Editor’s Notebook: Harry McAleer/ Piobaireachd Society News/ the CoP, Donald and Seumas

Wasn’t that a good memeory of the late Harry McAleer to share yesterday?

I know from your response that it was much appreciated.

One photograph we forgot to include is the one above. It shows Harry (r) with his friend Fred Russell piping at Harry Stevenson’s wedding in 1971. (Harry is the respected RSPBA adjudicator and PP contributor.)

In yesterday’s article Fred talked of growing up with Harry in their native Belfast.


The Piobaireachd Society has announced the line up for their winter ‘Talk Piobaireachd’ sessions. These online talks started during lockdown and have been continued by popular acclaim. They are open and free to all members of the Society.

November 17: Double Gold Medallist and Clasp winner Bill Livingstone will talk about his career, his teachers and his tunes. Bill is one of the few pipers to have found solo and pipe band success during his career, winning the World Pipe Band Championship with the 78th Fraser Highlanders from Ontario in 1987.

Bill Livingstone (l) and Stuart Liddell at the launch of Bill’s book ‘Preposterous – Tales to Follow’ in 2017. A few days later Stuart was to emulate Bill’s feat of winning the Worlds when Inveraray & District triumphed at Glasgow Green

December 16: Dan Nevans, the author of the new book ‘Piobaireachd is for Everyone’ will present a session on ‘The Piobaireachd Society resource, musicology and studying pieces for performance.’

January 19: Alan Forbes, Chairman of the Society’s Music Committee, will give an illustrated talk on the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society and its contribution to ceòl mòr.

February 16: Society Treasurer Roddy Livingstone’s paper is entitled ‘Piobaireachd and London’. It will cover the history of the Scottish Piping Society of London and other history that pre-dates its formation by some hundred years. 

March 16: Douglas Gardiner, President, will tell us of the Eagle Pipers, and how, by encouraging recitals and hosting competitions, they have done so much for piobaireachd playing in Scotland’s capital.

April 20: Bill Livingstone returns to close the series with more expert playing, advice and interesting personal history.

To enjoy these talks you can join the Society here.



Other news:

The PS has announced that for a small charge those buying their Bound Volumes of all sixteen of the Society’s books can have their name inscribed on the front cover in gold lettering. Bound Volumes contain 266 scores of tunes and alternatives, editorial notes, General Preface and Index in one, high quality, soft leather-bound book.

The General Committee of the Society has agreed to present one of its kilt pins to the winner of Canada’s George Sherriff amateur competition to mark its 25th Anniversary in 2021. 


From the scrapbook… I found this interesting, and some might say nostalgic, cutting from the Oban Times the other day:

It dates from the early 1970s. Donald MacPherson was to fall out with Seumas MacNeill in a big way. Their split was such that it resulted in the famous ‘about-turn’ at Blair Castle.

In autumn 1974 Donald got off the train at Blair Atholl and walked up to the castle for the first Grant’s Championship. Entering the building he saw Seumas in conversation with John MacFadyen. Donald turned on his heels and got the next train back to Glasgow.

As I’ve said before, these public fall-outs don’t achieve anything. Donald’s reputation as possibly the greatest competing piper of all time was never affected and the Grants Championship, now the Glenfidich, continues to thrive.

Looking at the advert again we can see that the College was charging only £2.50 and £1.25 for ten weeks of lessons. What it doesn’t say is that if you could not afford that you were taught for free.


2 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: Harry McAleer/ Piobaireachd Society News/ the CoP, Donald and Seumas

  1. Seumas must have mellowed a little in his later years; I only met him once, as the examiner for what was then the Elementary Certificate of the Institute of Piping. As a young schoolboy, I had no idea who he was, and probably as the little tyke that I was I didn’t much care. I was not properly prepared for the exam, and while I sailed through my scales and answered his theory questions, and laboured my way through Scots Wha Hae, it was blatantly obvious that not only could I not play the second half of Bonnie Galloway, I had never attempted to learn it. Seumas gave a deep sigh: “you WILL learn it, won’t you?”

    I assented enthusiastically and that was that. A few days later my certificate arrived. And I did eventually get round to learning the second part.

  2. I’m not surprised ! I think I mentioned before, my only memory of Seumas MacNeill was from back in around 1968 when I (as a novice piper, aged 18) sent a couple of my early compositions to him, hoping for some encouragement and useful critique. He simply returned the painstakingly hand-written sheets, along with a letter consisting of a single sentence: “These tunes are of no interest.” Whilst he was quite right, his lack of diplomacy and encouragement hurt to the core. I try to be more encouraging to my piping students.

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