P/M Donald Shaw Ramsay and His Famous March for Jimmy Young

I recently came upon a recording of P/M Donald Shaw Ramsay (above) discussing and playing his famous 2/4 march composition, Jimmy Young.  In this recording he points out numerous clerical errors in the tune as it was published in the Edcath Collection, Book 2, published by Hugh MacPherson.  

He then goes on to play it on both the practice chanter and full pipes.  By the way….what a tremendous player he was! The errors were a number of cut notes that Donald intended to be held, such as the first F in bar 6 of the first part, and the first E in bar 6 of the second part.  

By Jack Lee

He also changed the introductory notes when going into the second ending of the second part.  The ending phrase of each part begins with a gracenote on E.  

I noticed that it was published that way in Edcath and played that way by Donald on the practice chanter.  When he played the tune on the pipes he played an E doubling rather than just a gracenote.

Jimmy Young as it appears in the Edcath Bk2
Jimmy Young corrected version

Jimmy Young was a noted solo piper and a member of Ramsay’s Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band in the 1950s. He was instrumental in having the trophy in his old pipe major’s name presented for the Jigs at Oban.

In 1964 Jimmy Young moved to South Africa where he became pipe major of the Transvaal Scottish Pipe Band. On returning to Scotland he judged solo competitions extensively and was employed at the former College of Piping until 2009. He died in 2017.

In this picture John D Burgess presents a retirement clock to P/M Ramsay as members of the City of Edinburgh Police band look on. John Burgess took over from Ramsay as P/M of the band. Jimmy Young can be seen to P/M Ramsay’s left looking admiringly at his pipe major

I have always thought that D.S.Ramsay looked like a great player.  The way he carried and presented himself with the instrument was really something.  But it put a big smile on my face when I heard him play.  He was excellent and played extremely quickly. I wish I had met him.  Our paths just didn’t cross when he was out in the USA.

As many readers will know, P/M Donald Shaw Ramsay moved to California later in his life. Donald and Bessie’s daughter married a policeman from San Francisco and moved out there. It was not long before the parents moved to California as well.  

Donald Shaw Ramsay became the pipe major of the San Francisco Police Pipe Band with Willie McErlean as his lead drummer.  Willie was a tremendous musician and later would be the lead drummer of the Triumph Street Drum Corps when they won the ‘Sash’ at the 1979 World Championship.  

The victorious Triumph Street drum corps under the late L/D Willie McErlan pictured at the Nottingham Worlds in 1979

The teaching of Donald Shaw Ramsay and Willie McErlean had a huge impact on the standard of pipe bands in the California area. Donald and Willie remained close friends from that point forward.  

Later Donald made this recording of Jimmy Young [below] and sent it to Willie in Vancouver.

Through Therese McErlean (wife of the late Willie McErlean) and Robert MacNeil (President of the BC Pipers Association) I ended up with a copy of this recording.  When you listen to the recording the errors made in the Edcath book seem a bit obvious and many pipers would naturally correct them as they played it.  

But, I think pipers would appreciate knowing that this is how the composer intended his great march to be played.   

I have attached a copy of the tune from the Edcath as well as the corrected version, which I wrote out in Bagpipe Music Writer software [see above]. I have also attached the recording.  Have a listen – it is really superb:

  • Jack Lee is one of the world’s top solo pipers and P/Sgt of the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band. Jack runs his own bagpipe and accessories company. Lee & Sons, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

2 thoughts on “P/M Donald Shaw Ramsay and His Famous March for Jimmy Young

  1. Personal note,and sharing to John Angus ‘Jack’ Lee..from John Angus ‘Jack’ MacIsaac in New Glasgow Nova Scotia..
    This is timely piece as just the other Day P/M Doug Boyd and son Ian and I were chatting about DSR stay in Nova Scotia recovering after being shot in Edin.Polis duties..he and Bessie lived two years in Stellarton where
    Donald worked as Office Mgr,of Stan Henderson’s New Glasgow express and Bessie,a skilled seamstress
    worked at Duncan Chisholm and Piper Robert MacBeth WearWell Garments..and lived on Cambey Ave.in Stellarton..this was in early 1960’s and thankfully had many opportunities to have long chats with Donald..as an aspiring player in his early 20s and teaching the Stellarton Balmoral Pipe Band and competing at Antigonish Highland games played ‘Jimmy Young’ for several seasons as my March comp.tune..,may have won even a medal or two..sadly Donald and Bessie understandably so missed greatly dau.Morag who was in Calif. and after two years left the area to ultimately land with Alex Duthart in the Frank Thompson Invergordon band and ‘shot ‘ into the top contenders list in the Pipe Band big leagues..no surprise though with players like John Burgess and Trevor Deere in the Piping ranks and Kit Reynolds and Bert Barr in the drum core..I still play ‘6/8 Frank Thompson’ of which I have an original copy autographed by DSR and every time I play it a flood of great
    Memories come to mind of Donald and Bessie’s Nova Scotia all too brief stay..I had the unique experience of playing a Duet Grand March with DSR for the 1st.Bn,Nova Scotia Highlanders annual Highland Ball when I was P/M of the Highrs.Band.On a final note,he was a gifted story teller and raconteur as well and regaled us many times about backgrounds of many of the tunes in his great Edcath collection ..such as Tam Bain’s Lum ,Bessie Strathearn,etc.etc…Just sharing this to fill in a small piece of DSR great history which receives relatively little attention.
    With Great Memories of DSR and Bessie from Nova Scotia to our many friends across the Piping ‘World’!
    Slainte Mhath,
    John Angus(Jack) MacIsaac,P/M Ret’d CD 1Bn.Nova Scotia Highlanders

  2. For what it’s worth, a few additions to the legendary D.S. Ramsay that may be of interest:

    During the mid 1970’s, and about the same time Mike Cusack attended, Donald Shaw Ramsay was the piping instructor at St. Thomas’ Episcopal School in Houston, Texas. I don’t believe Ramsay physically moved to Houston from California but he left his “mark” at St. Thomas’. In my opinion, I believe it was Donald Shaw Ramsay who established a superior standard of playing that continues to this very day.

    As for “Jimmy Young”, the City of Wilmington (Delaware) Pipe Band competed with this fine tune under the leadership of the late P/M Roddy MacDonald in 1969. Before immigrating to the States, Roddy played with the Invergordon Distillery Pipe Band under the leadership of P/M Ramsay.

    Roddy taught us this tune the way Ramsay intended and as described by my friend, Jack Lee. We never knew there was another version. For the record, we played it a little slower than the recording….

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