The Day Ross and Reid Tied for the Clasp and a Recording of the Great John MacColl

A trawl through my old audio archives has turned up a remarkable recording made by one Craigie Calder, a former P/M of the Johnstone Pipe Band in 1984, writes the Editor.

The tape was give to me by Ian Sinclair formerly of the College of Piping Veteran Pipers Society. Ian knew Craigie well and played with him in the band.

One of the regular tutors of the Johnstone pipers was P/M Robert Reid and he and P/M Calder became very good friends.

On the lengthy tape Craigie talks of many of the Glasgow-based MacLean pipe band’s successes in the 1920s and ’30s, of which I presume he was a member, but the most interesting section is five minutes long.

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In it he talks of Reid’s career, principally his wins at Oban and Inverness, and of one highly unusual year when Reid and P/M Willie Ross tied for first place in the 1923 Clasp at the Northern Meeting, Inverness.

When the dead heat was announced Reid offered to play again, performing any of the other tunes from the set list. Ross, presumably believing he should have won outright, refused.

It went to the Piobaireachd Society for a decision and after months of wrangling the Clasp was awarded to Ross. This was to be Ross’s seventh Clasp and would have been Reid’s second.

The Northern Meeting programme lists past winners (above) which show just that (not last year when a truncated list was printed), but Craigie states that this record is wrong and should show Ross and Reid tying for the 1923 prize.

The other remarkable thing about the tape is a recording from 1899 of John MacColl playing. It is very short but of considerable historic interest. Listen to the end:

Craigie mentions John MacColl as a famous ‘piobaireachd player’. Whilst he was certainly that, winning the top awards, he will be better known to the modern-day piper as the composer of such popular 2/4 marches Mrs John MacColl, Arthur Bignold and Dugald MacColl’s Farewell to France to name but three.

For himself, Craigie Calder describes being born on an estate in Aberdeenshire. The lady of the manor, Lady Glasgow, presumptuously asked his father that he be named after the estate, Craigmyle. This was shortened to Craig.

Craigie talks of how he played football in the Boys’ Brigade, at junior level and in the church’s league in Glasgow (one of the toughest amateur leagues of the time), but there is nothing on how he learned the pipes. I presume this was in the BB.

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