Review: Lochnell Intermediate Piping Championship 2023

Prizewinners at Lochnell 2023

My words last week about our tradition being secure with the younger generation of pipers was here manifest.

The ceòl mòr began with a fine rendition of the Daughter’s Lament from Luke Kennedy. Composed, controlled, he glided through this difficult piece making light work of the top hand technicals. It was as an assured a delivery as one could have hoped for. Dissonance of drone intruded towards the end, but this lad can play piobaireachd.

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Another superb tune followed: the Blue Ribbon from Cameron May. Accomplished and finely balanced throughout, my only criticism was over caution in the beginning and in the crunluath doubling. 

Could the glory continue? Of course it could. On came the youngest piper in the field, 17 year old Liam Nicholson from Australia, his tune Lament for the Children. Though untidy here and there, he was a credit to his tutor Sam Young who had flown the distance to support his young charge. Liam impressed all who heard him. Shocking maturity from one so young!

Last year’s overall champion, Ruairidh Brown, gave us Lachlan MacNeill’s Fancy: just a shade square in the ground and first variation, and the pipe drifted a little towards the end. 

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The End of the High Bridge was played musically by Gregor MacDonald, a local piper who splits his leisure time between piping and shinty. Watch those fingers Gregor. This was a well-phrased rendition hindered by a sluggish embari in the Thumb and several catches in the a mach

Brodie Watson Massey gave a fine, if not inerrant, rendition of Donald Duaghal MacKay. At times the interpretation was craggy rather than mellifluent and we all know that mellifluence is the sine qua non with DDMcK. A strong tune nevertheless with cracking Ts & Cs.

Andrew Ferguson was last on with Lament for the Earl of Antrim. Andrew, last year’s piobaireachd winner, did not seem happy with his pipes and ran at the tune as though pushing for the finish. He’ll come again.

Result, four tunes own choice, tunes given in final tuning room:
1 Brodie Watson Massey, £120, Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay
2 Gregor MacDonald, £80, End of the High Bridge
3 Cameron May, £60, Blue Ribbon
4 Ruairidh Brown, £40, Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbert’s Fancy

Champion piper Brodie Watson Massey with the overall trophy and the Jimmy McIntosh Memorial Trophy for Piobaireachd. In addition he also received the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society Bronze Star and £200

Down to another room in the castle for a lunch of perfectly seasoned lentil soup, fresh sliced ham and his lordship’s renowned venison sausage rolls. Replete, there was just time to take the air on the ramparts. The sun shone as we gazed out over the Firth of Lorn, the west at its best. Reverie over, battle resumed.

The light music was not as good as the piobaireachd. The careless finger crept in too often and many an enjoyable set was spoiled by a missed strike or doubling. The reels were generally well played however, the pipers relaxing into the easy rhythms of these tunes.

Best march of the day? Maybe Brodie’s Abercairney or perhaps Liam’s Lochaber Gathering. Strathspey? Ruairidh’s Inveraray Castle, closely followed by Luke’s Hector MacLean. The reel? Cameron’s Champion Piper certainly, with Ruairidh’s Miss Proud and Brodie’s Stornoway Castle in close pursuit.

Result – MSR, four of each, own choice, tunes given in final tuning room:
1 Ruairidh Brown, £120, John MacDonald of Glencoe, Inveraray Castle, Miss Proud
2 Brodie Watson Massey £80, Abercairney Highlanders, Cabar Feidh, Stornoway Castle
3 Cameron May, £60, Inveran, Susan Macleod, Alick Cameron, Champion Piper
4 Luke Kennedy, £40, Major Manson at Clachantrushal, Hector MacLean, Cockerel in the Creel

MSR winner Ruairidh Brown with the Willie McCallum Snr. Memorial Trophy

All in all this was an excellent morning and afternoon of pipe music and it was encouraging to hear that the promoters have good sponsorship lined up for next year. This may allow for a contribution towards air fares for qualifying pipers who live overseas.

Efficient stewarding from the two Alasdairs, Glynis and Rosemary meant we were finished by 4pm with time enough for a tune from the competitors en masse:

  • Lochnell Intermediate Solo Piping Championship for pipers aged under 22, Saturday, October 21st, 2023, Lochnell Castle, Benderloch, Argyll, by kind permission of the Earl of Dundonald and hosted by his son Lord Archie Cochrane. The judges for both events were P/M Jimmy Banks MBE, Alasdair Henderson and John Wilson. Fear an Tigh was Robert Wallace. Sponsors were The Wyfold Charitable Trust, Duncan Louis Stewart Foundation, Alik Campbell of Lochnell, Piobaireachd Society, Andrew Holman of Kilfinichen and the Royal Scottish Pipers Society. Each competitor received substantial expenses on top of any prizemoney. Invites to compete are based on track record.

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