Editor’s Notebook: RSPBA Fees/ Music School Wins Practice Time/ Pipers’ Fashion Shoot

I am a member of a club. It’s been closed by the lockdown. The committee has asked that members pay their subscriptions anyway. The club needs the money to tide it over this difficult period. Otherwise it might go under. I don’t want that to happen. I can afford to contribute. I’ve paid up.

The RSPBA have now made the same request to their member bands and they too should cough up if they can afford it. Whatever their faults, and there are some, the Association is the international governing body for pipe bands and recognised around the world as such. We mustn’t allow it to go under either.

However, when a band does not have the cash for their subs (£228 UK Novice, £252 UK Adult – see here) then some consideration should be given to spreading the fees over several months or, in the case of Juvenile and Novice bands, waiving them altogether. Use the money in the National Juvenile Pipe Band Fund instead.


The world beating Bagpipe Tutor 1 is now available in en français!


Nor is it enough for the Association to ask for the cash and give no indication as to what next season might look like. I can see no evidence of any contingency plan: audience free contests, judges spread out, concert formation, reduced prize money accepted – the sort of changes that would get us past the covid polis.

Talks may have been going on behind the scenes but behind the scenes is not good enough when you are asking bands to shell out their hard earned. Times are difficult for them. No gala days, no concert earners, no prizemoney, no corporate gigs. And without practices and contest, how can they look their pipers and drummers in the eye and ask them to pay their band subs?

This notwithstanding, my message to bands is pay your dues if you can; and to the RSPBA give some thought to the above or don’t be surprised if bands tell you to forget it for 2021 – as one band has already indicated to me it is ready to do.

Anyone with any thoughts please comment below. Tick, tock, tick, tock …. 28 weeks to the British.



A few days ago we highlighted the petition brought by students at a music school near Glasgow. The residential woodwind and brass players weren’t being allowed to practice in their school building.

Well, the local authority, East Dunbartonshire, has relented and these doughty youngsters (We want to Practice! their slogan) will now be able to blow away to their heart’s content in the classrooms of the prestigious Douglas Academy, Milngavie.

Might there now be some light for our currently banned school pipe bands? All local authority areas with bands, Argyll, North Lanarkshire, West Lothian to name three, should get on to Dougalas Academy and the ED council and ask them what they did to please the authorities. Read more on this story here.


Thanks to Ron Abbot for the pictures of the pipe band of the Royal Company of Archers as featured on PP last weekend. Ron writes: ‘Here is a better photo of the band [see top]. It was posted on the Edinburgh Postal Pipe Band & Dancers Facebook pages by Andy Edgar of the RAF Pipes & Drums.’

The original newspaper cutting plus caption:

What was, or is, the Montrose Silver Arrow Shoot?


Reader Francis Chamberlain came across the pictures below featuring P/Ms Bob Hill and JB Robertson and kindly forwarded them to us. Both JB and Bob (he of the tune Bob Hill’s Ceilidh) were leading lights in the London piping scene in days of yore, Robbie the Champion Piper of repute. Before my time, but Bob’s ceilidh was always held, so I believe, on the Saturday evening of the Bratach Gorm. Any stories/ info welcome.

Francis writes: ‘I have been doing some clearing out and have just come across this historic fashion shoot from Tatler magazine of August 1965. Unfortunately some superfluous young women seem to have wandered accidentally onto the set – the magazine could surely have airbrushed them out – but they don’t obscure the pipers too much!’

Captions on the first pictures are from the magazine, and the Tatler article starts: ‘The Scots are nothing if not proud, and there is nothing they are more proud of than their traditional tweeds and hand-knitted sweaters….So we invited three proud Scots to join in a fashion fling in praise of all those tweeds, tartans and twinsets that would surely by now carpet the globe…’ 


3 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: RSPBA Fees/ Music School Wins Practice Time/ Pipers’ Fashion Shoot

  1. Bob Hill was my first pipe major, when I joined the 57th (Middlesex) General Hospital R.A.M.C. (Territorial Army) Pipes & Drums in 1965; and J.B. was my first solo piping judge (at the Hitchin Festival of Music) in 1966. The other fellow in the photographs above is Bob Sturgeon, who was our Drum Major in the RAMC.

    I got to know Bob Hill and his wife Vi quite well: when Bob was a young Scots Guards piper, Vi told me, she went to watch the ‘Changing of the Guard’ at Buckingham Palace, and first laid eyes on Bob that day in the Pipes & Drums: she told her girlfriend that she would marry him one day; and so she did ! Some time after Bob had gained his pipe major’s qualification at the Army School of Piping, Edinburgh Castle, he moved regiments to become pipe major in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders during the 2nd World War. There is a photo of him in the Argyll’s Museum at Stirling Castle.

    When I got to know him, he was caretaker at the T.A. centre at 206 Brompton Road, just a 5-minute walk from the famous store, Harrods, in London. He, Vi and son Andrew (boy pipe major at the Queen Victoria School, Dunblane) lived in a flat there. The drill hall was often used for TV drama rehearsals, and you could see all the famous actors’ photographs from over the years in ‘The Gladstone’ pub, next door. (On one occasion, I was asked to take over the caretaker’s role there, for two weeks, and recall making tea each day for Jane Asher (Paul McCartney’s girlfriend at the time) and her co-actors.)

    The Sergeants’ Mess, across the corridor from Bob and Vi’s flat, was the scene of many piping ceilidhs – after the big competitions organised by the Scottish Piping Society of London, and each New Year, after pipers had done their duty, playing in the New Year at all the hotels, restaurants and pub around London, they would pipe themselves up the stairs and into the Sgt’s Mess, where Vi would greet them with a dram.

    Often, Bob’s two daughters would join in the entertainment – Catriona, playing the pipes and Mairi, highland dancing. One year, we had the well-know Scottish actor, James Copeland as ‘Fear an Tigh’, telling jokes and introducing the participants, some piping and some singing.

    When Bob finally retired, to live in Alness, Easter Ross, with Vi and Andrew, I would often stay with them at their house in Perrins Road: fond memories include Vi’s cooking and home-grown cabbages in the back garden; being taken to a restaurant, and seeing James Robertson Justice there, at another table with friends; hanging on for dear life to a two-seater sports car, driven by one of Andrew’s friends, at 60 mph on the local country roads at night – Andrew was in the only passenger seat, and I was sitting on the boot of the car, hoping I wouldn’t fall off ! In later years, when I had my own car (a Mini), I once sat in my car, outside the home of John D. Burgess, while Andrew had a piping lesson.

    Bob and Vi Hill were like second parents to me – I miss them greatly.

  2. If my memory serves me right 206 Brompton Road was the venue of said ceilidh where Bob Hill was the caretaker.The players were usually put up in the bar afterwards! After Bob Hill came Gordon Spiers then Jim Barnard where the tradition of parties carried on.Listening to Alex Duthart and Bobby Orr (a great drummer) and Andy White extolling the virtues of the tone of a pencil was one of my most unusual conversations,here I should explain that Bobby had penchant for playing the William Tell overture using a pencil against his teeth.Then listening to both Angus and Tony Macdonald going through some great piping just for fun.Happy days.

  3. The financial situation and survival of the RSPBA is fully understandable, but its a difficult time for both the RSPBA and bands. I would suggest that the RSPBA are entitled to ask for subscriptions on 2 conditions:
    1. They publish their contingency plans for the 2021 contest season
    2. A refund is given should the 2021 season be cancelled completely
    Lastly, should any band be in financial difficulties, then some sort of delayed payment should be agreed. Just as I don’t want to see the RSPBA go under, I would hate to see any band cease to exist because of lack of money

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