Editor’s Notebook: John Weatherston/ Band Inactivity in Scotland/ Piob Soc Recital/ Dystonia Plea/ Duncan and the Prince

Thanks to Yves Tison for this picture of P/M John Weatherston. Yves writes: ‘Further to your excellent Piping Press article on Red Hackle pipe band, I have found in my photos an old pic of Pipe Major John Weatherston at the Festival de Cornemuse in Brest, Brittany, in August 1969.’

Good picture Yves. Jock was in the habit of wrapping a sweat-catching handkerchief round his neck. The joys of piping in full No.1 dress in the intense heat of a French summer.

Bandspeople today don’t know how lucky they are.


Band Inactivity Fears

Following yesterday’s report on the pipe band activity in Northern Ireland, I received this from a well-placed commentator in the Province who asked to remain anonymous. What he says is worth repeating:

‘I am surprised that other RSPBA branches didn’t follow suit. Local councils who have traditionally supported bands here came on board and the nominal fees charged would appear to have gone to charity.

‘None of the events would have been difficult to organise either. We obviously have a parading tradition here which has given most bands targets to aim for.

‘The RSPBA need to ensure that contests happen next year even with restricted attendances and reduced prize money.

‘The loss of another season would be catastrophic, if severe damage hasn’t been done already. My own band, like many others, has practised when possible over the pandemic and attended a number of events.

‘I know of at least one top Grade 2 band who have never even met In person or online. I fear a number of bands may never return. I hope I am wrong.’

I am sure some Scottish RSPBA branches have had some activitiy over the summer but no information has come our way. On the face of it it looks as though Northern Ireland has given us a right showing up.



Piobaireachd Society Recital

Members of the Piobaireachd Society can now enjoy recordings made at their annual recital on Sunday evening. There were outstanding performances at the Otago Street premises of the National Piping Centre.

The pipers were Stuart Liddell, P/M Ben Duncan, Craig Sutherland and Dr Decker Forrest. The recordings were professionally captured by the NPC’s regular audio expert Ross Saunders. The pipers are pictured at the end of the show:

To access the recordings you need to be a member of the Society. Join here.


Dystonia Request

Reader Ken MacDonald in Australia: ‘I have read your article on dystonia.  I am a piper and have a problem with my top hand. 

‘I am 55 years of age and have played since I was nine. I have good fingers and consider myself a competent Grade 1 piper – or at least I did until this condition, which has been frustrating me for months, happened. 

‘My bottom hand is perfect, but when I lift my E finger for a gracenote, my F finger moves independently of whatever I try to get it to do. 

‘I couldn’t understand what was happening until I read your article and others like it. Do you know of a medical treatment/physio/doctor in Australia that is familiar with this condition and can help me please?’

Is there someone out there who can help Ken? Please forward any info and we’ll pass on.


Duncan Receives a Visitor

Thanks to Fraser Maitland for this picture of Duncan Watson and HRH Prince Charles. It was snapped at the recent Grampian Games held at Braemar. I need a good caption. What passed between them that made the Sage of Strathbogie giggle so?

Sage to HRH: ‘Little Prince you Are My Choice’ [Bk. 13]. Or maybe, ‘I like you but not the Prince’s Salute’.

HRH to Duncan: ‘Any good reeds?’ Or maybe, ‘That’s not the way our gamekeeper Nicol played it.’

Contributions to the usual address.


6 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: John Weatherston/ Band Inactivity in Scotland/ Piob Soc Recital/ Dystonia Plea/ Duncan and the Prince

  1. Ken – I used to have the exact same issue – same fingers too. Happy to chat through how I managed to overcome it. I’m also based in Australia (Sydney) so finding a time should be relatively easy! Email is chunter629@gmail.com – cheers

  2. Ken
    Good to hear some positive comments regarding Focal Dystonia. I’ve suffered for over 30 years and I’ve never managed to overcome the condition.
    I noticed a woman called Ruth Chiles claims to be able to cure 95% of musicians that suffer from Dystonia. If you google her name you’ll get lots of information. I think she might be based in Granada, Spain.

    Best of luck Ken. I hope you manage to beat this horrible condition.

  3. I believe you wanted a translation Rab? Herewith:
    Gooday Ken,
    As you, I had worries of Dystonia in the left hand, I had not the possibility anymore to play with my middle and left index finger, they didn’t respond anymore as I wished it. After a lot of attempts and personal research I found a simple solution so that my brain recognizes these two fingers, my solution I put around the middle and left index finger, a small rubber band on each finger without compromising the fingering to play. I advised a friend this solution he had lost the control of his birl finger. With the help of a small ring he recovered his game. It is important to make the exercises to our fingers as well as building the muscles to the finger that has a weakness.
    Paul Tesnière Ferns France

  4. Roughly, M Tesnière is saying that he had a similar problem with dystonia on his left hand and that after many experiments, personal research and consulting with a friend who had lost his birl, he hit on a solution that worked. That was to wrap a light elastic band between his thumb and each finger on his hand, strong enough to make him relearn how to move the fingers without totally preventing movement. He adds it’s important to exercise the muscles on the fingers.

    I can add that my experience was similar; I totally lost my birl at age 31 in the space of a few months and didn’t get it back until I was 46 and had the internet to guide me. I didn’t play pipes more than 6 or 7 times in total (family weddings mostly) in the intervening years because of it. I used a rubber band and taught myself to do tap/drag birls working against the resistance. Eventually I could play again and can now play adequately (and in a conventional birl style).

  5. Bonjour Monsieur Ken, comme vous j’ai eu un soucis de Dystonie à la main gauche, je n’avais plus de possibilité de jouer avec mon pouce et mon index gauche ils ne répondaient plus comme je le souhaitais.
    Après beaucoup de tentatives et de recherche personnelle j’ai trouvé une solution simple pour que mon cerveau reconnaisse ces deux doigts, ma solution j’ai mis autour du pouce et de l’index gauche un petit élastique sur chaque doigt sans gêner le doigté pour jouer. J’ai conseillé à un ami cette solution il avait perdu le contrôle du doigt du birl à l’aide d’une petite bague il a retrouvé son jeu. Il est important de faire de la gymnastique à nos doigts ainsi que de la musculation au doigt qui a une faiblesse .
    Paul Tesnière Fougères France

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