Editor’s Notebook: The Day the Clan Beat the Cops/ George Sherriff/ Ali at the Proms/ Les Howie

Our story on the 1968 Cowal Gathering sparked a deal of interest. The winners in Grade 1 that day were the Edinburgh Police and Allan J MacDonald, Glengarry, Ontario, wrote: ‘I’ve come across the attached photo [above] that might be of interest to your readers.  It was slightly damaged but captures the Grade 1 bands at the Fergus Games, held a short distance from Toronto, in 1972.

‘Many Scottish bands were in attendance that August day, including the reigning World Champions, Edinburgh Police, led by P/M Iain McLeod. To Iain’s left is P/M Ken Eller of the Clan McFarlane and on the other side are P/M Chris Anderson of the City of Toronto and P/M James Kerr of the Worcester Kilties. On the day the Clan upset the World Champions!

‘The Fergus Games were held on August 12th, a week before the Toronto CNE gathering. As an aside, I remember back in 1978 being at the Bridge of Allan contest and happened to notice Iain McLeod, JK McAllister and RG Hardie deep in conversation. To my everlasting regret, my damned camera didn’t work that day!’

Playing next to P/M MacLeod in the photograph is Jock Percival, with D/M Jim Hermiston out front. For the MacFarlane to beat the World Champions must have been a great fillip for P/M Ken Eller, but those who remember his band from back then will not be surprised. They played to a very high standard and always had a cracking tone. If Ken or any member of the Clan that day would like to reprise their big win please get in touch: pipingpress@gmail.com

P/M Ian McLellan, Strathclyde Police PB, responds to the same story: ‘I can confirm that the Edinburgh Police were in Canada that summer but they did not play in the nightly Tattoo or the parade down Yonge Street in the blistering heat, only the CNE competition, and from what I remember there was some comment about that. I think from memory they played three times on their trip, won two, including the CNE Championship, and lost one.

‘As regards P/M Tom MacPherson of the Renfrew band as mentioned in the Cowal story, he came back from playing with Muirheads to take over the Renfrew after P/M Tommy Anderson left for Dublin. I can also confirm that it was Joe Noble who was leading tip that day when Renfrew won the drumming at Cowal.

P/M Ian McLellan and Strathclyde Police with Harry McAleer two to Ian’s left

‘Tom MacPherson and Martin Wilson, later of the Edinburgh Police, joined my regiment, the 1st Argylls, in Germany as part of their National Service.

‘Back to the CNE in Toronto in 1972. One evening we were the featured band and had to do a 20 minute spot. You should have heard the reception we got from the crowd. I’d never heard anything like it. We had a great sound right enough and were playing wooden Warmac Chanters at that time. It was that sound that convinced Harry McAleer to join the Glasgow Police. Harry played in the Robert Armstrong Memorial and was going to join Edinburgh Police but when he heard the sound we had that day decided to join us. The rest is history!’

Still in Ontario, Bob Worrall reports: ‘The George Sherriff Memorial Invitational is cancelled for 2020. The date of the contest was to have been November 21. Unfortunately, for a wide variety of reasons, it would be impossible to run a live competition.

‘The decision to cancel has been made after surveying previous competitors, adjudicators, and our committee. The next George Sherriff Invitational will be the 25th year for the event. Our aim is to ensure that such a milestone for this prestigious amateur competition can be run and celebrated in grand style.’

How pleasing to see a piper at Last Night of the Proms. The BBC’s musical celebration, beamed live from London on Saturday, broke off to feature artists from all UK countries with Ali Levack representing Scotland. Ali played a modern reel whilst being filmed outside the V&A Design Museum in Dundee.

Very clean fingering and a nice pipe from Ali. He was taught by Iain MacFadyen I think, and did Scotland proud. It is a pity we don’t hear him in the competition arena.

The death recently of Les Howie has been brought to my attention. His obituary in the Scotsman newspaper by Matthew MacIver read: ‘Les’s great love was pipe bands. He had been a drummer himself as a pupil at Broughton High School. He was determined that this important part of Scottish culture should be celebrated in Scottish schools.

‘At Craigmount High in 1974 he set up a band which became the most successful school pipe band in Scotland at that time. Those of us who taught with him watched in awe as this young teacher used his enthusiasm to persuade pupils to take up piping and drumming. It was a world most of them did not know, yet many of that original group are still involved with pipe bands.’

When Mr Howie moved to George Watson’s to teach he revived the band there and they played for him on his 70th birthday in 2019. ‘The band made a great effort in travelling back from a competition especially to play for him. He really appreciated that.’

If anyone has memories of Mr Howie please forward.

3 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: The Day the Clan Beat the Cops/ George Sherriff/ Ali at the Proms/ Les Howie

  1. In response to les Howie. Les was a great character! He was my history teacher at George Watson’s College and his room was possibly the most interesting and amazing place in the school. In fact, any school! From German war memorabilia to old rope tension drums mounted on the walls, it had it all.
    Les was a great follower of the school band at Watson’s and had a hand in its running at various stages.

    Les and I had great conversations over the years and he always gave me great support at school and more so after I left when I ventured over the water to study in Belfast and further my piping with FMMPB. He was also godfather to one of my closest friends so we would regularly be in each other’s company at family gatherings.

    My appointment at Dollar Academy opened many jovial dialogues between us! He was a kind man with the love of piping and drumming at the core of him. The joy he took when he saw young people perform to their best and achieve their goals was something to behold. He will be greatly missed.

  2. Hi Robert
    Your follow up regarding P/M Tom Macpherson leaving Muirhead & Son’s to re-join the Renfrew Pipe Band because Tommy Shearer had left go to America. In fact it was
    Tommy Anderson who had left to work in Dublin.

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