Category Archives: Features

Bands: Grade 2 Mid Season Update and Look Ahead/ Co. Antrim Champs.

Our Special Correspondent has been covering our important Grade 2 contests all season. His reporting and comment has been very well received by the bandsmen and women in this grade and he has highlighted some of the excellent playing you can hear in this grade. Today he takes stock of their season so far….

With a number of Grade 2 overseas bands slated to play at Glasgow Green in August (see the draw of Grade 2 and other bands attending here), we have been monitoring the events where those who are in the two Grade 2 qualifiers are limbering up.

Two weekends ago the City of Kincardine, Ontario (sitting in the edge of picturesque Lake Huron), hosted a decent sized contest. One of our contacts was there watching the 78th Frasers take Grade 1, and Greater Midwest (GM) win Grade 2 ahead of 400 Tactical Helicopter and Midlothian Scottish (USA). Sadly, GM, led by reed maker, Pipe Major Adrian Melvin, will not be in Glasgow this year, having made the trip in 2016. Adrian had a great send off from his band with that win. The Midlothian Scottish will be in Heat 1 of the Grade 2 contest in Glasgow.

Midlothian Scottish from Illinois are playing at the Worlds

At Glasgowlands, Mass., USA, this past weekend, New York Metro, another band heading to the Green, won Grade 2 ahead of Macmillan and Worcester Kiltie. The latter having won Grade 3 at the Green last summer. All three will be in what looks to be the tougher Heat 2 qualifier for the Worlds. They will also have the Houston based, St. Thomas Alumni in their heat, along with the College of Piping from Summerside, Canada, and indigenous names, City of Discovery and Glasgow Skye, both of which have already featured in the prize lists for majors this season.

In the Worlds Grade 2, Heat 1, the other overseas names, beyond Midlothian Scottish mentioned earlier, are the well-regarded Pipe Band Club and St Andrews, both of Australia, North Stratton from Canada and a welcome return after absence in Scotland to the P/M Iain Donaldson led, City of Dunedin, Florida. They will have high fliers Lomond & Clyde, ‘steady Eddie’ MacCals, refreshed Manorcunningham and the mighty Vikings of Balagan to deal with in their heat.

In addition to these developments in North America, Manorcunningham from Eire, the recent winners of the All-Ireland Grade 2, had a successful run out this past weekend, prior to them missing the Scottish Championship, as intimated in these pages.

Manorcunningham…not playing at Dumbarton

As a quick look forward, there are 18 Grade 2 entries for North Berwick on August 5th, which includes a couple of top Juvenile bands and Grade 3’s playing up. As an aside, Grade 1 Medley has 11 bands listed, nine of which are Grade 1. Lomond & Clyde and The Pipe Band Club (Australia) play up from Grade 2.

With the Scottish Championship at Dumbarton only a couple of weeks away (see draw here), we will have a preview of this penultimate Major in the week leading up to it. Sixteen bands are listed, but we know 15 maximum will play. No Mannorcunningham, or Balagan to be in the mix and both have featured previously. We expect a head to head between Lomond & Clyde and Glasgow Skye again, with the MacCals pursued by City of Discovery and Closkelt.

Finally, the draw for the Bridge of Allan contest on August 6th will not be out for some time, however, we expect there to be a good turnout there too.

In the meantime, enjoy whatever is occupying your summer and look forward to the run in to what promises to be an exceptional Grade 2 World Championship in less than a month. Over and out.

County Antrim PIpe Band Championships

By Gilbert Cromie; pix by John Kelly

Gilbert Cromie reports…Saturday last saw the County Antrim Pipe Band Championships takes place at the picturesque Glenarm Castle which has been the venue for this contest for several years. Sadly the timing of the contest is all wrong falling as it does a matter of days after the Twelfth and right bang in the middle of the holiday season, hence the poor turnout as shown in the massed bands photograph top.

The contest takes place as part of the Dalriada Festival which is a superb event in its own right and on the day there was an abundance of entertainment and activities to be enjoyed by competitors and their families. It is unfortunate that since the contest moved to this earlier date the original entry numbers have declined as the event nears and this was the case on Saturday. The well-attended Dalriada Festival provides the RSPBA NI Branch with a wonderful opportunity to showcase its product but the impact would be so much better if each grade had at least half a dozen bands competing.

Freddie Carlisle, Ben McKeown and Pipe Major John Fittis pictured after receiving the prizes best bass, best drums and M&D at the County Antrim Pipe Band Championships

The County Antrim Section who organise this contest must be disappointed that only eleven bands out of the original twenty odd turned out leaving some grades with single entries. The weather was not the best either however those bands that did turn out, and congratulations to them for doing so, provided the big crowd with a good afternoon’s entertainment. The biggest entry was in Grade 4B which saw Gransha win ahead of Kildoag on ensemble preference.

Pipe Major Darren Frew (McNeillstown Pipe Band) pictured receiving the Grade 4A first place trophy

It was good to see the Dr. Wright Memorial from Newtownards return to competition after an absence of four years, McNeillstown had it all to themselves in Grade 4A and also caused a bit of an upset by taking Grade 3B. Drumlough continued their local winning sequence beating off the challenge of Matt Boyd Memorial and the junior band of the Major Sinclair Memorial. Manorcunningham had a stellar day winning both the Grade 1 and 2 competitions. The drum majors turned out in good numbers with Alicia Dickson Hamilton breaking Jason Price’s recent winning sequence. Emma Barr continued to dominate the Juvenile section with Jaime Cupples and Leanne Crooks taking the honours in the Junior and Novice respectively. Full results from the Antrim Championships here.

William Black (Mannorcunningham Pipe Band) pictured receiving the Grade 2 first place trophy

Don’t forget that next Saturday 22nd July sees the Ulster Pipe Band Championships return to the scenic grounds of Antrim Castle Gardens. There is an entry of 45 bands and 48 drum majors. Those who attend the contests in motor homes should note that no overnight parking will be allowed in the Antrim Castle Gardens however parking is available at the nearby Lough Shore Caravan Park [Tel.02894464963] which is a leisurely 10 minute walk away.

A Better Way to Learn
More Modern Approach
Free Audio & Video!
Easy to Understand

Fine Selection of Second Hand Books Offered for Sale by Piping Press Shop Now Sold

Six classic piping books were offered for sale today for by the Piping Press Shop. These have now sold within one hour of going on sale. The books, first lot, were the ‘Seaforth Highlanders Collection’, Seumas MacNeill’s ‘Tutor for Piobaireachd’ and Roderick Cannon’s ‘Highland Bagpipe and Its Music’. Revenue from these sales will help maintain Piping Press’s not for profit, subscription-free service.

The ‘Seaforth Collection’, currently retailing new at £25, was first issued in 1936 and contains over 250 tunes. The edition offered here was the 1998 reprint. What makes the Seaforth Collection so outstanding is the quality of the settings. No superfluous gracenotes, just good traditional and regimental tunes easily assimilated by every competent piper.

Seumas MacNeill’s ‘Tutor for Piobaireachd’ was first published in 1990 and was the first modern tutor for this music. Tunes covered are the Company’s Lament, Mackintosh’s Banner, Glengarry’s Lament and Lament for Alasdair Dearg MacDonnell of Glengarry.

Dr Roderick Cannon’s ‘Highland Bagpipe and Its Music’ was first published in 1995 and is a very well-written account of the instrument, its history and the nature of its music. Dr Cannon was a bagpipe music scholar of considerable renown and for 30 years a mainstay of the Piobaireachd Society’s Music Committee. This book is essential reading for every young piper.

The second lot we had for sale is now sold too. The books were ‘P/M Angus MacDonald’s Bk 2’, currently out of print, the ‘Seumas MacNeill Collection’ and ‘Masters of Piping’ also by Seumas MacNeill.

P/M Angus’s book (1995) is a formidable collection of tunes by the late, great, pipe major (pictured top). Stand outs are Allan MacDonald’s Dr Flora MacAuley, Carradale, Alan MacPherson of Mosspark, P/M Joe Wilson, P/M Angus MacDonald, another great tune by Allan MacDonald, the piobaireachd Lament for Alan, My Son, the airs Mull of the Mountains, Highland Cathedral, Peter MacLeod’s celebrated march, the Rhodesian Regiment and many, many more.

‘Seumas MacNeill’s Collection’, was offered in its original edition, was first published in 1960 and also contains some outstanding music: Major Byng M. Wright and Jeannie Carruthers by John MacColl, David Ross of Rosehall by Seumas’s teacher Archie MacNeill, the Back of the Moon by Archie Kenneth, Echoes of Oban by Donald MacPherson, Jim Tweedie’s Sea Legs by New Zealander J Allan MacGee to name a few.

The third book in this lot was ‘Masters of Piping’ by Seumas MacNeill and edited by Robert Wallace. Published in 2008, its 220 pages explore the lives of some of the great names of piping of the past: Calum ‘Piobair’ Macpherson, John MacLellan, Dunoon, Donald Cameron and Willie Ross are four. A very valuable book for those interested in piping history.

McCallum Bagpipes to Sponsor Launch of Bill Livingstone Book

Meaghan Lyons, the publicist for Bill Livingstone’s book of memoirs, has sent this: 

‘Bill Livingstone is delighted to confirm McCallum Bagpipes Ltd as sponsor of a very special celebration of Preposterous: Tales to Follow, Bill’ soon-to-be-released memoirs. The event will take place on Thursday, 10th August 2017, 4.30 – 5.30pm, at the National Piping Centre and will be hosted by Stuart Liddell.

‘The hour-long event will include a reading of selected passages from Preposterous: Tales to Follow by Bill, followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

‘“We are proud to support Bill for this special event. McCallum’s has a long history of investing in piping and drumming’s biggest trailblazers and we wish Bill every success in his latest venture.”

‘“Bill is one of the greats of bagpiping in the modern era,” said host Stuart Liddell. “I am delighted to be involved in this once-in-a-lifetime event and look forward to seeing everyone in Glasgow.”

‘“McCallum Bagpipes has been a dedicated supporter of my projects over the years and those of so many others. I am honoured to be working with them again.” said Bill Livingstone. “I am also delighted to have Stuart Liddell on board as host of the celebration. Stuart will bring an unparalleled level of warmth, humour and fun to this special event.”

‘Hard and softcover copies of the book will be available for sale at the event. To avoid disappointment and ensure a copy of the book is waiting for you on the day, advance sales of Preposterous: Tales to Follow are now open on the National Piping Centre’s online shop at Advance orders must be submitted by Friday, 21st July 2017.

‘Preposterous: Tales to Follow will be available for sale online, in hard and softcover, at all major book retailers from 1st August 2017. A publicity campaign celebrating the release of Bill’s memoirs will roll out over the coming weeks. Go to Bill’s official Facebook page @williamjrlivingstone and for all the latest news and updates. Stay tuned for more special announcements!’

P/M Donald MacLeod: New Slideshow Depicting His Life & Times

The great Donald MacLeod died 35 years ago last month, writes the Editor. Today we mark this with a new slideshow (link at foot of column) depicting the life and times of the master piper with thanks to the unnamed reader who alerted us to this important anniversary.

Donald MacLeod was born in 1917 and died in 1982.  He was one of the greatest pipers of the 20th century both in terms of his competition prowess and as an outstanding composer of pipe music.

He was born in Stornoway and initially taught the pipes by his father, Donald ‘Doyle’ MacLeod, Pipe Major of the Lewis Pipe Band. When, in the 1930s,  P/M Willie Ross visited Stornoway  on a teaching stint Donald attended his classes and was encouraged to join the Scots Guards. However he enlisted in the 2nd Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders (1937) and whilst stationed at Fort George had tuition from John MacDonald, Inverness. This continued on and off for 25 years and laid the foundation of Donald’s extensive piobaireachd knowledge.

His pipe major in the Seaforths was DR MacLennan, half-brother of GS Maclennan. Donald was eventually promoted Pipe Major. On the outbreak of WW2 he found himself in France with his regiment as part of the 51st Highland Division. Like so many others he was taken prisoner at St Valery. Fortunately Donald managed to escape by diving into a ditch during a forced march. Donald, seldom spoke about this incident, but dismissed it once by saying that he ‘was so small and insignificant that the guards hadn’t notice he had slipped away’.

On any encounter with German soldiers he spoke his native Gaelic, was presumed to be eastern European, and allowed to go. He was picked up by the Resistance and eventually made it back home. He returned to France following D-Day and played the 7th Seaforths across the Rhine against the express orders of his Commanding Officer who recognised the danger to Donald and his unique musical qualities (see picture top). Donald very seldom spoke of his time during WW2 but it would surely make a wonderful documentary or film for Gaelic or non-Gaelic television.

His late wife Winnie spoke to me once of Donald never sleeping well and waking during the night with nightmares about his time during the conflict. Hardly surprising, and who knows the effect this had on his health in later life.

After the war Donald came into his own as a solo competitor adding eight Clasps to his Oban and Inverness Gold Medals as well as eight Silver Stars for the Former Winners MSR at the Northern Meeting. There is also a suggestion that he won the Inverness Jig competition nine times, many of them with his own compositions. He also won all the main competitions at Oban many times over.

He ranks among the greatest composers in the history of pipe music, taking his place alongside GS McLennan, Peter MacLeod (Jnr. and Snr.), John MacLellan (Dunoon), Willie Lawrie and John MacColl at piping’s high altar of melodic genius. In all he produced six books of ceol beag and one book of ceol mor. Some of his tunes have been set for this year’s piobaireachd competitions at Oban and Inverness marking an acceptance of his music which would surely have been a source of considerable pride to him.

There is one story that he composed the final two parts of his jig The Seagull ex tempore whilst on the platform at the Northern Meeting. Probably apocryphal but the fact that it has become part of piping folklore is indicative of his extraordinary compositional gift. The story was believable. One anecdote that is true is his composing the tune the Judges’ Dilemma whilst waiting on the outcome of the Jig competition at Inverness. By the time his name was announced as winner he had completed the tune in the margins of the programme. Donald later competed with this tune and others may have information on whether he won with it or not.

His music is as popular today as it was when first published. The list of classic tunes is considerable: Knightswood Ceilidh, Crossing the Month, Hen’s March, Butterfingers, Glasgow Police Pipers, Donald MacLellan of Rothesay, Susan MacLeod, Fiona MacLeod, Stac Pollaidh, Donald MacLean of Lewis, Dr Ross, MacLeod of Mull, P/M George Allan and whole host of beautiful Gaelic-inspired airs and retreat marches.

One of his final competition appearances was in the Knock Out competition run by the Scottish Pipers’ Association playing against another great composer, teacher and piper, Duncan Johnstone. Donald was pushed into second by the vote of the audience but was the first to congratulate Duncan, ‘It’s no loss what a friend gets’.

Donald was deservedly made an MBE in 1978, an award widely applauded throughout the piping world. Here was a man who could not have done more for our music and always with a quite, un-assuming demeanour.

After retiring from competition Donald continued to teach, judge and compose. He was the sole judge at Inverness when his erstwhile student Donald Bain, New Zealand, won the Gold Medal with MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart (the tune you’ll hear played on the harp accompanying the slides). Donald helped many others to achieve this accolade all of them outstanding pipers in their own right: P/M Iain Morrison, Angus John MacLellan, John Wilson and Andrew Wright to name a few.

Along with John MacLellan, John MacFadyen and Seumas MacNeill, Donald was instrumental in the establishment of summer schools in North America, particularly, in Donald’s case, in western Canada.

He pioneered the tuition by tape scheme whereby students would be sent lessons on a particular tune always accompanied by his characteristic ‘this is how it might go’ comment. These recordings were the basis for an extensive series of CDs issued by the Lismor label in the 1990s some 220 piobaireachd in all.

The Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition was established in Stornoway in 1994 to honour one of the best pipers of the 20th century. Initiated by the Lewis & Harris Piping Society our top pipers are invited to play Donald’s music. Each April large crowds gather to hear the work of this maestro performed on his native isle.

• Read more on Donald from someone who knew him well, P/M Jim MacWilliams, Saskatchewan, here. Check out the slideshow here.

Bill Livingstone Releases Memoir on Aug 1

Well known piper and solo adjudicator Bill Livingstone from Ontario has announced that he will release a book of his memoirs on August 1. The blurb: Bill Livingstone, record-setting Pipe Major and soloist, will release his memoirs, entitled Preposterous: Tales to Follow, on 1st August 2017. Written by Bill, the 276-page work covers over seven decades of Bill’s life, ranging from his childhood in the tough mining town of Copper Cliff in northern Ontario, Canada, to some of his most high-profile solo and pipe band ventures around the world.

‘This book has been in the works for several years now,” said Bill. ‘Writing it has been a roller-coaster ride of emotions as I have not held back on putting my memories, my views and my feelings out there for everyone to see. Seeing it finished is simultaneously elating and terrifying.’

Preposterous: Tales to Follow will be available for sale online, in hard and softcover, at all major book retailers from 1st August 2017. Hard and soft cover copies will also be available for sale at the Glengarry Highland Games, Ontario, on 4th/5th August 2017, where Bill will officially open the 70th edition of the games as guest of honour. 

A publicity campaign celebrating the release of Bill’s memoirs will roll out over the coming weeks. Go to Bill’s official Facebook page @williamjrlivingstone and for all the latest news and updates. Stay tuned for more special announcements!