Editor’s Notebook: Vaccine Hope/ Dingwall Summer School/ Worlds ’75/ Amazing Amira

Fingers crossed, the vaccine, being administered here in the UK from Monday, will have arrived in time to save the summer piping season. The Oxford shots are not far behind adding to the millions of doses flooding in. However it will take a few months until they reach a level of application that satisfies the politicians that they can give up their grandstanding and release us all from house arrest.

That means that early season Highland games and pipe band championships scheduled for spring 2021 could still be adversely affected by covid-19.

The promoters, the RSPBA included, need a fast action response whereby if they get the go ahead in April they can deliver in May. The British Championships at Paisley, in just over five months, are a case in point. Get everything in place: entries, judges the whole master plan. Then, if the plug is pulled, everything is instantly re-scheduled for a previously agreed date later in the year after Cowal.

As Brigid Flannery suggested yesterday, Highland games, certainly early season ones, may have to adopt strictures similar to those in place at Dunedin, Florida. Anything to get the show on the road I say. For now we need to stick to the rules and keep practising in the sure knowledge that a return to normality is not too far off. I would echo the sentiments of this poster I spotted outside Glasgow’s famous Pavilion Theatre:

Logan Tannock, piping teacher and judge, has been in touch regarding the summer school in Dingwall featured a couple of weeks back. Logan writes: ‘Just looking at the website article with the picture from Dingwall. I have a couple of points that may be of interest.

‘I am not sure that it was a College of Piping summer school. I don’t remember Seumas MacNeill being at it. I think it may have been the Scottish Amateur Music Association that held these piping summer schools and for the first few years they were held in Dingwall Academy. Ben Wyvis Youth Hostel next to Tulloch Castle was where we all stayed.

Instructors at Dingwall: John MacDougall, Jimmy McGregor, Duncan Johnstone, John Burgess; kneeling: Donald MacPherson, Ronnie MacCallum, Jimmy McIntosh, John MacKenzie, Fred Morrison

‘Later years saw it move to Dollar Academy and then to McLaren High School in Callander. I attended most of these summer schools as a youngster and collected autographs from many of these great teachers and players [below], as well as learning a whole lot of new tunes and making many friends.

‘I remember the instructors’ recitals where, as a young boy, I was in awe of the talent getting showcased. It was also the first time I had seen John D Burgess playing in a recital setting. I remember him walking away from us playing and as he turned round we noticed he had swapped hands!

‘The autographs for ’74 & ’75 were collected on the back page of my John MacFadyen Book 1 – except from John MacKenzie who signed his name on page 19 which had his composition Tug Argan Gap.

‘I still have these signatures and the book to this day as you can see from the photographs. Most of the pipers in the photograph above have signed the back page of the book.’

John MacKenzie’s great 6/8 signed by the man himself

Many thanks for sharing that Logan. A super memento. Names not mentioned, but whose signatures can be seen, are: Bert Short, Farquhar MacIntosh, John Graham, Bert Barron, Ian Clowe and Arthur Gillies.

Here’s a tester for you pipe band history buffs. The picture is of Lothian & Borders Police in 1975 after they stole the Worlds title from Muirheads at Corby. (I am biased of course.)

Pipers I can name in this great band are (kneeling l – r): Laurie Gillespie, Colin Forbes, Martin Wilson, George Lumsden. Standing: P/M Iain McLeod, ?,?, John MacIntosh…then I’m struggling, though I can spot Ronnie Ackroyd and Duncan Smith at the back and, far right, Harry McNulty with the sideburns and hairy caterpillar, and next to him D/M Jim Hermiston. Please forward the other names if you can.

The picture is from a newspaper called the Scottish Daily News which was the worker’s co-operative paper founded in Glasgow in 1975 after the Scottish Daily Express folded. The staff used their redundancy money to set up the paper and there were loans from the Labour government and the crook Robert Maxwell – who then made off with their pension fund. The paper ceased printing after six months owing over £1m.

Correspondent Ken Rogers in Calgary: ‘My head is just swimming with all the information printed on Piping Press. Examine the quality of the tunes in the articles on the composers from the late 19th and early 20th century. What can be said that hasn’t been said about them? 

‘Them there’s the recent Alasdair Gillies recording that was published. What tone and execution; a titan of the piping world then and now. Anyway, I’m taking a short break from my ceòl mòr practice and have just listened to Amira Willighagen, Live in Concert, singing Amazing Grace. 

‘This young woman won the Netherlands Has Got Talent contest and has now matured to this level. I recommend this to you because the clip begins with three pipers and an orchestra, a conductor, and a choir  Perhaps you know the pipers [pictured] from South Africa.’

Sorry, don’t know the pipers Ken. Here is the link https://youtu.be/7PJWRKkMpHM

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