Editor’s Notebook: Peter MacFarquhar/ Joint Committee/ J MacDonald Chanter/ Solo Drumming

Reader Lawrence Macduff has forwarded this fine picture of Peter MacFarquhar, subject of our earlier story, and well known to pipers as the composer of the popular jig, Kenny Gillies of Portnalong.

Lawrence writes: ‘Here’s the image of Peter and his second wife Jean, taken as I recall near Kensaleyre on July 4th, 1970, when I was visiting them at their home.

‘Peter, having retired from seafaring around 1969 (I first met him as a customer at my bank in Glasgow in 1967), returned to his native Skye. He passed away sometime in the 1980s. Jean continued to run the post office in Kensaleyre till retiring late ’80s. She then moved to Glenluce to be close to her sister. She finally passed on around 1985.’

Joint Committee

I’m not sure everyone out there knows about the Joint Committee for Solo Piping. It has representatives from pipers, judges, and competition promoters. It met last week in Edinburgh to review the past year’s contests.

A very convivial occasion it was too, with the conclusion that our solo piping competitions were in a healthy state shared by all.

Concerns were raised over pipers not staying in uniform and attending prizegivings. Not good for sponsors who need the promo photos. The solution? Withhold prizemoney unless collected in person.

Numbers are another worry, principally at the senior piobaireachd events at Oban and Inverness. These are not capped as per the Silver and Gold Medals. Anything over 25 is unmanageable. Given the lengthy tunes in the Piobaireachd Society’s prescribed list, something has to give.

Angus MacColl, winner of the 2023 Senior Piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering

As I said in my report on the Argyllshire Gathering’s Senior Piobaireachd last summer, we were fortunate to have had five call offs or we would have been sitting there for nigh on 12 hours. Comparative judging, which is what we do, becomes less reliable the longer the day.

Should winning a Gold Medal 40 years ago entitle you to a place at the world’s top events if your best days are behind you? I’m not sure it should. This rule was set for different times.

Maybe a ballot of entrants could be held, the first 25 getting a place. Or why not invite 25 on the basis of current track record? Whatever is decided, relying on call offs to keep numbers manageable is not tenable.

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John MacDonald Chanter

Duncan Watson has forwarded a picture of the bowl of the John MacDonald (Inverness) chanter mentioned in his story this week. Duncan: ‘As you can see the engraving is very tidily done, and the word ‘Glasgow’ can be read clearly in small lettering.

‘John Stewart gave me the chanter but had removed the sole and had it fitted to a Naill chanter now in the possession of Sean Stewart, a nephew of John’s, who lives in Badenoch. The colour of the MacRae chanter is light brown and I am guessing it is made from cocus wood.

‘Well known piper Calum Brown had lessons from John and played his pipes in the Silver Medal, probably 2019. I see by the comment that Major Manson was born in Allerton, in the Black Isle, a Seaforth Highlanders recruiting area.

‘The other piper of distinction who hailed from there was Colin Thomson from Resolis. Thomson was a pupil or contemporary of John MacDonald and at some stage moved to Golspie in Sutherland. Piper and judge James Ross Matheson spent his life mostly in Sutherland and had lessons from Thomson. Jimmy would pronounce his name ‘Col-een’ Thomson. Jimmy also served in the Seaforths in WW2.

‘By road the journey from Resolis to Golspie is quite a bit, but is shortened by crossing on the ferry from Cromarty to Nigg. I assume there has been a ferry there for a long time, albeit a bit of a tub back in the day. We cannot really appreciate what travel was like back before WW1.

‘Why Colin Thomson moved to Golspie, is not known to me, other than Resolis is a country area with a small population. Golspie is quite a size of a place and might have been created by the indigenous population being put off the land during the Clearances when they had to either emigrate or find habitation on the eastern seaboard.’

Solo Drumming

The RSPBA might have only two major championships confirmed for next year (progress is being made I hear) but certainly their solo drumming is already well set up for 2024. These events (for all grades) are qualifiers for the World Solo Drumming in Glasgow in October:

Intercontinental Solo Drumming, Metro Cup, New Jersey, Feb. 17th
Scottish Solo Drumming, J Young High School, W Lothian, March 30th
European Solo Drumming, Kingdom Thistle, Fife, April 20th
Pacific Rim Solo Drumming, Coquitlam, Canada, June 15th
Oceania Solo Drumming, Christchurch NZ, June 29th
British Solo Drumming, Glasgow, August 12th
UK Solo Drumming Northern Ireland, Sept 7th

Check here for more info.

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