Contrary to the impression given by RSPBA Chairman Kevin Reilly in last week’s story on the cancellation of the British Championships, the Association did not approach Cowal Gathering about the possible transfer of parts of the competition.
Mr Reilly was referring to an approach to an events company in the town who mentioned the use of ‘Cowal Stadium’. Cowal Gathering Chairman Malcolm Barclay has since contacted the RSPBA to clarify the position.
The Association Chief Executive Colin Mulhern has now issued the following statement: ‘The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association would like to address the statement in this article [by Mr Reilly] with the quotation ‘we were speaking to the organisers at Cowal only a week ago’. This wasn’t accurate. The RSPBA had a discussion with a local events company where Cowal Stadium was mentioned as a potential venue. We would like to apologise to Cowal Gathering for this confusion.’
Still on the British, I’m with Allan Hamilton and other correspondents on the need for band’s to re-connect with the public and thus their local authorities. This from reader ‘Gordon’: ‘Lack of interest in smaller competitions from the Grade 1 bands (and with other grades following suit) who only attend the five majors has caught up with the RSPBA.
‘In previous years at smaller competitions, towns benefited from a healthy pipe band competition which usually ran hand in hand with the town’s gala day. Now with shortage of cash you can see why councils have adapted to other forms of entertainment.
‘The RSPBA should have made it mandatory that bands attended a certain number of non-major competitions within their branch as part of their membership. I’m thinking of Shotts, Lesmahagow, Ardrossan and Pitlochry to name a few that were well attended events in years gone by.’
I’ve been on about that for years Gordon. A simple solution to building interest. Another is dress. Everyone grumbles about No1s. Not the public. They loved to see bands in full regalia on parade, drummers swinging, drum majors throwing (see picture top). Take that away – which we have done – and is it any wonder interest is falling?
I am always reminded of the introduction of the music video. The positive effect on sales of recordings was instantaneous – the visual adding a new dimension to the music. That’s what full No1 dress gives the pipe band and we need to see more of it. What do we have these days? Shirt sleeve order with only the tenor sections adding anything worth watching to the pipe band display. So well done to the much-maligned girls and guys with the multi-coloured twirler sticks.
Reader Keith Morris: ‘Any chance you would have the sheet music for ‘We Will Remember Them’ I’ve copied a YouTube link of the New Zealand youth pipe band playing the tune. What an awesome tune, looking to get a copy of the sheet music. Thanks very much.’
Can anyone help Keith? His email is keith.morrison@KPProducts.com
P/M Donald MacLeod
Reader Walter Kruse in South Africa: ‘I read your article on Pipe Major Donald MacLeod and your invitation to comment. My tutor attended the P/M’s course as a fellow student with P/M MacLeod. He told me many stories about him. All started with: ‘Oh, P/M Donald MacLeod, he was about the height of that windowsill…‘ This was pre-WWII. My tutor, Alan Watters, would go on to become P/M of the Black Watch, I think 6th Batallion, during the war.
‘He also had many stories about the war. He was one of the pipers at the battle of El-Alamein and served most of his time in the desert. After the war, as was done at the time, he did a trade apprenticeship and became a book binder.
‘He then emigrated to South Africa and played a massive role in the establishment of piping here. He taught hundreds of school boys at the Christian Brothers College and at Pretoria Boys High School. He also played in, and was P/M of, the Pretoria Highlanders for years.
‘By the time he tutored me in 1994, he was 76 years old. He had a civilian tutor position in the South African Medical Service. As far as I know. I was his last student. His son, Roddy Watters has also been P/M of Pretoria Highlanders.
‘On my web page is a photo of the two of us, probably taken at his farewell in about 1996 (above). He was a great man, as you could imagine, and an excellent story teller.
‘One of the most memorable he told me was one Burns Night when during the ground of a piobaireachd his valve broke. He played all the parts of the piece while keeping pressure on the blowstick with his tongue. No one knew a thing. He also had many grim trench stories, such as a Lt. Molteno dying in his arms.
‘Pipey Watters passed in 1999. There’s more history here: https://www.pretoriahighlanders.co.za/history.html.’