Editor’s Notebook

Following his article this week (read it here), I asked Yves Tison in Brittany to send over recordings of his drones fitted with elder reeds and one with ‘normal’ reeds. Yves writes: ‘The first recording is called mixed reeds and is recorded from my Alexander Glen 1847 set of pipes (Patrick Molard has a replica). Strangely the starting of drones has three steps before getting the right tone, not double tone, but third tone.

Yves playing his Glen pipes

‘The pitch chosen is A446 cold and A448/450 when the bag is warm enough to play with a variety of chanters.

‘The two tenor drones have cane reeds (made by myself) and an elder reed for bass. The bag is leather with seasoning and only a moose valve is fitted to the blowpipe stock. Mixed reeds recording:

‘The other one, called full elder reeds, is recorded from the very old set of pipes in laburnum wood. They have been identified as a true relic because due to fragility this type of wood is out of manufacturing since a long time; only in museum now.

Muir Wood and Co., Edinburgh, 1796/1804 laburnum wood pipes. Full ivory mounts with elder reeds and Donald MacDonald chanter, restored by P. Blanchet, Brittany

‘Pitch is around A430 cold but can reach A436 when warm and steady. All drones have elder reeds giving a mellow and deep sound. Also leather bag, no other modern equipment. Full elder recording:

‘This year at Cancale I hope to play with that set if possible using the ‘huge’ MacDonald 1806 chanter.

‘You will see that between the two recordings, except pitch, the sound produced give satisfaction and maybe a mix of cane and elder give a more crispy sound and all elder a softer and deep.’



Dr Jack Taylor, the piping convenor of Aberdeen Games, has been in touch. Jack confirms the games are on Sunday 16th June. Senior Piob, M S+R, Jig and Under-18 M, S+R, Jig.  Those who enter before 2nd June will be sent a free electronic entry pass. 

Jack will accept entries up to, and on, the day, but those who enter on the day will be expected to play first. Entries to jackandmarytaylor@gmail.com and more information here.


A gloomy week just got gloomier. First we had Hugh MacCallum passing away and last night I learned of the death of Colin Ross, Whitley Bay, Northumberland. Colin won’t be known to many Highland pipers but for decades he was the go-to guy for anyone interested in Northumbrian pipes.

Northumbrian piper, fiddler and pipe maker Colin Ross

And back in the mid 70s and early 80s he did huge work for those of us interested in developing the Scottish smallpipes and lowland pipes or ‘half-longs’ as they call them down that way. Colin was married to the late Ray Fisher, sister of Archie and Cilla.

Colin will be sorely missed but well remembered through his instruments and teaching. All you elbow pipers get your instruments out today and play a tune for one of the giants.



Ian McLaren, publicist for Aboyne Highland Games: ‘The organisers of Aboyne Highland Games in Aberdeenshire have recently been reunited with a vintage promotional railway poster that was presented to their predecessors more than 50 years ago. 

‘Purchased at auction late last year, the poster depicts Aboyne Highland Games in the 1950s and was used one of a series or posters used to promote rail travel. 

‘A note on the rear of the framed poster revealed that the item had in fact been presented to Aboyne Highland Games when passenger services on the Royal Deeside railway line ended in 1966, but no record of the presentation exists in the games’ archives. 

Aboyne Highland Games chairman Alistair Grant and committee member Wilson Forbes with the framed poster

‘Ahead of this year’s Aboyne Highland Games on Saturday, 04 August, organisers are looking to piece together the poster’s whereabouts over the last half century.’

The trustees of the village’s Victory Hall have agreed to put the framed poster on permanent display, ensuring that the historic connection Aboyne and its Highland Games have with the railway can be enjoyed by everyone. Anyone with information about the poster is asked to email secretary@aboynegames.com.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August. Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.


Don’t forget games this weekend at Helensburgh and Markinch (check out the PP Guide to the Games here). There are band contests at Cookstown in Northern Ireland, Markinch, Mintlaw and Girvan. Full details here.


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