PP Ed’s Blog: Composing Contest/ Historic Cowal Pictures/ Tune Search

Welcome back! I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had an enjoyable and fulfilling time. I can say, festivities excepted, that the judges for the John Cruickshank VC composing competition have been hard at work.

P/Ms Ian McLellan, Stuart Liddell, Richard Parkes and myself have narrowed the 42 entries down to three finalists and will be spending the next couple of days identifying the best tune for the £1,000 first prize.

It has not been easy. Some entries had perhaps a good melodic idea but it failed to develop. Others were outside the idiom we were looking for. Some were too reminiscent of other tunes.

We can say, I think, that the quality of entries overall was very high. Having only nine notes, the bagpipe taxes creative skills like no other musical instrument and most composers rose to the challenge.



I feel confident in saying that at the conclusion of our deliberations we will have a tune worthy of Mr Cruickshank and his incredible WW2 bravery.

We should have an announcement in the next week or so.

To all you composers, please keep the creative juices flowing. There’s a £500 first prize on offer for the 2018 Shasta Piping Society’s Piobaireachd Composing Contest.

Click here for more

We conclude our list of interesting photographs from the 1953 Cowal programme courtesy Clive Douglas. Check out the earlier photographs here.

The picture up top is, as you can see, of the 1951 ‘World Juvenile Champions’, Dundonald Colliery band.

I wonder if Bob Shepherd or Andrew Donaldson Snr. had any connection with this band. Can anyone help?

I take it that the RSPBA World Championship, first held at Murrayfield, Edinburgh, in 1947 was for Grade 1 only and that the lower grade titles were, in 1951, still retained by Cowal.

Or maybe the old timers in the Dundonald band still recognised Cowal as their Worlds and drew up the poster accordingly.

This next picture is of the 12th Paisley BB:

Finally a couple of other bands, Wishaw Highland and Bonhill Parish, and again I would be grateful for any background. Were Wishaw connected to Dalzell Highland, Alex Duthart etc?:


Reader Yves Tison: Hello from France. A friend of mine asked me for a title of a famous 6/8 march.

I know the tune but cannot remember the name. If anyone could help me it will be greatly appreciated.

The tune is played by the NZ pipe band beneath; follow link. Thanks:

It escapes me too Yves. Anyone help?


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6 thoughts on “PP Ed’s Blog: Composing Contest/ Historic Cowal Pictures/ Tune Search

  1. Dear Rab

    Re. the article on Wishaw Highland Pipe Band, my first piping tutor was Ian P. Duncan, of Shotts & Dykehead in the 1970s, and composer of Cullen Bay, Going to Pitlochry, P/S John Barclay, etc. He played in the Wishaw Highland band in his earlier career and I think you can see him in the picture on the far left of the middle row. The P/M looks like Nelson V. Christie who was later connected with Larkhall RBL, the Grade 4 band that Ian took over when he left Shotts (in 1975 or 1976). I believe that Nelson studied on the Army P/M’s course under Willie Ross, but not sure about the regiment (Cameronians?).

    I don’t believe that there was any formal connection between this band and the Dalzell Highland band that Alex Duthart played in before he went to Shotts & Dykehead. I know
    that the P/M was David (‘Dai’) Ross. I have been told that Ross composed the last two parts of The Clan MacRae Society when Alex Duthart was looking for a 6-parted competition march. I know that Duthart held him in high regard. I believe Ross was also known as a maker of drone reeds after he retired from pipe bands.

    I acquired Ross’s pipes when I was a teenager playing in the Larkhall RBL band with Ian Duncan, but I believe that they probably predate P/M Ross (pre-WWI Lawries). If anyone any more information about the pipes or David Ross, I’d be interesting in hearing from them.

  2. That lovely tune which I play is in the Gordon Highlanders Book 1 and its:

    Heather Grant of Strathyre
    Pipe Major James McGregor, Gordon Highlanders.

  3. Thank you both for your quick answer, appreciate.

    It seems that this tune is often played together with Heights of Dargai and really , not necessary to play something very difficult if the tunes are very nice and let the music flows.
    Thanks again

    Yves McTyson

  4. Hello Robert and Ives, the name of the tune is ‘Heather Grant of Strathyre’. It’s a 9/8 March composed by P/M James McGregor – The Gordon Highlanders.
    The tune is published in The Gordon Highlanders Pipe Music Collection Vol 1. The tune is composed about 1975 for the wife of William Grant, a deerstalker, who was a close friend of P/M McGregor.
    Seasons greetings, René Dammer

    1. Many thanks for the quick reply René. I am sure Yves will appreciate your response. Compliments of the season. RW

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