Editor’s Notebook: Gordons in Germany/ Band Practices/ Niall’s Tune/ CPA President

We are grateful to reader Patrick Larkin for forwarding the above picture. Patrick writes: ‘With regard to the recent post of P/M Joe Wilson, Calum Campbell, James Robertson and Farewell to the Creeks, you will be interested to see the above picture of the Drums and Pipes of the Gordon Highlanders taken in Celle, West Germany, in 1960.

‘The pipe major on the right of the picture is Calum Campbell. To his right, L/Cpl Joe Wilson. To Joe Wilson’s right is Gordon Spiers (composer of the once popular 4/4 march Jimmy Findlater). Next on his right in the P/Sgt position is Cpl Bert Anderson, who later became pipe major and is a relative of P/M Cherry Anderson.

‘Directly behind Bert Anderson is piper Joe Kerr, later to be pipe major from 1966 to 1975. The drum major is Les Burlton. There may be others in the picture that some readers may recognise. With regards, Pat Larkin, ex-Drums and Pipes, 1st Batt, The Gordon Highlanders.’

Thank you very much for sharing this piece of piping history Patrick. If anyone does have more info please forward to the usual address.



There is growing concern in the pipe band world that the 2021 season might not happen, hence yesterday’s welcome intervention from the Chairman of the RSPBA calling for Scotland to be brought into line with the rest of the UK as regards musicians practising together.

Last week we learned that the Scottish administration had extended their emergency powers until March of next year, powers which enable them to close and cancel any/all events in the interests of public safety and which take them up to only six weeks before the first 2021 major at Paisley.

At the weekend we had a UK health chief telling us that things will not be back to ‘normal’ until next spring. The growing scientific evidence is that elimination of this virus in our global world is really not achievable. In the absence of a vaccine it may be something we need to learn to live with.

Taking all of this together, and the lead time necessary to stage a major pipe band championship, you can see where this might end up.

Get help for your band from the RSPBA’s fund – click on pic

Mr Hughes made the important point that bands must be allowed to practice over the winter to prepare for the 2021 season – provided safety measures are adopted. Bands need to get out of hibernation and soon.

Our movement will not ‘come roaring back’ until and unless there is a will for it to do so. I fully respect those who err on the side of caution. For most this is only a hobby after all. But for many it is a livelihood and a life force. They see the worry as disproportionate, the fear irrational. Their view must also be respected.

A first step in our return is the bringing of Scotland into line with the rest of the UK and letting bands so minded to practice indoors without fear of censure. They themselves will be more than willing to commit to distancing, lashings of hand sanitiser and concert formation. Confidence will build thereafter and the authorities can start planning in earnest for nine months hence.


Ken Eller in Ontario writes: ‘I have enjoyed the new tunes you have posted and in particular The Salute to the 51st Highland Division by Niall Matheson. There are a couple of interesting observations intriguing me:
1. The Variation 1, a dithis singling (I thought), the 3rd beat of bar 1 is doubled on the themal B, rather than a short connecting Low A to the C that follows…. at first I took this as an error ….. but that was about to change.


‘2. Playing on into the Taorluath and Crunluath Singlings, it became a clever composition, as the same bars as in Variation 1, the Taorluath embellished the same B with a GDE treble and the Crunluath, in the same location with an open fosgailte…. how clever is this composition…. likewise in the 3 bars it is repeated (Bar 3, Line 1 and Bar 2 of Lines 2 and 3).

‘Variation 1 prompted the rhythmic variance in the Taorluath and Crunluath variations. Niall has used a very trad structure (very similar to many of Donald MacLeod’s tunes) and brought rhythmic interest to the later variations.

‘So the bottom line, rather than instruct my students to correct what appeared to be a misprint in Variation 1, I am commending Niall on such an innovative tune. As such they will learn the tune as published.
This is a lesson on completing the whole tune before any assessment is made. Please don’t burst my bubble by saying that Variation 1 has a misprint!’

Perhaps big Niall would like to comment? Here he is again playing the ground of his fine composition:


Derek Midgley, New Jersey, with the Dunvegan Medal

Derek Midgley has been elected President of the Competing Pipers’ Association. He is the first overseas piper to head the CPA. Callum Beaumont remains as Vice President; Ross Millar remains as Secretary; Steven Leask takes over as Treasurer.


2 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: Gordons in Germany/ Band Practices/ Niall’s Tune/ CPA President

  1. Another thanks to Patrick Larkin for the photograph of the Gordon Highlanders in Celle, West Germany in 1960. I knew Gordon Speirs very well, as he came down to live in Croydon, south London after he left the Army. Gordon was pipe corporal of my first pipe band, the 57th Middlesex (General Hospital) RAMC (T.A.) under P/M Bob Hill (Scots Guards, and Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders). Gordon took over as pipe major, when Bob retired, along with his wife, Vi, to Alness, in Easter Ross. Gordon also took over caretakership of the T.A. Centre at 206 Brompton Road (the venue for the famous ‘Bob Hill ceilidhs) in London’s Knightsbridge – only a 5 minute walk from the famous store, Harrods.

    Gordon played a wonder set of silver & ivory 1916 Hendersons, easily recognisable by the silver shield, unusually positioned on the chanter stock. I later became the keeper of that set for some 30 years, until it was bought by Gordon’s youngest son, Ross Speirs.

    Joe Wilson, I remember from when we were both in British Caledonian Airways Pipes & Drums. I recall one occasion when B. Cal. sent Joe out to the further reaches of the USSR: the Daily Telegraph reported that the Russian authorities stopped him from playing, and sent Joe back to the UK early, because he was just too popular with the local people !

  2. Thanks to Niall for his fine composition.Could be destined to be a future classic.Would love to hear him play to complete tune.Regards Derek

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