Tales from the Archives: Edinburgh Police Pipe Band/ Angus MacPherson at Inverness

From the Edinburgh Evening News 1970: ‘Police Pipe Band March to Success’….Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band have won the European [Pipe Band] Chanpionship. Since their formation about 78 years ago they have scored in the major piping competitions and were World Chanpions in 1897, 1919, 1950, 1954, 1963 and 1964.

Their present Pipe Major is Iain McLeod and he deserves much of the credit for the outstanding success in recent years.

Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band was formed around 1890 taking the place of the old City Band. It was originally garbed in Royal Stewart tartan but later changed to the Red Ross and in 1948 to Prince Charles Edward Stuart.

Members of the band have performed in Canada, the United States, Rhodesia, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Soviet Union and Japan.

Writer Jack Webster in the Daily Express in 1975: Angus MacPherson went to a ceilidh in Inverness last night to round off that great occasion known as the Northern Meeting and widely regarded as the world championship for individual piping.

Angus, one of the all time greats of piping, has been attending the Northern Meeting without interruption since 1894, four years before he became personal piper to Andrew Carnegie!

At 96 he still plays and judges and was capable of sitting through a solid 12-hour diet of pibroch this week, feeding his soul on classical music of bagpipe playing and scorning such material encumbrances as lunch.

Inside the ballroom of the Caledonian Hotel and an adjoining hall, the enthusiasts were gathering in all their Highland glory. Late season holidaymakers – Germans, French, Swiss, Italians, whoever – flocked in to sit patiently through hours of piping which, in the purity of pibroch at least, is very much an acquired taste.

Yet they sat and sat and told me afterwards that they had had begun to understand it and to love it.

A hundred pipers competed at Inverness this week, including a large number of boys. Interest has been stirred by the fact that piping can now be part of the O-levels in music.

Angus MacPherson (l) judging with Willie Ross in 1960

Out of it all came the gold awards which entitle a player to consider himself among the finest pipers in the world.

Were they still playing the pibroch as well as they used to I wondered. ‘They don’t put the same heart and soul into it,’ says Angus in his gentle voice.

‘You see, the men who wrote these tunes were not literate men but they lived with nature and all its beauty, and that was what they put into their music.

‘Yes, the pibroch is the beauty of nature and the playing of it is almost hereditary. You cannot instruct through a book. It has to be passed on, if only for the fact that you cannot put a man’s soul down on paper.’

1 thought on “Tales from the Archives: Edinburgh Police Pipe Band/ Angus MacPherson at Inverness

  1. I believe the first part of the Edinburgh Evening News article on the police pipe band to be quite inaccurate. The band was formed in 1900 at the earliest on the wishes of the new Chief Constable, Roderick Ross CVO CBE KPM, who was not appointed to the Edinburgh City post until 1900, a position he then held for 35 years.
    1890 is mentioned as the date the band was formed, but it was actually the year the Edinburgh City force “pulled the plug” on both the Edinburgh City band (not pipe band) and the Edinburgh City Police Pipers.
    I also doubt very much whether there was a World Championship held in 1897 either.

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