Editor’s Notebook: Northern Meeting 1903/ Donald’s Fingers/ Tartan Week/ Gourock Contest/ Vic Herman

New York based piper Yahya Hussein has been in touch regarding the 1903 photograph from the Northern Meeting. He writes: ‘After studying the photo for several days now, and finding the lists of the competitors for the 1903 Gold Medal, here is what I have.

‘It’s the best I could do unless the original photo has a list of the players on the back. Front rank from the left:

‘Andrew MacDonald, brother of John MacDonald, Inverness; L/Sergeant Willie Ross 2nd Scots Guards; Pipe Major James Sutherland, Seaforth Highlanders; Pipe Major William Ross HLI (won the GM at Oban in 1902);  Pipe Major Charles Dunbar, 2nd Gordon Highlanders

‘The chap on the right of Andrew MacDonald without pipes is Pipe Major John Cameron, late HLI and 4th Camerons and composer of the 6/8, the Highland Brigade at Tel-el-Kebir

‘The other attendees I could spot in the photo are Pipe Major James Taylor, 1st Seaforth Highlanders, Angus Macpherson and Duncan MacDonald. Hope this helps.’

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Ayrshire Bagpipes Nov 2020
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Donald’s Fingers

Reading the Donald MacLeod story yesterday reminded me to comment on the earlier comment about his seemingly less than ideal finger position on the chanter. It was previously speculated that this was because his first teacher, his father, did not insist on the young boy placing the sole of the practice chanter on a table.

I think he was quite right. Of course he should have perhaps checked to see that the fingers were straight, but asking a small boy or girl to rest a chanter on a flat surface in front of them usually leads to a distorted finger position.

Donald’s fingers

Do so and the chanter points 45 degrees away from the body and the chanter is not suspended. Who plays their pipes that way? No one. Why encourage it on the chanter?

For me the solution is to ask the child to keep the chanter as perpendicular as possible, so simulating as closely as possible how he/she will play the bagpipe. Ask them to push their chair away from the table edge if you cannot see their fingers.

Tartan Week

Reader Rachel MacNeill: ‘My company, Islay Whisky Academy, are going to New York City for Tartan Week  8 – 15 April 2023.  We would like to host a whisky tasting event that connects piping with whisky. 

‘During it the structure of a tune is fitted with the structure of a dram. The pipe tune is talked about, the dram is talked about, then the guests are served the dram, and a piper plays the tune while they drink, so they are having an immersive experience learning about piping and scotch whisky. 

‘I wonder if you know anyone in New York who would be interested in talking about this further? It would be wonderful to create something special and unusual and connect pipers and the Academy audience during Tartan Week. We would very much like to invite two pipers to join us.’

Contact Rachel here.

Gourock Chieftain

The chieftain for this year’s Gourock Highland Games is Dr Liz Cameron CBE, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

Gourock is one of the first pipe band contests of the season and had been touted as a replacement event for the cancelled British Championships. Gourock is at Battery Park on Sunday 14 May 2023.

Dr Cameron said: ‘As someone who lives and grew up locally, it’s a huge honour to be asked to be the Chieftain of Gourock Highland Games. It’s such a well-run and popular event that brings the whole Inverclyde community together and also draws in people from outwith the area and even overseas.’

For more information about the 2023 Gourock Highland Games visit www.discoverinverclyde.com.

  • Entry forms for the four remaining 2023 major pipe band championships are now available on the RSPBA website here.

Vic Herman

Last May we ran a story on the extraordinary life of Vic Herman the bagpipe playing boxer cum artist (pictured below left). Alan Kirshner in San Fransico has responded: ‘Victor Herman did a portrait of me when I was 26 in 1964. I was then managing a gym in Greenwich Village in New York, NY.

‘He desired to train there but did not have money for the fee. He offered to do my portrait for the membership. I accepted. He truly was talented but I never heard him play the pipes.

‘Attached is the portrait he did of me [above right]. I was asked by someone to send some photos of the portraits I have of my father, mother, grandfather and myself that are hanging in my home. When I went to take the photo of mine I saw the initials ‘VH’.  

‘I hadn’t given it much thought for 50 or so years and then the name came to me. I decided to Google him even though I thought the possibility of finding him was likely very small. Your article was the first I saw.

‘I was very happy to see that he had some success and that his children became artists as well. Both my parents were artists. My brother who is an artist and sculptor said that Vic was really good. Coming from him that was quite a compliment. My sister is also artistic. I am the black sheep in the family.’

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