PP Ed’s Blog: Florida/ St Thomas/ Spirit of St Louis/ Charlie’s Welcome

The first day of the Florida P&D Academy is over and has gone well. We have a lower intake than previously but this is to be expected given the change from south of the state to north east.

A lot less traffic and a lot cooler up here than in the Boca Raton, though it was 81ºF just before we arrived.

Travelling in North America via the northern states in winter can be unpredictable. This time cancellations and missed connections meant a 24 hour marathon from Edinburgh via snow strangled Newark, chittering Chicago, and a midnight drive from Savannah, Georgia (don’t ask). We were lucky to make it to Jacksonville on time.

It was interesting this morning listening to Senior Instructor Barry Donaldson talking of his time in Strathclyde Police when he won 11 World titles under P/M Ian McLellan — and how later in his playing career a new learning curve began when he joined Shotts under P/M Robert Mathieson. Both P/Ms brilliant in their own, but completely different, ways.

We work through till Sunday. In the picture above Barry puts his pipe band class through its paces.



An addition to our teaching faculty this year has been drum instructor Graham Brown who took over from the indisposed Tommy Johnston.

Graham is the brother of Glenn and Blair and works at the St Thomas School in Houston, Texas. He’s won the Worlds on several occasions with Shotts and played in the band with fellow instructor Barry in 2007.

Graham with Academy drumming students

Graham tells me that his boss, Headmaster Mike Cusack, lets him and the other instructors away to teach whenever possible. It doesn’t surprise me Mike is so accommodating; he’s always more than ready to do what he can to help piping and drumming.

Graham says that both the St Thomas Juvenile and the Alumni bands will be travelling over for the Worlds. The juveniles are under the guidance of P/M Lyric Todkil, and Mike and Graham (lead tip) turn out for the Alumni in G2.



Instructor Matt Pantaleoni has started a small band in his home town of St Louis, Missouri.

Aptly enough they are called the ‘Spirit of St Louis Pipe Band’. Aviator Charles Lindbergh was based in the city before his pioneering transatlantic flight, and his plane, or a copy, can be seen at the city’s airport.

Apparently one of Matt’s younger pipers didn’t make the connection and thought the band’s name referred to a ghost. She then suggested a band logo incorporating cartoon character Casper (the Friendly Ghost) and the St Louis Gateway Arch.

Matt tunes the drones for the Academy band class

Matt is looking for drummers and pipers for the Spirit band. Contact him here: mailto:matt@pipingstl.com


Rummaging through some music to bring with me I came across my copy of Charlie’s Welcome from my Muirheads days.

We never played it as part of a full band MSR but competed with it in the quartet contests:

Charlie’s Welcome arranged by Duncan Johnstone and Peter MacLeod Jnr.

It was given to Bob Hardie by Duncan Johnstone and appears in Duncan’s book 1. Our version had the seventh and eighth parts attributed to ‘P McL’ who I believe to be Peter MacLeod Junior – though this was not acknowledged in the book. This won’t have been Duncan’s fault.

Happy to make this setting available to readers in what could be Duncan’s hand, though I can’t be absolutely sure about that:

Between them these two master composers, Peter and Duncan, produced what I think is, by some distance, the best version of this classic competition reel. Here are Field Marshal Montgomery winning the Worlds with it in 2011.


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