Editor’s Notebook: Clan MacRae PB/ Set Tunes/ Band Gradings/ Jimmy Hood/ Iain MacPherson’s Pipes

Reader Rona Launders writes: ‘There’s an image of the Clan MacRae Society Pipe Band which was taken in the 1950s on your website. My father, William Turnbull is one of the drummers in the photograph and I would very much like a copy and of course I’m more than happy to pay for the image.’

I take it that’s the picture above Rona. Please feel free to download/copy it or the one below. Both I think are from 1953 when the MacRae won the Worlds and Cowal titles.

The band folded but later re-emerged as the Glasgow Skye Association Pipe Band now practising hard for the new season under the revived efforts of Kenny MacLeod at McCallums. There is a link between Kenny and MacRae P/M Alex MacLeod which I’m not completely sure of.

If someone can identify Mr Turnbull and any other members of the band we’d be grateful.


Band Gradings

The RSPBA have announced the following:
Novice Juvenile B: Balerno Schools; St Thomas Episcopal School; Lewis and Harris Youth.
Novice Juvenile A: Dollar Academy Juvenile – appeal to remain as NJA accepted.
Grade 4B: Moneygore; Scots School, Albury; Queen City United.
Grade 4A: Burntisland and District; Cottown; Lochryan.
Grade 3A: Robert Malcolm Memorial Juvenile.
Grade 2: Ulster Scottish, USA.


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Jimmy Hood

I was sorry to hear of the passing of Jimmy Hood a regular competitor round the circuit in the 80s and early 90s. Jimmy, from Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, was 90. He started the pipes aged eight in a local colliery band and then graduated to Norrie Summers’ Woolmet and Danderhall.

Work and family meant he gave up piping only to return as a solost when aged 46. He took piobaireachd lessons from Tom Speirs in Edinburgh where he joined a burgeoning stable of pipers including Iain Cameron, Derek Fraser and Jimmie McGregor.

Jimmy Hood (l) and Jimmie McGregor at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1999

‘Hoodie’ as Jim was affectionately known, managed a second prize in the Silver Medal and this gained him entry to the Gold Medal in subsequent years. He also took many prizes round the games. He marvelled at his own well-deserved success and was always self effacing about it.

Jim, you were a gentleman and a pleasure to be with; that ready smile never left you, good days or bad.

The funeral was at Bonnyrigg Parish Church with Iain Speirs piping as the cortege arrived and later at the nearby graveyard.


Set Tunes

A reader asks how the Piobaireachd Society goes about picking tunes for Oban and Inverness. I was at pains to point out to him that the Society’s Music Committee draws up lists of pieces it thinks appropriate for each given level in a given year, Senior, Gold or Silver, and recommends them to the promoters, the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting.

This, I said, was a very important distinction. The Society does not have the authority to instruct any organiser what they should or should not ask competitors to play. The lists are published without prejudice to any arrangement or process decided on by the promoters.

Similarly, when the blurb for the long list of tunes for the Senior Piobaireachd and Clasp competitions says that a different tune will be played at each competition, this is merely an aspiration, a recommendation the Committee believes would be a desirable outcome. It is entirely up to the promoters and their judges whether or not they would wish to follow this suggestion.

‘It has led to a maintenance and improvement of standards and more tunes being played tby more pipers than ever before…

Of course the Society is gratified that over the past several decades these major events have seen fit to take on board its recommendations. It has led to a maintenance and improvement of standards – and more tunes being played by more pipers than ever before in piping’s long history.

Still with the set tunes, the Music Committee has issued a supplementary note regarding this year’s recommended lists.

Firstly, in the Gold and Silver Medal, crunluath a mach variations should be played in the Lament for the Only Son, the Black Wedder’s White Tail, MacDonalds’ Salute, the Lament for the Dead, Fair Honey, and Lament for Finlay.

Secondly, if Angus MacKay’s setting of Fair Honey is chosen, the final D crunluath in each line may be played either closed to low G, consistent with the taorluath variation, or to low A, as in MacKay’s original score. The three possible settings are available on the Piobaireachd Society website.


Iain’s Pipes

Last word on Iain MacPherson’s pipes from Bruce Erskine: ‘I had another blow on these pipes and had a close inspection. They are stamped 1984 Kintails on the bass section.

‘I fired a cane bass from my pipes in and two eezedrone tenor reeds; they sound fantastic with the skin bag. The bass drone has a lovely, deep harmonic; a really lovely set; might even get them out for a blast round the games.

‘They have been well looked after along with his practice chanter and all his cane reeds and chanters in the box.’

3 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: Clan MacRae PB/ Set Tunes/ Band Gradings/ Jimmy Hood/ Iain MacPherson’s Pipes

  1. At Perth and I don’t recall what year, Jimmy Hood was playing in the piobaireachd and it was Lament for Captain MacDougall and it was going well with pipes holding fine. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Norman Meldrum who was one of the judges waving in a dismissive fashion. Apparently Jimmy thought he had gone off the tune and reacted to this waving in dismissive action by graciously ceasing his performance of the tune which had been progressed to the latter stages. This was not so terribly unusual in the distant past. Later after the competition completed, Norman Meldrum approached Jimmy and enquired as to why he had seemingly gave up in the latter stages of the performance as the tune had been going well. Jimmy explained that he had seen him (Norman) waving in the dismissive manner and assumed that he unaware had drifted off the tune, thus was being ‘waved off.’ Norman Meldrum explained that the dismissive waving was not meant for Jimmy, instead, there were children running around near to the piping platform and he (Norman) was trying to signal to them to ‘go away and play elsewhere.’ Jimmy being a good natured person took it in good part.

  2. Nice tribute to Jimmy. He was always unassuming and happy to pass on helpful comments (one in particular over a beer in the “Tart” comes to mind)

  3. The Clan MacRae Society Pipe Band was still alive and well in the early 70s. I was a piper in the band which won the Grade 2 World Championship in 1973 (if I recall correctly) under P/M John Findlay. The following year, the MacRae band became defunct when its pipers and drummers all moved to the Rolls Royce Pipe Band (for sponsorship reasons) under Pipe Majors Hugh Gibson, later Jim Henderson and Tommy Johnstone.

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