Category Archives: History

Appeal for More Information on P/M Willie Jack of the Dalziel Highland Pipe Band

Reader Kerry MacIver has written asking for information about her grandfather, P/M William Jack of the Dalziel Highland Pipe Band.

Kerry writes: ‘I am wanting to find out more about my grandfather and I was wondering if you could help. His name was Willie Jack and he was Pipe Major of the Dalziel Highland Pipe Band. I believe it was based in either Motherwell or Wishaw.

‘He passed away in 1978 but in his day he seems to have been fairly well known. Going by a photograph I have, he was one of the judges at the SPBA competition at Murrayfield, Edinburgh in 1947.

Judges at the SPBA’s first World Championship held at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. P/M Jack is third from the right, the only one wearing a Glengarry!
The back of the photograph has the details of the personnel who made up the adjudicator panels that day

‘I was just wondering if it was possible if anyone still remembered him and had any anecdotes or photos (or both!)

‘If you know of where any archives of the band are likely to be kept, or others I can contact, please let me know, and I’d be grateful if you were able to put the word out there to see if anything comes up. I have already contacted the Pipe Band Association archive group but I thought I would come to you too.

‘Here are some photos below. In the top photo, my grandfather is wearing the dark jacket. In the band photo, (excluding the two guys kneeling at the front), he is sitting to the left slightly behind the chap in the suit on the left of the bass drum. I hope you can help. Best wishes, Kerry MacIver.’
The Editor writes: Fascinating photographs Kerry and thanks for sharing them with us. I am sure you have come to the right place to get some more information on your grandfather. Off the top of my head the World Championship held at Murrayfield in 1947 – exactly 70 years ago – was the first to be run by the Scottish Pipe Band Association as it was then. Prior to this date the Worlds were always held at Cowal. Your grandfather must have been held in high esteem to be invited to adjudicate that day.
The winning band out of 26 competing for the ‘open’ title at the first Worlds were Bowhill Colliery from Fife under P/M Chris Sutherland. Clan MacRae were second, Bonhill Parish third, Clan Fraser fourth and Dundee City fifth. Other notables taking part were Renfrew,  Shotts and Dykehead, Dalziel Highland, Muirheads, MacKenzie Caledonian, Glasgow Shepherds and Glasgow Corporation Transport.
Dalziel Highland (sometimes Dalzell Highland) I know from our records won the Worlds Drumming title at Cowal in 1931, the first time the rod-tensioned snare drum was used in competition. I don’t know if your grandfather won the band title that day.

Dalziel were famous for their drumming and spawned Leading Drummers Gordon Jelly, who emigrated to Canada, Jimmy Catherwood and the great Alex Duthart. AD Hamilton seen far left of the picture above is considered the father of pipe band ensemble and was instrumental in establishing the RSPBA’s education programme. Also in the picture is Malcolm Macpherson, son of Angus Macpherson, Invershin, and a recognised expert and performer of ceol mor. The J Wilson mentioned must have been John Wilson, Edinburgh, who was soon to emigrate to Canada and become such an influence of piping in North America.

Over to our readers. Please email or leave a comment below if you can help Kerry (and us) with more on her grandfather.

PP Editor’s Blog: Fintan Lalor/ Gary Innes/ Lochaber/ Highland Games/ Poll result/ McCallum’s Marathon

Following John Kelly’s informative feature on the history of the All-Ireland Pipe Band Championship, Patrick Byrne has sent us this atmospheric picture (above). It is of the famous Fintan Lalor Pipe Band parading through the streets of Dublin in the 1960s. 

Can anyone help us to identify the pipers?

Black mark to Gary Innes (pictured) the presenter of BBC Radio Scotland’s popular ‘Take the Floor’ country dance music show. In introducing a piping group called ‘Tryst’ last Saturday (or maybe it was the week before) he made the comment, ‘I always thought pipers spent 99% of the time tuning and 1% playing out of tune…but not this group’. Whether ‘Tryst’ were in tune was hard to tell on my crackling wireless, but Gary should have been at Dumbarton last Saturday to hear Field Marshal, Inveraray and SLoT play at the Scottish Championships and he would have tempered his view on bagpipe tuning.

Maybe he’ll front up at the Argyllshire Gathering to hear the beautiful instruments the top soloists produce nowadays. Tartan Tavern, Oban, 9pm Aug 23 and the drams are on me Gary.

Entries for Lochaber Gathering are due by tomorrow (Aug 5). Forty pipers already registered but slow entries in the junior section. Email Allan MacColl to play at what is an indoor contest only a few days before the Argyllshire Gathering.

Tomorrow sees important Highland games at Aboyne, Newtonmore, and Inverkeithing. Get along and support them if you can. Aboyne are celebrating their 150th Anniversary so special congratulations to them on reaching that milestone. Today we have games at Dornoch in Sutherland. Results from all games as we get them. If you are a competitor, judge or in the audience please help by texting or emailing a quick snap of the winners’ list. Contact details top left. If you are a band person then North Berwick is the place to be tomorrow and Bridge of Allan on Sunday.

An overhwelming majority of our readers like the idea of a World Concert Pipe Band Championships – 80% in favour according to our poll (below). Of that, however, 14% think it will never happen because as the answer says, this is Scotland not North America. Read my prospectus for such a championship here.

Well done to the staff at McCallum Bagpipes for their success at the Edinburgh Half Marathon. Staff at the company, led by boss Stuart McCallum, raised a total of £4,917.50 beating their target by almost £1000. Stuart said: ‘We are extremely grateful to all those who helped us raise just under £5,000. Thanks to you all.’

McCallum’s staff pictured after their sterling efforts

PP Ed’s Blog: Argylls Book/ Perth Reminder/ Glenfinnan/ Ulster Juvs./ Strathallan

The new Argylls book

The launch of the must-have Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Pipe Music Collection is on the 10 August during Worlds Week at the National Piping Centre at 12.30pm. Admission free. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about this historic collection and hear some the tunes played by leading pipers. All the compilers will be in attendance: Jim Henderson, P/M Ian McLellan, Walter Cowan, Jimmy Banks, their exuberance controlled by the Director of Army Bagpipe Music, Major Gordon Rowan.

The men behind the new Argylls book, P/M Ian McLellan BEM, P/M Jimmy Banks MBE, Major Rowan, Walter Cowan and Jim Henderson

The composers with an Argyll connection are legion: Willie Lawrie, John McLellan, Dunoon, George McIntyre, John MacColl, Ron Fleming…..the list goes on. But the book does not just contain tunes by Argylls composers. It also has many tunes written FOR Argylls and it will be particularly pleasing to me to see the tune by P/M Peter MacInnes, Capt. John Young, Assam Regiment in the book. A few years ago I ran a competition for a tune  to commemorate the incredible heroism of this Glasgow soldier, an Argyll, and Peter was the winner. Also pleasing to know that a piobaireachd by P/M John MacKenzie, Salute to the Soldier, is to be included. We’ll have a review of the book in due course.

The organisers of Sunday’s Perth Highland Games have asked us to remind everyone that entries close this Friday, July 28, so if you want to play at this important gathering get your name down now. Call the secretary Brian Whyte on 01738 827664. Check out our PP Guide to the Games here.

Returning from Tobermory via the remote but beautiful Ardnamurchan peninsula we stopped off at the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre. It now seems rather run down and no credit to the National Trust for Scotland for letting it become so. A lick of paint and a clean up of the entrance area (littered with cigarette butts and bin mess) would help enormously and getting rid of the quota system for those wishing to climb the ’45 commemoration monument would help too. An employee told us it had reduced the visitor numbers from 300 a day to less than 100 – a significant loss of revenue for the Trust.

A glorious day at the Glenfinnan monument. The piping competitions at the games take place at the foot of this iconic column

And try as I might I couldn’t find the recording by Hugh MacCallum of his fine piobaireachd the Raising of the Standard at Glenfinnan which used to be available at the exhibition via audio link with the score on screen. I learned later that the exhibition had reduced in size and made less ‘elitist’ – whatever that means. No wonder the NTS seems to stumble from one crisis to the next if this is the sort of warped thinking they employ. Give Hugh’s tune the prominence it deserves! After our visit I climbed up the hillside to the spot where the late Donald Bain, NZ, was snapped back in the early 70s (top), a picture used extensively by the then Scottish Tourist Board.

Glenfinnan Games are on August 19 – a clash with nearby Lochaber and with Nairn on the Moray coast. The first two clashed last year as well and some pipers managed to play at both.

Dining at the splendid Glenfinnan House Hotel I noticed this poster for Wednesday’s Arisaig Games on the wall:Good prizemoney I’m told, so if you have the day off why not head north and west for a few tunes in front of two highly respected adjudicators in Iain MacFadyen and Archie Maclean. Check out our PP Guide to the Games here.

P/M Andy and some members of the band

John Kelly reports from Northern Ireland: The Ulster-Scots Agency Juvenile Pipe Band with Pipe Major Andy McGregor entertained a large audience at an open air concert in Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park on Saturday afternoon (22nd July) as part of a packed ‘Rose Week’ programme:

Strathallan School’s newsletter has an update on their piping programme via their main instructor Craig Muirhead: ‘It has been another busy year at Strathallan. We now have 60 pupils on the piping timetable, and individually they’re all coming on.… A real highlight for me has been taking two bands to compete at the Scottish Schools Championship – it’s been really nice to see them performing so well. On an individual level, we’re also seeing several pipers continuing to progress. Robbie MacIsaac is one piper in particular, who has done incredibly well. He won the solo piping competition at the Combined Cadet Force Championship, and he’s just been named Pipe Major for the year ahead. We’re really proud of what he has achieved, and it’s great to have his experience to lead the group. All the pipers respect him, and that can only be a positive thing. We’ll now focus on events such as the Musical Showcase at Perth Concert Hall next term and on putting on a fine performance there.’ To hear more about piping at Strathallan, contact the school on 01738 812546.

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.

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.