Editor’s Notes: Nightmare Scenario/ Tam’s Chanter/ MacLennan Piper/ Florida Academy

If you were unimpressed by my earlier comments on a nightmare scenario and the possibility of a blank 2021 piping season then you may like to consider the latest scientific findings that the trumpet and clarinet worst of instruments for spreading coronavirus.

The bagpipe might not be far behind. We need a proper study to determine risk. Could the virus remain in the bag and for for how long? How do we cleanse? If someone has it and plays pipes is the aerosol held in the bag or spread via chanter and drones? If so, being multidirectional, we’re worse than the instruments mentioned. And that’s not considering ‘blow past’ at the mouthpiece.

I quote from the report: ‘With a musician blowing through the mouthpiece, these two instruments [clarinet and trumpet] release the highest concentration of aerosols capable of carrying Covid-19, according to research by the University of Colorado.

‘In the study, researchers instructed student musicians – playing a clarinet, flute, French horn, trumpet or singing – to direct their instruments at a series of aerosol-detecting tubes.

‘The students were told to play a variety of different styles. Researchers were able to see how many aerosols were produced, how far they travelled and how long they stayed in the air.



‘The results, yet to be peer-reviewed, show for the first time that musical instruments release droplets of the right size to transport coronavirus.

‘The clarinet and trumpet released the highest concentration of aerosols, researchers said. The aerosols’ spread can be reduced by placing a cloth over the instrument’s mouth.’

Could the RSPBA sponsor such research into our instrument? Professor Pennington in Aberdeen might be the man. The Prime Minister yesterday said we can expect the bug to be around until next summer. If we are to have a 2021 season we need to start planning our work around now.


Former Dysart & Dundonald man Tam McGirr, now in Queensland, Australia, has been in touch about a Hardie chanter (left). Tam writes: ‘Would you be able to offer some advice? I still have my old RG Hardie chanter from back in my Dysart days from the mid-to-late 70s. Would you have any idea what year the last African blackwood pipe chanters were made in Glasgow?


‘Interested for a wee biography I’m intending to script. I can still get a tune out of the chanter with the modern reeds but B and low G are a bit of a challenge.’

For the last chanters when Bob Hardie was involved I think you would be looking at mid to late 80s, Tam. As for tuning, the B and low G went very flat as the neck of the chanter narrowed. These had to be reamed out with the original throat tool or it was dig, dig with the hole gouger, aka the egg machine.

Tam is now a successful solo piper in his adopted country. Here he is with the 2011 RU Brown Silver Medal won at Adelaide

Reader Hugh Bevan has asked me to remind readers that his Gillanders and MacLeod pipes are still for sale priced £1500. Details here.


Malcolm Ferris-Lay, a Trustee of the Scottish Tartans Authority has written re the picture below: ‘We are trying to name and find further details of the piper who we have as MacLennan. We think he may well have been a member of the Duff Highlanders.

‘The only thing we have to go by is the fact he is wearing medals and it could well have been for piping and perhaps he won at one of the Northern Meetings?

‘By the look of him the picture was taken in the middle to late 19th century? He also appears to play in what is considered the more unconventional way, although I know nothing as only an ex-Highland dancer with British Caledonian Airways!

Any assistance you could perhaps offer would be most useful and certainly appreciated. I am going to keep my fingers crossed and will look forward to hearing from you.’

Before we could answer Malcolm came back with information his chairman had found in an article by Barry Shears dated 2011 entitled ‘Pipes & Pipers – The MacLennans and a Nova Scotia Connection’. The piper was John MacLennan 1817-1906, Piper to the Earl of Fife who won the Inverness Gold Medal in 1858.

Our records say that he got the medal in 1867. Any correction appreciated.


Chris McKeown, organiser of the Florida Pipe & Drum Academy, has been in touch to say that he is keeping a close watch on the pandemic situation as regards the 2021 school.

Everyone is hopeful that it can still go ahead despite the current difficulties with the infection figures in the state. No final decision will be made until January, six months hence. The school is scheduled for late Feb.


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