Editor’s Notebook: 100 Years of PS Books/ Jimmy McIntosh Scholarship/ Piping Festival

One hundred years ago, in a large house in the Cairngorm woods, the finishing touches were being put to a book which was to alter the course of piping history.

Sheriff Iain Grant, Music Committee Secretary for the Piobaireachd Society, was preparing to send off to the printer the first edition of Book 1 in its new collection.

This was the Society’s second go at putting together a selection of tunes. This time they were to be based on traditional authority rather than dubious interpretation of old scores, and edited with common sense and ‘playability’ in mind. The Sheriff and his assistant Archibald Campbell, Kilberry, had made it their business to learn from the likes of John MacDonald, Inverness, John MacDougall Gillies and Sandy Cameron.

They knew they were on firm ground in their approach. They needed to be. The first PS series of tunes met which such howls of disapprobation (some of the loudest from prominent Society members themselves) that it had to be withdrawn.

Sheriff JP Grant, Rothiemurchus

The Sheriff’s book was a make or break moment. Fail, and the whole edifice of the Society could crash to the ground. The piping world would not allow the PS a third go.

Happily, when it appeared in 1925, it was, despite the usual growls from the usual growlers, considered a success.

Building on that, Book 2 followed three years later and Book 3 two years after that. The Society and its Music Committee were on a roll. We can sit back today and enjoy the fruitful outcome of the work of these amateur but learned men.

The Society’s series now runs to 16 books and they are sold every day all over the world. If Angus MacKay’s 1838 work was the piper’s ‘bible’ in the 19th century, the PS collection took on that mantle in the 20th and now in the 21st.

More tunes are played by more people in more diverse locations than at any time in history. The PS collection, with its 266 tunes, has to be one of the great achievements in piping.

The Society is not leaving it there. We are currently 90% of the way through a major review of all the books, correcting errors, adding different settings, noting traditional alternatives, and homogenising titles and typefaces.

The books are now easier to use, neater in size, and more authoritative than ever before. They continue to sell well. Profits are ploughed back into piping. The Society has donated over £15,000 to competitions, recitals and teaching events in the past year alone. A century on, I think Sheriff Grant would approve.


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Jimmy Scholarship

The Jimmy McIntosh Piobaireachd Scholarship Committee has announced that Meghan McIlhinney, Akron, Ohio, is the recipient of a bursary for 2024-25. 

Meghan (14) will begin instruction in June with an intensive piobaireachd weekend in Pittsburgh with Director of Piping at Carnegie Mellon University, Andrew Carlisle.

Megan McIlhinney

Following this, instructors will be chosen to work with Meghan for the remainder of 2024, into early 2025 culminating with a piobaireachd workshop at CMU in late February.

The organisers are grateful to all who have contributed to the scholarship fund, in particular The Piobaireachd Society and the New World Celts, Dunedin Chapter.  Contributions are still being accepted at pittsburghpipingsociety.org.


Piping Festival

The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust: ‘We have just announced a new performance opportunity for Scottish schools pipe bands and traditional music groups called the Scottish Schools Pipes and Trad Music Fest.

‘If you’re a pipe band or ceilidh group looking for somewhere to play in public, the festival will be held on The Mound next to Princes Street in Edinburgh this June. Applications are open: https://sspdt.org.uk/scottish-schools-pipes-and-trad-music-fest/


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