Editor’s Notebook: US Ship Launch/ Finlay MacRae/ PS Bursary/ Eddie’s New CD

Reader Michael Hubbard in the US: I thought to send this fairly dramatic photo from October 2021.  This is the Clan Macleay Pipe Band, Portland, Oregon, USA (in continuous existence since 1912).  We are playing at the launching of a barge at Greenbrier Marine. 

As can be seen, we were in our typically rainy period, with pipers and drummers in Inverness capes. The Drum Major, Dan Kelley, decided to stand out sans cape…(and he does).  Cheers from the States, Michael. Photo by Harold Hutchinson.

A terrific picture Michael. It reminds me of the heyday of shipbuilding on the Clyde here in Glasgow. I wonder if any readers have have similar photos of bands playing in the yards back in the day? If so please forward and we’ll publish.

I came across a letter from the late Finlay MacRae the other day which I thought would be of interest to pipers. Finlay was the great woodsman and conservationist who did much to restore and preserve the native Caledonian Pine forest in the Glen Affric area of the north.

He was also a respected piper and judge. Taught by Willie Ross, Finlay was instrumental in having the memorial cairn built to the great man in Strathfarrar.

Finlay among his beloved Caledonian pines

I think the letter is from 2006 or thereabouts. It reads: ‘Dear Robert, Some years ago I was asked to pipe at the funeral of Captain Mathieson of Brahan, which was at that time the Earl of Seaforth property near Maryburgh in Ross-shire.

‘The great piping family of Donald Cameron lived there at one time. They were pipers to the Seaforths.

‘I was fortunate to be introduced to an ancient pipe – it had once been the property of Black Finlay MacRae from Kintail, composer I believe of that masterpiece, the Earl of Seaforth’s Salute – a piobaireachd of unique construction.

‘I was privileged to borrow this pipe for a period. As far as I could judge the wood was laburnum, and the mounts were bone. Perhaps you have some rough idea of age.

Finlay with Black Finlay’s pipe

‘Despite all efforts, and using every reed, it never budged from what I could only describe as uniquely dreadful and I gave up.

‘It was two-droned and very light. Could it have been a pastoral instrument that a shepherd might have used as he sat herding?

‘Anyway I returned the pipe to the rightful owner for safe keeping and protection at Brahan. It transpires that Black Finlay may have been a distant relative [of mine]. Anyway he was a unique composer. Almost certainly the Earl of Seafoth’s Salute was passed on via canntaireachd, possibly a local version from Kintail.

‘As far as I can ascertain, Black Finlay was a forebear of Angus MacRae of Callander. PS: Had left leg amputated a month ago – still able to play in my wheelchair – better I suppose than losing an arm. At 88 I should have more sense and give up. Regards, F.’

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The Piobaireachd Society is reporting that there are still places on their teaching bursary for the 2021-22 session. Lessons are online, worldwide, and free to all participants who must be members of the Society and aged 14 – 18.

Leading the course is renowned instructor Dr Jack Taylor.  If anyone knows of a young piper who would benefit from Jack’s expert tuition please encourage them to participate. The bursary application form can be downloaded here

Piping instructor for Preston Lodge pipe band, Eddie Seaman, has released a new CD on Greentrax Recordings entitled ‘Cave of Gold’.

The blurb reads: ‘Cave of Gold’ was recorded by Scott Wood in Glasgow and includes Eddie playing the Highland bagpipe and whistle, while accompanied on six tracks by the very talented multi-instrumentalist Aaron Jones. Eddie is joined on the Cave of Gold track by the very fine Gaelic singer Maeve Mackinnon.

Originally from Edinburgh, Eddie started playing the pipes when he was at school, and then progressed to study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland from 2009 to 2013.

Eddie Seaman

Over the course of his professional life he has worked with a variety of musicians, bands and theatre projects and has had the opportunity to travel to America and Russia, as well as countless dates throughout Europe. 

He was a member of the group Barluath, nominated for Folk Band Of The Year at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards in 2016, and was involved in two albums with the band.

Get the CD here

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