Editor’s Notebook

Three bands were awarded £500 from the RSPBA’s National Juvenile Pipe Band Fund recently. They were Sgoil Lionacleit from the Western Isles, Bucksburn and District from Aberdeenshire and West Lothian Schools.

The fund was established a few years ago now to help youth bands with their expenses for travel and teaching and it continues to be in healthy state with 1% of RSPBA revenue added each year.

Sgoil Lionacleit performing at the Scottish Schools band competition

It should be sustainable for the foreseeable future and is well shepherded by the Association’s Finance Director Kenny Crothers. New applications for the fund will open at the end of the 2019 season. The above bands will now have to wait a year before they can apply again.

If your band needs some help then you can download the application form from the RSPBA website (click on pic):

Get help for your band from the RSPBA’s fund – click here

You cannot make a trip to Australia without visiting old friends, so after my judging stint in Adelaide I flew up to the Gold Coast to catch up with Roy Gunn. Roy is very well known in Scotland among the older generation. He worked as an engineer on the boats and began coming over to the old country from New Zealand in the early 50s.….

I arrive; the stories flow… September 1955 and a 4am trip to Braemar with the Glasgow Police under P/M John MacDonald; stopping at a pub for an early breakfast (no licensing hours for the polis); that afternoon 6ft 3inch Roy being hoisted from the Invercauld Arms by the 6ft 8inch Pipe Sergeant Ronnie Lawrie, the bus waiting outside……

…..tunes with P/M MacDonald in the old Govan Police Station in a room next to the cells; the first visit to Fort George to ask P/M Donald MacLeod for lessons; being ordered to play by Sheriff Grant as the Lochmor pitched its violent way to the games at South Uist, Roy maintaining verticality with his right arm round a stanchion, all around except Sheriff Bones turning green; oh, and how not to play the Earl of Antrim……

I think it is fair to say that at 88 Roy Gunn is going strong, Tulloch Ard and MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart no problem during my stay. And he’s still having a tune every other week with friends Malcolm McRae and Iain Bruce.

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A wee push for the under 18 events at the Skye Gathering in August. This from Cameron MacFadyen the piping convenor:

‘The open under 18 competition is really a logical extension of the Highland Council’s excellent record over many decades in employing piping instructors – illustrious names such as John MacDougall, John D Burgess, Iain MacFadyen, Norman Gillies, and right up to the present day instructors. 

‘This consistency and duration of world class teaching, along with the benefits of modern communications and the popularity of traditional music has meant that there are probably more good young pipers in the Highlands and Islands now than at any other time in history.

‘By staging an open junior competition Skye Games is seeking to build on the legacy of both the council’s investment in piping, and the efforts of generations of instructors, by giving an opportunity for these young pipers to meet with, and compete against, a wider peer group than otherwise might be the case in a confined event. 

Schools teachers Iain MacFadyen and John Burgess are front and centre in this picture of the march to the games at Oban in 1979. Pipers from left to right: Angus John MacLellan, Bill Livingstone, Evan MacRae, John, Kenny MacDonald, Iain, Malcolm McRae and John Wilson

‘Additionally, being a part of the overall Skye Gathering piping competitions, the youngsters also have the chance to hear, see and mingle with some of the best pipers in the world who attend the Games each year. This can only have benefits for their development and ambition.’

Very well said Cameron. Most of us can remember the dark days when there was hardly a good young player on Skye, and not that long ago either. All credit to the teachers mentioned (not forgetting Farquhar MacIntosh) and the council, and to Seumas MacNeill, John MacLellan and John MacFadyen who were the main protagonists in forcing the politicians to recognise the bagpipe as a suitable subject for Scottish music exams.

Once that principal was accepted the education authorities had to act to provide the teachers and despite some recent backsliding, well documented in this column, the benefit has been transforming. So come on you youngsters, get up to Skye, and, as Cameron says, honour that legacy. Entry forms here.

The pipe band season creeps closer … less than a month away now. The draw for the early contest at Dunbar is now available on the RSPBA site as are the runners and riders for Saturdays mini and full band contests run by the Dundee, Perth and Angus Branch.

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