To Germany today for the Northern Winter School. It has attracted its usual large crop of students, evidence of the sustaining interest in piping and drumming in that country. But not everywhere in Europe is doing so well.
Looking around we can detect a falling off in a Scandinavia, once so strong. Where are the schools in Denmark and Sweden? Maybe there is stuff happening that I am unaware of.
Belgium and the Netherlands pretty much holding their own. France, with its innate respect for culture and the Breton anchor, has always been secure.
It is teaching that is key, and Germany is leading the way with schools abundant. They have a thirst for knowledge and want to be the best they can be. The Northern Winter School provides them with an unsurpassed level of concentrated tuition, hence the large numbers of attendees.
What a year it has been for Callum Beaumont. Among a string of other awards, the piping high point will have been his historic capture of the two major prizes at the Northern Meeting, the Clasp (number five!) and the Former Winners’ MSR. Very few come close to achieving this unique double and Callum has done it with a level of performance: pipes, technique, musicality, all young pipers should aspire to.
I remember many years ago congratulating his sibling James on winning, I think, the Silver Medal. ‘Yes, I’m doing okay,’ said James, ‘but have you heard my wee brother?’ I hadn’t at the time but it wasn’t long before this naturally gifted player came to everyone’s attention.
Now I understand Callum has just become engaged to be married. All happiness to him and his bride to be.
Reader John Shone has sent this picture of his old BB company, the 5th Croydon, playing at the grave of Boys’ Brigade founder Sir William Smith in Thurso. The 5th are on a tour of Scotland playing in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Thurso, Sir William’s home town.
MacKays at Vimeiro
I am always interested in any historical references to pipers. Thanks to Francis Chamberlain, a regular contributor and reader, for this excerpt from ‘Letters from the Peninsula 1808 – 1812’ by Lt. Gen. Sir William Warre. (A great name for an Army officer!) The excerpt reads:
‘I must mention to you two instances of noble conduct in and among many others I had an opportunity of observing [at the Battle of Vimeiro, 1808]. These are of the two cousins McKayes [sic] of the 71st. One of them was Piper to the Regt., a remarkably handsome, fine fellow, and was playing to the men while advancing to charge, when he was wounded badly in the lower part of the belly and fell.
‘He recovered himself almost immediately and continued to play on the ground till quite exhausted. I afterwards saw him in a hovel where we collected the wounded both French and English. I shook him by the handing told him I was very sorry to see so fine a fellows badly hurt; he answered, ‘Indeed Captain I fear I am done for, but there are some of these poor fellows, pointing to the French, who are very bad indeed.
‘The other [McKaye], a Corporal, had taken the French General Brennier prisoner….[The General] offered him his watch and money but McKaye told him to keep his money and took neither. A rare instance of forbearance in any soldier in action.’
NI Piper of the Year 1997
1 Margaret Houlihan, Cork
2 Jonathan Greenlees, Ballyclare
3 Christopher Armstrong, Bathgate
1 Ronan McGuire, Dublin
2 David Caldwell, Omagh
3 Richard Parkes, Newtownards
4 Christopher Armstrong
1 Robert Watt, Maghera
2 Jonathan Greenlees
Judge: P/M Gordon Walker