Editor’s Notebook: Alasdair Takes a Break/ School’s Piping Lessons/ Donald Main/ 1976 Results

The late, great Alasdair Gillies takes a seat on the competition platform while warming up at a games in the US. I was always impressed with his finger positioning. Perfect. Look at the bottom hand.

Thumb exactly where it should be, between fore and middle fingers. Top hand digits beautifully aligned. And no, the pinkie is not touching the chanter, though the camera angle makes it seem so. Posture relaxed, no strain at all. Blowstick middle of the mouth, no puffed up cheeks.

Truly a master piper at work. From this precise positioning, drummed into him by his expert father from a very young age, Alasdair went on to conquer the world with his music.

Many thanks to Logan Tannock, President of the Scottish Pipers’ Association, for passing on the picture.


I wonder where we are with the Scottish National Party’s manifesto pledge to abolish fees for children learning a musical instrument at state schools?

Pre-election we were told there was an £18 million commitment to end a ‘postcode lottery’ that gave some pupils free tuition whilst others were charged more than £300 a year.

School cash in Scotland is controlled by local councils who have seen their budgets cut in real terms over the past several years. Cash-strapped councils have often resorted to cutting music tuition, inluding piping, to make up deficits.

The late Bob Shepherd teaching piping in his school in Fife in the 1970s. What chance this sort of provision these days?

Resulting fees were beyond the means of children from low-income families. According to the Times newspaper the average tuition fee across Scotland is £250 a year per child but some local authorities charge up to £340. In all an estimated 61,000 pupils and their families would benefit from the scrapping of fees. Some local authorities including Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow do not charge fees as a matter of principle.

The paper said the SNP has accepted all the recommendations of a report by the Music Education Partnership Group, produced in association with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and promised to scrap music fees throughout the country.

The measures include bringing instrument tutors fully into the schools system by accrediting them under the General Teaching Council Scotland, creating what the SNP manifesto described as ‘a professionally recognised national music teaching force’.

All great news for our piping and drumming tutors. Anyone heard anything? Parents and teachers please report to editor@pipingpress.com.



Music academic Dr Stuart Eydmann of the raretunes website is looking for information on a Donald Main.

Dr Eydmann writes: ‘I have been researching the Scottish musician Donald Main who raised the ire of the piping fraternity in the 1930s and 40s with his theories and thoughts on aesthetics and interpretation expounded in broadcasts and lecture recitals.

‘I knew he had been recorded but had assumed it was a private arrangement. However, This week I found the attached advertisement that shows recordings of him were released for sale. Does anyone know of extant copies?’

Anyone know anything of Mr Main or his recordings? If so please get in touch and we’ll pass on. Here is his ad:


From the archives…results from 45 years ago:

Killoch Colliery Juniors 1976
Chanter Under 11: 1 Gordon Walker 2 Charles Ferguson 3 Fiona Anderson
Juvenile Championship Under 15, points combined from Piobaireachd and MSR
1 Ian Plunkett 2 Stephen Yopung 3 Douglas Pincock
Juveniles Under 19
1 Leslie Watson 2 Logan Tannock 3 Stewart Gaudin
Judge: John MacFadyen

Dornoch Games 1976
Piob: 1 Ronnie Clark, Aberfeldy 2 John MacDougall, Kincraig 3 Evan Macrae, Fort William 4 Iain Menzies, Aberfeldy
March: 1 John MacDougall 2 Norman Gillies, Ullapool 3 Evan Macrae 4 Sandy MacKenzie, Tain
S&R: 1 John MacDougall 2 Norman Gillies 3 Sandy MacKenzie 4 Ian Duncan, Pitlochry
Jig: 1 Andrew Hill, Alness 2 John MacDougall 3 Ian Duncan 4 Norman Gillies
Judges: A MacKillop, Perth, N Meldrum, Ballater, RB Nicol, Ballater, J Matheson, Lairg, J MacGregor, Glenalmond.


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