It was extraordinary to stand on the ground which cradled our modern piping tradition. This we did last week when the Piobaireachd Society’s Summer School participants struggled over fences and dykes and cow pats to reach the croft of John MacKay, Raasay.
Here were the very stones that nurtured his son Angus, and the hills and fields that heard the boy’s first notes on the chanter. How incredible that only a few short years later he was to leave this wild ruggedness and end up entertaining royalty in the gilded splendour of Queen Victoria’s London as the first Sovereign’s Piper.
Readers, add Raasay, a short hop on the ferry from Skye, to your piping bucket list.
PS Summer School
There were many other highlights at the school, not least the dedication the students showed in their application to the work given to them by their instructors, Dr Jack Taylor and myself. Everything was helped along grandly by the obliging, welcoming staff at the Gaelic college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig where we stayed.
I hope the school can be repeated. The setting, the history, the music, proved attractive to pipers from Australia, Canada, the US, Poland and the wider UK. Though only 14 in number, they were a pleasure to meet and teach.
Good news that the Worlds is once more to be livestreamed by the BBC. Not so good is the news that there won’t be a hospitality tent this year. Yes, it was taken advantage of by individuals who had no interest in hearing the bands, but it also provided a meeting place for officials, judges, the press and overseas visitors. It made the Worlds that little bit more special and I hope the promoters, Glasgow Life, will reconsider.
National Mod Piping
More good news: The National Mod have finally got their act together on solo piping – for years seen as a bothersome bolt on to the annual Gaelic festival of language and song. From this year it will be a graded competition with the Competing Pipers Association and the Army School all involved in the organisation.
Senior piping is at Perth Theatre on Sat., Oct 15 and will feature A/Premier and B Grade competitions for pìobaireachd, and march, strathspey and reel, four tunes asked for. Junior piping is on the same day at Perth’s North Inch Community Campus.
Eagle Pipers’ Piobaireachd
Peter McCalister on the Eagle Pipers’ piobaireachd composing contest: ‘Entries are going well, and the last month is upon us. Entries must be in before the 31st July. As mentioned before, our panel of judges (Tom Speirs, Iain Speirs and Euan Anderson) will then judge the entries during August and announce the winner on 26th August during the high-profile John MacLellan Dinner.
‘The tune itself will be performed in public at one of the Eagle Pipers’ meetings in Edinburgh before the end of the year, and this recording will be disseminated widely. It will be known as The Eagle Pipers’ Piobaireachd, and we are looking forward to having our ‘own’ tune in perpetuity.
‘If any other budding composers need advice please contact me at email@example.com . Some previous enquiries have revolved around the need for an mp3 of the tune. This can be played by the composer or another player, and we have at least one entrant who is doing the tune on electronic pipes, which is quite acceptable.’
Kilbarchan Pipe Band
Renfrewshire councillors have formally congratulated Kilbarchan Pipe Band for their recent run of success in Grade 4B, winning the British, UK and European titles:
‘Council sends its heartfelt congratulations to Kilbarchan Pipe Band for their first major championship wins since the band reformed just over twenty years ago. Council further wishes them every success at the World Pipe Band Championships later this year.’
The band’s next appearance will be closer to home – at the first-ever Renfrew Pipe Band Championships in Robertson Park, on Saturday, 23 June. The free event is organised as part of Renfrewshire Council’s major events programme. More info at www.renfrewshire.gov.uk