PP Ed’s Blog: Piob Soc Conf./ RSPBA Summer School/ SPA Professional

To the BBC for a ‘Pipeline’ interview ostensibly about the forthcoming Piobaireachd Society Conference. First time I had been in their Pacific Quay HQ in Glasgow and very impressive it is too.

That said, it lacks some of the homely feel of Queen Maggie Drive in the west end and that warren of studios known to so many pipers and pipe bands over the years.

Interviewer Gary West tells me he is so busy with university work and his ‘Pipeline’ duties (30,000 listeners a week) that he won’t manage to play with the Glasgow Police band this year.

Self deprecatingly Gary mentioned that the band had not done too well during his two-year stint with them. Not your fault Gary, of that I am sure.



Gary will be on duty at the Conference where he will chair a discussion featuring Tom Speirs, Andrew Wright and James Burnet of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society. Should be interesting.

The major talk will be by President Jack Taylor in the morning. Jack will look at the early competitions with tunes from Iain Speirs and young champion John Dew. I’m told an 1844 bagpipe will be played and tunes from the Edinburgh contest that year are to feature.

The poster for the 1844 competition

Jack has kindy given us a smal foretaste of what will be a fascinating paper. Of the street scene photograph at the top he writes: ‘Was this one of the pipers tuning up for the Theatre Royal? He was clearly in need of some prizemoney.’

‘And what was a Harley Street GP getting a letter about?’:

It takes a GP to decipher this sort of scrawl and Jack’s just the man!

There is a healthy crowd already for the conference but to attract younger enthusiasts and more competing pipers the Society if offering a day rate of £10 for Conservatoire students and CPA members.

Campbell Stewart, one of the 2018 PS Bursary students, will play after lunch. He is 15 and has been piping for just over three years. Campbell started with Methil & District PB under P/M Robert Barnes and was the overall winner and first placed in piobaireachd at the MacKenzie Caledonian branch competition.

Sign up for the conference here or pay on the day. You won’t be disappointed.



The RSPBA have announced details of their popular annual Summer School: ”The RSPBA Summer School will be held in Glasgow Gaelic School. Pipers and snare drummers will attend from Monday 5th. August until Friday 9th. August at a cost of £180.

‘If sufficient interest is identified, Tenor Drummers and Drum Majors will be invited to come along from Wednesday 7th. August until Friday 9th. August at a cost of £120.

Five years on…the RSPBA Summer School in 2014

‘This year’s event will be even better than before, bringing some of the best piping and drumming tutors to work with our students.

‘As part of our programme, we will encourage and support our students in composing a piece of music to celebrate the opening of our refurbished HQ premises. We hope that this tune will be performed at our summer school final performance on Friday in front of invited guests, parents, friends and family.

‘Anyone who is interested in attending Summer School 2019 can now register online or contact Pat Whelan, Education Officer, 0141 221 5414.  pat.whelan@rspba.org


SPA President Tom Johnstone has details of next month’s professional contest and good to see it has been expanded. Tom writes: ‘We are pleased to announce that we will be holding the SPA Annual Professional Contest on Saturday 13th April 2019.

SPA winners from 2018 John Dew, Gordon McCready and Cameron MacDougall with Gordon’s son Innes helping with the trophies

‘This is our 100th Year and we have expanded the contest to include more grades. We felt that the old ‘open’ format discouraged both the Premier/A players and the B/C players for obvious reasons and we trust that the new format will give all players a platform to compete against their peers.

‘Premier/A Grade will be held at NPC Otago St and Grades B&C will be held at NPC McPhater St. Each of the two venues would not be able to cope with the different grades/entries, hence the split. The contests will run concurrently. Our next ‘club night’ is on Friday 5th April.’

SPA membership and entry forms here.


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