Editor’s Notebook: Hogmanay/ Stuart Liddell/ Queen’s Comment/ Grading/ Royal Bagpipe

I hope everyone had a good New Year. The Hogmanay celebrations augured well for piping. Television channels BBC Alba and BBC2 had the pipes welcoming in the midnight bells (the latter featuring the Scots Guards P&D) and Buckingham Palace even put out a video showing Paul Burns, Sovereign’s Piper, piping down the steps at Buckingham Palace playing Auld Lang Syne (best to finish on high A with that setting Paul!)

But the most cheering news during the celebrations was the award of an MBE to master piper Stuart Liddell of Inveraray & District Pipe Band (pictured above). I am sure all of our many readers would like to join me in offering heartiest congratulations to Stuart.

I contacted him on behalf of PP and he responded: ‘I was shocked and of course thrilled to receive such an honour. It took a while to believe it was real. I really thought someone was winding me up at first. I am absolutely delighted.’

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Stuart’s achievements need no rehearsing here but all the major solo awards are his (not so long ago he won every competition he entered at the Northern Meeting – unheard of in modern times). We can then throw in a couple of Worlds wins with his band, a band he took from the bottom grade to the top of the top.

He is one of the main pillars in the resurgence in piping in Argyll and he now follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, P/M Ronald MacCallum MBE, in being honoured by the Crown.

Stuart came to the notice of the wider public this year when he composed a very nice tune, Diu Regnare, to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee of the late Queen. Here he is performing it outside Balmoral Castle:

There is absolutely no chance of him ending his roll of honours in 2023.

Queen’s Comment

I was tickled by this comment kindly sent to us by Leslie Barrett and his good lady: ‘Spotted by my wife Ruth …. from The Times, 28th December 2022, p13, Diary, ‘Quotes of the Year’……

“Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II upon being asked who played best at a football match she saw: ‘The band of the Scots Guards.'”


Climbing the Ladder

Further to last week’s review of the year, reader Steve writes: ‘Many promising young players seem to be ‘lost’ when they reach Open or professional level. I personally know a couple of them.

‘After reaching open, they just stopped competing or even gave up the music altogether in some cases. I wonder if this is due to the fact that Open level is such a vast range, from players like Angus MacColl to young players who are just starting and play fairly well?

‘It is not hard to see why newly minted Open players are less motivated by competitions. How many can make it to the Northern Meetings? What is their immediate next goal? Is there anything the associations can do to help these young players in a more meaningful way, for example, offer more open level competitions limited by age group?’

I think you refer more to the situation in North America Steve than in the the UK. Here we have the CPA’s graded competitions which certainly ease the path to the higher levels of the professional ranks. There is also the MacGregeor Memorial at the Argyllshire Gathering and the Lochnell Championship for Intermediate pro players. Both are open to qualified pipers worldwide. These all certainly help the aspirant climb the ladder.

We shouldn’t expect everyone to make it to senior level however – it is a tough challenge requiring ability, good tuition and diligence, but you are correct in that we should do everything we can to make sure that the system provides the best chances for all.

40 Years Ago

From the recently archived Piping Times, March 1983….‘Sotheby’s the world famous auctioneers have sold a set of bagpipes made in 1890 by RG Lawrie Ltd. The instrument had been commissioned by Queen Victoria as a present to her son who later became King Edward the seventh. The cost at the time was £35.

‘The pipes were bought by Mr Donald Monteith, one of the partners in RG Lawrie. It will become the central point of a show to travel the country advertising his firm’s wares.’

Tut, tut Seumas. ‘It will become’? Surely ‘They’. No figure is given for what the pipe realised and a later King Edward, as everyone knows, abdicated and ran off with Mrs Simpson. Is that him serenading his lover with the Queen Vic pipe above?

I wonder where the pipes are now. Please get in touch if you know.

5 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: Hogmanay/ Stuart Liddell/ Queen’s Comment/ Grading/ Royal Bagpipe

  1. Hi Rab,Thanks for your daily piping input. Good New Year. I was very much associated with RG Lawrie and Hector Russell kilt maker who owned Lawries in 1980 approx. The King’s pipes and box was used as a foot stool for the then manager Stuart. They were hidden under the table as kilts etc. were sold. I believe in the end of 1990s they were sold at auction again in Edinburgh for £4,000 to £5,000. I of course may be wrong but that is my account as hands on. Who bought them? Did the King have more than one set?
    Jim Begg

  2. “Everyone” should know the pipes in question could not have possibly been commissioned for Edward VIII aka “the abdicator”. Your dissing Seumas is unfounded.

  3. Back in the 1980s, I was shown the original Royal Pipes that were commissioned by H.M. Queen Victoria for her personal piper. The set was in the safekeeping of the late P/M Brian MacRae when he was the Sovereign’s Piper. At that time, he also played with British Caledonian Airways Pipes & Drums (with the Her Majesty’s consent) and brought the pipes along to band practice at Gatwick Airport, one Sunday morning. The splendid set was really heavy, fully-mounted in silver with plaques on all the drone stocks: I wish I had had my video camera with me at the time !

  4. I believe there is a bloke (don’t know his name) in NSW, Australia who owns a D MacDougall set with silver ferules & caps and ivory pro-mounts that was commissioned for Prince Edward at the time, before becoming King and later abdicating. It has the royal coat of arms in silver mounted on the bass stock and there’s a silver (?) plaque on the box with “H.R.H. Prince of Wales, Bag Pipes.” It could well be the set Prince Edward is playing in the picture above. Incidentally, I’m pretty sure the Edward pictured above in the article is not Queen Victoria’s son. Wrong era.

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