Can you Help Identify this Piobaireachd Player?

Breton piper Youn Pensec has written from France: ‘I want your help for my search about an old  piper. I have numbered old recordings on wide band tape made about 1960 by a lover of piobaireachd in my bagad (Auray).

‘The recordings were given to me by a friend with no name of the piper or the tunes. I have recognised Pass of Crieff, Patrig Og, Viscount of Dundee, Battle of the Birds.

‘Certainly it is an old 33rpm recording but I don’t found the answer in my personal or friends’ collection. One canntaireachd unknown.’

First recording is, as Youn says, the ground of the Battle of the Pass of Crieff, but cut slightly short:

Editor’s comment: Very well played on lovely mellow pipe. Cut down to low G made me think of Captain John MacLellan or Donald MacPherson. Clearly a top flight piper

Second recording is of the first line of Lament for the Viscount of Dundee:

Editor’s comment: Same mellow pipe; throw on D light – needs more C. ‘Chelalho’ run down much more open than we hear today but attractive for all that.

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Third recording is of part of the ground of Patrick Og MacCrimmon’s Lament. The tape jumps in places:

Editor’s comment: Lower pitched pipe gives that sweet high G. Is this a different piper? The D throw is more grounded. Very well set out tune; clearly an expert piper; cannot be Donald MacPherson as he did not play the ‘F, doubling on E’ version of ‘chedari’.

Fourth recording is four minutes of the Desperate Battle of the Birds:

Editor’s comment: Again, expertly played. Can I hear bird’s tweeting dubbed on in the background. If so that could be the key to identifying the piper. Does anyone have this recording? At first the slight reverb reminded me of a recording of this tune played by P/M Donald MacLeod in Dunfermline Abbey.

Final excerpt is of someone singing ‘canntaireachd’:

Editor’s comment: An elderly gentleman but I found this unintelligible. The tape may have been reversed.

If anyone has anything they can add to the above please commit to our comments section below.

8 thoughts on “Can you Help Identify this Piobaireachd Player?

  1. Confirmed! This is the album:
    It has the canntaireached for Old Men of the Shells sung by Calum Johnston. As someone correctly observed, Youn’s tape is reversed. I saved the audio of Youn’s recording, ran it through Audacity, reversed the audio, and played it back. It appears to match the track on this album of Calum singing the ground for Old Men of the Shels.

  2. Well – to correct my self – I think that some of the tracks on the album in the apple music link may be the same as Youn’s tapes, just remastered and better quality.

  3. Viscount is played exactly as JD Burgess played it – I am 100% sure that it is him. I had this album a long time ago, and I am sure that this is the same recording:

    That sent me looking and I found this, which seems to be excerpts from the old Burgess/MacClellan album:

    I have only had a few minutes to listen and compare the tracks on the apple music link to Youn’s recordings, but I think that the album on the apple link is a better quality/remastered version of Youn’s tapes.

  4. The canntaireachd is Old Men of the Shells last line of the thumb variation reversed, which suggests that the LP in question was a double album of pibroch from the 1960s (titled Pibroch 1 and Pibroch 2) which featured Captain John playing Padruig Og, Battle of the Pass of Creiff, Old Woman’s Lullaby and Clan Campbell Gathering. John D Burgess playing Viscount of Dundee, Old Men of the Shells and Black Donald. Calum Johnston singing Old Men of the Shells and Black Donald. I have a feeling the LPs were the predecessors to the School of Scottish Studies tapes and CDs. If so, then the recordings may well be on Tobar an Dulchais, but I could be wrong on that.

    1. These are absolutely from those recordings. I used to have Volume 2 and can recognize Youn’s Viscount as J.D. Burgess. I’d bet my life on it!

  5. I had already told Youn that I thought the piper was Calum Johnson as well.
    I recognize his voice and his canntaireachd style. And it could be him as well on the pipes ?
    Patrick Molard

  6. The canntaireachd excerpt does appear to be played in reverse and sounds a lot like Calum Johnston. There are some excellent recordings of him playing, singing and speaking on Tobair an Dualchas and the piping recordings here would suggest that he is not one of the pipers heard playing in the recordings above. This may be of interest:

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