson, Ciara Anderson, Calan Daniels 11 Robert Howie, Stuart Paterson, Brodie Watson-Massey 12 equal Andrea Yeats, Angus MacPhee


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2 thoughts on “A Quick Look Back Over the Summer

  1. Rab, thanks for the picture of Jimmy McMillan. Brings back many fond memories for me. I took lessons from Jimmy for a few years in the mid-80s. As a testimony to Archie MacNeill’s fondness for Jimmy, he willed his pipes to Jimmy over more-immediate family members. Jimmy was very proud of this. At last I heard , the pipes were still in the McMillan family in the Vancouver area.

    I can still see the twinkle in Jimmy’s eye and the tobacco pipe in his mouth as he gave lessons in his basement (low ceilings!). Of course, he was so very proud of Jack Lee’s accomplishments. Yes, “#1 Teacher” as the hat says.

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