Editor’s Notebook: Henderson’s Shop/ Highland Games/ Sir John MacDonald/ Stuart Easton/ Campbeltown Book

On a pleasant perambulation through Glasgow city centre the other day I passed the Atholl Arms pub in Renfrew Street. They’ve this old picture in the window. If you look closely you can see bagpipemaker Peter Henderson‘s shop next door at number 24.

This was where John MacDougall Gillies held court of a Saturday, passing on his great knowledge to those crowding in. It was here too that RG Hardie & Co moved after their takeover of Hendersons in the 70s.

The Atholl was Bob Hardie’s watering hole and where he was happy to clear his tubes of blackwood dust and the odious odour of steaming vats of Airtight seasoning.

I now learn that the following games/ contests will not be having senior solo piping this summer: Cowal, Rosneath, Highlands & Islands, Bathgate and Invercharron. There may be others who fall by the wayside. I’m not sure there’s been piping at Invercharron for a few years anyway.

Cowal is the surprise. Already running a reduced non-championship band contest, they will now, for this year at least, only have junior piping. How are the mighty fallen. But, in true ‘Life of Brian’ mode, let us look on the bright side.

Lochaber Gathering 2021 and winners P/M Ben Duncan, Calum Watson and Ross Miller show off their trophies

Cowal opens the way for Lochaber to have their contest on the Friday after the Argyllshire – just as they did last year. Most successful it was too with Fort William resounding to some fine piping in the piazza in front of the new cinema.

Rosneath have said it would not be financially viable to go ahead this year due to ‘much increased costs, reduced sponsorship, concerns over potential attendance and future covid uncertainty in the months ahead.’

I’m told the Scottish Pipers’ Association are planning their professional contest for April 30 in the Piping Centre.

Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A MacDonald, may be getting a hard time just now from revisionist historians, but here in good old Glasgow the parish of the Ramshorn Kirk, where he was born, still proudly sports his commemorative plaque:

I believe there used to be a successful pipe band named after this distinguished gentleman, undoubtedly a product of his time. I wonder if the cancel culturalists have forced the band to change its name?

Incidentally bands coming over for the Worlds (if there are any) will be amazed at the number of eateries that have opened up in the city centre. It’s just about all there is in what was once a thriving business -based city. Lovers of good food will be pleased and the night life seems to be doing well.

New Zealand’s Stuart Easton (pictured below) is putting on a recital in Brisbane on April 13 at 7pm. The venue is the Story Bridge Hotel and the promoters, the Queensland Highland Pipers’ Society, have said there will be no ticket sales at the door. Get them here.

Iain Duncan, compiler of the new ‘Campbeltown Book of Piping’, writes: Campbeltown local library is now open again to the public I have been trawling the old local newspapers for anything to do with piping.

The time frame I’m using is late 1800s to the start of WWII. The stuff coming out will augment what I already have in the book, but critically, names of ordinary pipers of the day are being collected as well as some other interesting stuff and parochial trivia.

There still a lot of research to be done and could take a few months further into the year, however I will be endeavouring to do a revised edition.

One story that I’ve found is from 1903 when a ‘celebrated medal-winning lady piper’ was invited down to Campbeltown to play at one of the social piping events. She was Jessie B. Kirk, the daughter of an Army Pipe Major.

The Argyllshire Herald, a Campbeltown newspaper now long gone, reported: ‘BAGPIPE AND DANCING COMPETITION:- We remind our readers of the bagpipe and dancing competition which takes place in the Victoria Hall on Friday, 27 January, at which Miss Kirk, the celebrated medallist lady piper will play.’

Later the paper reported: ‘A bagpipe and dancing competition took place in the Victoria Hall on Friday 27th January.  The celebrated medallist lady piper, Miss Kirk, had been secured by the committee and she began the evening’s programme with a few selections which earned her the heartiest eulogiums for her first-class playing.’ Contact Iain here if you are interested in getting a copy of the book.

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