Editor’s Notebook: Games Season/ VE Day at Gourock/ New Tune?/ Worlds Riddle

Well that’s the solo Highland games season over for another year. I think the support has been higher than in the recent past so well done to the pipers who got out there for a tune and to all the volunteers who keep these vital events going. There’s no sign of a resurrection at Perth, Crieff or Stirling – and Invercharron looks decidedly iffy for 2020.

As regards the majors at Oban and Inverness, a word to all competitors. Now is the time to get going with the tunes for next year. I know it is own choice in the Gold and Silver Medals but that brings its own challenges. Do all of your tunes measure up? Could they take either of these titles? Get rid of the makeweights.

Be confident that every tune in your prospective list is of the required standard. Corrienessan for the Gold Medal? I think not; maybe fifty years ago; not today.

The senior pipers really have their work cut out. The Piobaireachd Society’s Music Committee have come up with a cracking list of pieces, all difficult, all demanding – as they should be for the £1,000 first prizes for the Senior Piobaireachd and Clasp.

Big challenges here. It’s six tunes rather than the usual four from those prescribed. Nor will favourites Patrick Og and the Unjust Incarceration provide an easier ride. P Og requires the additional MacDonald variation and the Unjust the extra line three in all variations.

Serious challengers for these three titles will already be looking at their lists. Everything needs to be cooking by Christmas.



VE Day at Gourock

Inverclyde Council’s Policy and Resources Committee: Councillors heard that nationally the UK Government had decided to move the 2020 May Day public holiday from Monday 4 May to Friday 8 May to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. Part of the celebration will include the performance of the Battle’s O’er on the pipes, and councillors also agreed to mark VE Day 75 at Gourock Highland Games on the final day of celebrations, Sunday 10 May.

The popular event traditionally marks the start of the pipe band season and officers will work with partners at the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) to mark the occasion of VE Day 75.

New Tune?

Ace composer Michael Grey, he of Inspector Clueless fame, might like to turn his creative juices towards a new hornpipe. The death was reported recently of the Sabbatarian the Very Reverend Angus Smith the man who, in 1965, prostrated himself on a slipway to prevent the first Sunday ferry crossing to Skye.

When the vessel broke down due to a faulty exhaust, the Rev Smith hailed it as a reminder of ‘God’s providence’, though in the event another ferry was drafted in for the inaugural Sunday sailing.

‘Neither Caledonian MacBrayne [the ferry company] nor its managing director understand that the God of the Sabbath was speaking to them,’ Smith protested. ‘It means nothing to them. If they do not have a heart or an ear to hear, they may as well be pagans. CalMac is fighting God – not the people of these islands.’

Asked if the breakdown was divine intervention, a spokesman for CalMac said: ‘I really do not think there is anyone here qualified to comment on that one.’

Rev. Smith, who was 90, was thereafter referred to in the press and locally as the ‘Ferry Reverend Angus Smith’. Now if that is not the cue for a new hornpipe I don’t know what is.

Worlds Riddle Answer

Who was the band member in Grade 1 who collected two prizes with two different bands at the 1956 Worlds in Belfast? asked Patrick Byrne, Dublin, a week or so ago.

The answer from Patrick: The bass drummer with Renfrew Pipe Band was unable to play unfortunately, for what reason I don’t know, hopefully it wasn’t too serious. In those days when this happened all the names of the bass drummers in that grade would be put into a hat and the one pulled out would to play with the depleted band.

On the day in question, Michael Carroll, bass drummer with Fintan Lalor of Dublin, was picked to also play with Renfrew. As we know, Renfrew were second to Muirheads that day.

What a lot of people would not know is, that also that day, Fintan Lalor won the Grade 1 drumming under Drum Sergeant Christy Merrigan and also the honour of being the first pipe band to bring a Grade 1 prize to Ireland.

History was made when Michael won a second prize with Renfrew to go with his first prize with Fintan Lalor. The main reason I am passing this information on to you, and your very informative web site, is your excellent comments regarding bass drummers and John Dunne, the bass drummer with the St Laurence O’Toole.

SLoT’s John Dunne, doyen of bass drummers

John is no doubt one of the best bass drummers in the world, if not the best. Some years ago I think he may have won best bass drummer for three years in a row at Cowal. The great connection between 1956 and 2019 is John Dunne.

Before joining SLoT John was on bass with the Fintan Lalor. During his years with the Fints he received his instruction from the master himself, Michael Carroll. Hopefully your readers will find the above interesting.


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