Editor’s Notebook: Pipe Band Season Doubts/ SAGE Piper/ NPC HND/ Thow Pipes/ 1971 Gold Medal

Not looking good for the early pipe band season I’m afraid. Our Chancellor of the Exchequer has just confirmed that the furlough scheme which subsidises UK wages will stay in place until the end of April.

Relief for beleagured businesses, but it also means that we can expect lockdown or semi-lockdown restrictions until that date at least, and this despite the vaccine coming on stream. We are back close to where we were last March.

The British Championships, the first major of the 2021 season, are in the third week of May. In theory we could, if everything clicked into place medically, politically, legally, within two or three weeks of lockdown end, run with a contest. But right now I would not put money on it happening. The Glasgow Fair in mid-July is a much more realistic resumption date – and that barring third and fourth waves of the bug.

Elsewhere things are patchy. The Loch Norman games, scheduled for April in the US, have been cancelled though the North Florida counterpart have signalled they will be going ahead in a reduced format in late Feb.

In the UK we need a contingency for the bands. A shift of the season to include the whole month of September, and failing that, then an online contingency whereby bands are given some form of activity by the RSPBA, something that keeps the interest going.

Perhaps we could get some input from Calum Semple. Mr Semple is a member of SAGE, the Government’s scientific advisory board, and he’s a piper! Thanks to reader Alan Maltman, Dumfries, who alerted us to this fine painting of Calum (top of article) featured in an issue of the Guardian newspaper last week.

It’s by artist Aliza Nisenbaum and very striking it is too. Might even have taken a prize in our Lockdown contest. Several years ago, according to Wikipedia, Calum was playing the pipes at a Burns Supper and it changed the course of his professional life – clearly for the better.

Now if that is the case, surely you owe us something Calum? I appreciate you might be a shade busy right now, but why not drop Piping Press an email to put all your fellow pipers in the picture vis-à-vis the coming season?

Doug Harris in the US: I just found and read your article dated 29th December 2016 titled ‘History: Thow, the Dundee Bagpipe Makers’. The reason I am contacting you is that I believe I have an original set of Thow Bagpipes.

‘I purchased them from a gentleman in Dundee in 1972 at which time he stated they were Thow pipes and that they were approx. 70 years old. I’ve owned them till now (2020). They are in excellent shape. No cracks or repairs. I am including a picture.

‘The pipes pattern is the same as the unique pattern of the Thow bagpipes shown in your article pictures, except they are not as ornate. I don’t play them anymore and I would like to find a suitable home or resting place in a museum at least. Can you please direct me to whom I might contact or have someone contact me? I would be very grateful.’ Contact Doug here.

Helen Urquhart at the Piping Centre has been in touch about a Higher National Diploma in piping the Centre is planning: ‘We wanted to let you know that in January we will be launching a new further education piping course.

‘The Higher National Certificate (HNC) has been running at The National Piping Centre since January 2016 and it is planned to introduce the Higher National Diploma (HND) in September 2021, subject to SQA approval. The team behind the course are just putting the finishing touches to the information about this, and it will be released fully early in 2021.

‘Until then, we have news of a bridging course, for those who already have a HNC Music – Piping that would like to continue their studies to HND level. This bridging course will start at the end of January 2021, and all the information about it is available on our website here.’ 

I came across this cutting in the PP library whilst reasearching the weekend’s tribute to P/M Iain Morrison. It’s about the 1971 set tunes for Oban and Inverness. The notice is from the Oban Times and it was placed by the Piobaireachd Society’s Music Committee Secretary of that time, Captain John MacLellan. It reads:

Apart from the fact that the Flame of Wrath is in the wrong company, what is intriguing is the last paragraph at 3. I was unaware of any dispute between the Piobaireachd Society and the Argyllshire over the tunes for the 1971 Gold Medal. What did the AG do for GM tunes that year? Can someone shed some light please?

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