Editor’s Notebook: Highland Games/ SG KO Final Cancelled/ Angus MacKay Cairn/ Voice Returns/ Shotts Success/ Painter’s Piper

No problem with crowds or entries at Braemar

A report in the Sunday Times newspaper last weekend bemoaned what they saw as a decline in our Highland games.

In particular they mentioned Cowal which they said could not come close these days to the 40,000 crowds it used to attract. What they failed to mention was the fact that Dunoon was no longer a pipe band championship and as such automatically cut out up to 150 pipe bands and their followers.

Why this was ever allowed to happen is beyond me. There have been plenty of opportunities to right the wrongs of the past but it seems until there is a change in the organising committee’s outlook this once iconic event will continue to remain a shadow of its former self.

The article went on to talk about the lack of skilled competitors coming forward – neglecting, of course, the piping. If the reporter (journalists these days!) had taken the trouble to ask ourselves or anyone else, the CPA comes to mind, they would have learned that some games have too many skilled pipers.

Caps have had to be introduced at Blair Atholl, Inveraray, and Braemar to name but three. Long may the keen interest continue. At least pipers are doing their bit to keep the Games afloat.

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Scots Guards KO

The final of the Scots Guards Club Knockout was due to take place this Sunday, May 19, at the SG Club, Haymarket, Edinburgh. Unfortunately one of the finalists, Sandy Cameron, has an infection and can’t manage. Organiser Jimmy Banks says the final, between Sandy and Cameron May, will be re-scheduled soon.

Angus MacKay Cairn

This picture was sent to us from social media. It is of well-known composer, teacher and competitor, Karen McCrindle Warren having a tune at the Angus MacKay cairn on the banks of the Nith in Dumfries-shire.

The cairn marks the spot where Angus, seriously mentally ill and on the run from Crichton Memorial Hospital, plunged into the fast flowing river, never to be seen again.

Karen at cairn

The cairn was erected in 2010 following a campaign by the Piping Times. It garnered support from throughout the piping world, particularly from pipers from south-west Scotland. Members in that community had the cairn built and a local farmer donated the land.

It should be a a sort of pilgrimage for all pipers and it was nice to see Karen having a tune there. She does a lot of important work teaching not far away in East Ayrshire and I am sure her pupils will be imbued with the history and tradition surrounding Angus MacKay.

The cairn and surrounds looks well looked after so thanks to the local pipers for that. If you want to visit, it is on the B725 road south of Dumfries just before the village of Glencaple.

‘Voice’ Returns

EUSPBA President Bill Caudill has announced that the once popular Association magazine ‘The Voice’ will be returning in a new podcast format.

Said Bill: ‘This is not the print version like the days of old, but the new podcast format is going to be something which can involve all members and which will hopefully better connect us in our geographically diverse association. 

Bill Caudill

‘We have great events and performances happening; we have great stories to tell and share. The monthly editions of THE VOICE podcast will soon be available at: voicepod.buzzsprout.com.’

The EUSPBA continues to grow and prosper under Bill’s innovative leadership.


Having heard Shotts a few times last year I wasn’t surprised at their win in Grade 1 at the opening contest of the season on the Tail o’ the Bank.

Emmet Conway has clearly continued the good work from 2023. The clarity of fingering and the unison playing were obvious to anyone with a decent pair of lugs. A young band, they are one to watch. They are pictured above leaving the Gourock field looking rightly pleased with themselves.

The next band contest is the first major of the season at Bangor in Northern Ireland tomorrow (May 18). It will be interesting to see how the Gourock prize-winners (Shotts, Boghall, S Power) fare against Field Marshal and SLOT.

Highland Piper

Thanks to reader Paul Eschenburg for this picture of a ‘Highland Scots Piper’ by Arthur Jule Goodman:

Goodman, says Paul, was an American painter known for his works portraying famous individuals such as Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill and others. He also did some work at Buckingham Palace. The date on the picture is 1893. Says Paul: ‘Thought there might be a royal connection? The piper appears to be playing a piobaireachd high G. Would anyone have any idea who he might be?’


5 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: Highland Games/ SG KO Final Cancelled/ Angus MacKay Cairn/ Voice Returns/ Shotts Success/ Painter’s Piper

  1. It looks like Willie Ross. He is wearing Pipe Major rank with a Queen Victoria crown, but didn’t become P/M until 1905.
    William and Alexander(?) Ross, although it could be John Balloch who led Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

    1. Reply to Vincent:

      Thank you for the response…

      I am sending a link to the full photo of the painting since the bottom was cut off in PP. The legs look sturdy and the shoes interesting.

      So far I do not see a resemblance with your candidates and piper in the painting.

      I see a crown symbol on the flag and his sleeve which caused me to think some kind of Royal connection…which fits with Arthur Goodman’s work profile.

      Arthur Goodman lived in London and did work for Buckingham Palace.

      I believe his painting of Buffalo Bill was given to a member of the royal family. (Edward VII?).

      If the subject was William Campbell (my hunch), 2nd piper to the Queen, he won the piobaireachd gold medal, Inverness, 1897.  Subsequently moved to Canada and served Canadian Black Watch and Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in WW I.

      Alas, it appears the mystery will remain just that…

      As an aside, if I got the correct link, it appears you may have a Detroit connection. I was also student of Dale Brown, albeit at an older age.

      Arthur Jule Goodman also has a Detroit connection…born in Detroit and buried in Detroit (depending on which bio one reads).


  2. One of the main reasons behind the demise of the Cowal Pipe Band Championships was the unilateral decision by the RSPBA around 2014 to award the Champion of Champion Awards on the same day as the Worlds, in the middle of August. Thus, Cowal which always takes place at the end of August, lost its historic and cherished Championship status. Following this ill-considered decision by the RSPBA, the attendance at all the pipe band contests post-Worlds, including Cowal, has been very poor, as the majority of bands now regard the middle of August (i.e. the Worlds) as the end of the competition season.

    1. Unilateral decision? In 2013 cowal decided it would be the last year they would offer a major championship, absolutely with the knowledge of the RSPBA but to suggest it was entirely the RSPBAs choice simply isn’t true. The initial announcement that it’d no longer be a major came from cowal, as a decision of their organising committee.

      The grounds couldn’t accommodate the size of championship – being squished into the field behind the grandstand stops being appealing after a couple of years – and the organisers couldn’t offer any steps to resolve it. Not entirely their fault as there’s little space around the site to expand, but equally the RSPBA caught lots of flak for the conditions with no ability to do anything about it – there’d have been outroar about capping the bands that could attend. Losing major status gave the rspba no choice but to move the CoC awards forward to the worlds

      1. It was a unilateral decision taken by the RSPBA, they had made the decision at their AGM but it was leaked on social media by a member of their board before Cowal were informed. This resulted in a series of meetings and Cowal were invited to submit a bid for that year but it was rejected in favour of RSPBA accepting a bid from N Ireland and the UK Championship was created.

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