Editor’s Notebook: Talk Piobaireachd/ SPA Entries/ Aberdeen Art/ Games in 1937 and P/M John Slattery

A treat tonight for members of the Piobaireachd Society with the celebrated Bill Livingstone delivering the final ‘Talk Piobaireachd’ of the 2021-22 season. Time is 8pm BST (GMT+1) and Bill will be talking about and demonstrating two of his favourite tunes, Lament for the Earl of Antrim and In Praise of Morag.

Bill, who recently enjoyed his 80th birthday, was one of the great pioneers of Canadian piping, proving that travelling to Scotland to compete was a worthwhile, affordable and musically rewarding.

Bill and the victorious 78th at the Worlds in 1987

He combined a stellar solo career – he won both Gold Medals and the Gold Clasp among many other top prizes – with leading the 78th Fraser Highlanders to the Worlds title in 1987, the first overseas band to achieve this honour. In doing so Bill became one of the few pipe majors to simultaneously succeed at the very top of both branches of world piping.

His talk is only open to members of the Society. You can join here.


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SPA Professional

I hear that unfortunately the Scottish Pipers contest a week on Saturday (April 30) has only attracted four entrants in the P/A Piobaireachd and three in the light music.

That must be very disheartening for the organisers of what will be our first ‘live’ professional contest of the year. The SPA committee have now abandoned the P/A light music and amalgamated it with the B grade for an Open contest. I can’t help thinking they should have done the same for the P/A Piob.

The reason for the reticence among our top players? It’s because of what I call ‘invitationitis’. The only early season stuff they are interested in are the Uist & Barra and the Donald MacLeod, both elite events.

Many years ago someone predicted this re-alignment of solo piping in Scotland. Great for the top players but not so good for open contests such as the SPA.

On the up side they have a very healthy entry in B and C grades. Note: spectators are welcome to the contest at the Piping Centre in McPhater Street, Glasgow. A good chance to hear some live piping for a change.


Aberdeen Art

Correspondent Duncan Watson: I was invited to play at the opening of an Art Exhibition organised by the  Aberdeen Artists Society. Norman Matheson [the late piobaireachd judge] was associated with them through the Grampian Hospital Arts Project, which he led for 14 years.

I was requested to play pieces of ceòl mòr commemorating his involvement. With Norman’s passion for fishing, I chose to play the ground and first variation of Scarce of Fishing and followed it with the ground of the Tribute Lament for Norman, composed by Niall Matheson.

One of the paintings was of Neil Selbie’s shop (above). He will be well known to pipe bands and pipers as the north-east based drone reed manufacturer. The painting is by a Mr John O’Neil and he was happy for me to photograph his work for the interest of others. I don’t think Neil Selbie is aware of the painting.


John Slattery and 1937 Games List

Take a look at this list of games and band contests from 1937. Argyllshire Gathering on September 15 and 16, Aboyne September 8, both much later than today, Northern Meeting a week or two earlier. Also significant were the number of contests run by pipe bands.

Tagged on is a nice story about P/M John Slattery KOSB and Scots Guards and the delivery of twins.


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