Editor’s Notebook: Nightmare Scenario/ Robin Fleming/ Classic S&Rs/ Piping for Trams

UK Government scientists this week predicted a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ of 119,000 deaths in January and February next year during a second wave of Covid-19.

As we all recoil in horror, it is worth bearing in mind that there are opposing views in the scientific community about all this, the lack of unanimity among boffins a feature of the pandemic.

But if this unlikely and disastrous circumstance were to happen, or even half happen, you can forget the pipe band and piping season for 2021. Either that or it goes ahead in a severely modified format.

We should be preparing for that now if we want to hear any live music next summer. Carefully chosen venues for bands, pop-screened pipers distanced – drummers the same – and playing outside in concert formation. Judges fixed and apart, no crossing over. Audience afar. RSPBA, draw up a plan and submit it for approval to the authorities.

Highland games cancelled again, yes, but piping convenors should plan now for their solo contests to go ahead regardless. Outdoors, in a field, one judge. Audience at a distance.

Indoors, things would be much more problematical. The internet contests are OK as a stopgap and well done to all those who have organised them this year. But they are not a long term solution. People are tiring of them already. There is no substitute for live music. Big hall, audience restricted, solo piper on a stage, judges seated individually?

Meanwhile are any bands out there practising? Lockdown in the UK is ending. There’s plenty of summer left. For goodness sake don’t lose your enthusiasm. Get outside for a tune.

Sorry to report the passing of Robin Fleming CBE of the renowned Scottish banking family, and a cousin of James Bond creator Ian Fleming. A piper (he learned as a boy at Eton), Robin (87) inherited the Blackmount estate in the West Highlands and with it a special set of pipes belonging to the previous owner, the Marquis of Breadalbane.

Banker and philanthropist Robin Fleming

He also employed a piper, P/M Jimmy Banks MBE, to play for all his company’s corporate functions in London and elsewhere. A few stories there.

It was Jim who secured Robin’s substantial financial support for the Donald MacLeod competition up in Stornoway when it was struggling for cash a few years ago. The Lewis and Harris Piping Association made him an Hon. Life Member of the competition in thanks.

The first batch of Classic Strathspey & Reel lessons have been added to the Piping Press Shop. Here the link plus a couple of others:

Reader Fraser Maitland, Aberdeen, writes: Been meaning to send this for a while. A little story from my neighbour Cliff. We’ve been chatting over the garden wall for five years now, but I only recently discovered that Cliff’s father played the pipes.

In 1951 he piped in the last tram in Mannofield, Aberdeen. [The city’s trams closed for good in 1958.] The site of the old tram station is a two minute walk from our respective houses in Duthie Terrace, located in the Mannofield area of Aberdeen.

Cliff has added some words below on the attached photo he’s kept for many years. It was also published in the local newspaper. I was going to ask the neighbours here in Duthie Terrace to recreate the photo, but COVID has stopped that idea. However, we did salute the NHS during lockdown in true Duthie fasion. The first picture has been cut either side to fit into a frame, so some people (including my uncle) have been chopped off.

Cliff’s words: George Kite pipes off the last ever tram to leave the Mannofield terminus at the stop outside Mannofield Church. The conductor, in his natty pin-striped uniform, stamps his timecard at nearly midnight on the 3rd of March 1951. The locals have turned out for the special occasion, including George’s wife Lorna (to his left) and her sister Hylda, at the other side, with the chequered coat.

All are suitably dressed in heavy coats and hats of the era. Note the cobbled road and the request sign below the bus stop sign to queue ‘2 deep’ for Castle St. Oh, the days when public transport was popular and reliable!

The worrying thing about this picture is – who was looking after Cliff? He wasn’t even one at the time!

1 thought on “Editor’s Notebook: Nightmare Scenario/ Robin Fleming/ Classic S&Rs/ Piping for Trams

  1. In March this year, I recall that the experts (headed by “naughty” Professor Neil Ferguson) predicted 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the 1st wave, and they were completely wrong. Lets travel optimistically and prepare for a full year of piping and drumming in 2021. We cannot have the doom mongers and naysayers destroy our Scottish culture and piping heritage.

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