Category Archives: Pipe Music

Colin MacLellan Resigns from the College of Piping

The College of Piping has announced the following:

‘The College of Piping announces that due to pressure of other commitments, Colin MacLellan has decided to step down from his position as Director of Piping with effect from the end of November 2017.

‘The College is very grateful to Colin for his hard work in the short time he was in the role and is pleased that Colin will remain associated as an adviser and friend of the College.

‘Stuart Letford, editor of the Piping Times, will carry on as Interim Manager at the College until March 31, 2018, while the board continues its strategic review of the College’s vision and activities.’

Read more about the College of Piping here. Colin MacLellan is pictured up top speaking at the Piobaireachd Society Conference in 2015. Colin Maclellan’s website has this bio: ‘In1999 Colin (58) and his wife Jenny Hazzard moved to Scotland, with Colin taking up a position as Head of Piping Studies, being responsible for educational initiatives at the National Piping Centre as well being instrumental in the creation of the BA Scottish Music – Piping degree which is jointly offered by the Centre and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

During this period he served as an external examiner for RSAMD. During 1999 Colin was appointed the Pipe Major of the Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band which during the previous season had lost its Grade One status for the first time in the Band’s storied history. To Colin fell the task of rebuilding, and within one season the band had secured the Champion of Champions title in the lesser grade and once more took its place in the top flight. He is the last Pipe Major of the Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band to have lead the band to the finals of the World Pipe Band Championship.



Colin was appointed the President of Scotland’s Competing Pipers Association in 2000, and during his tenure CPA became an active and influential force. A circuit of six piobaireachd competitions were established at Scottish highland games, and the Duncan Johnstone Memorial competition was founded, an event run in tandem with the National Piping Centre which has become the pre-eminent competition was Scotland’s aspiring professionals. CPA during this time under Colin’s leadership initiated reform of the Joint Committee for Judging with a new structure and reassessment of procedure being established which lead to the return of Senior Adjudicators who had not judged for some years.

In 2001 Colin took up a position as Piping Teacher at The Edinburgh Academy, a post which he filled until December 2007. Colin MacLellan has sat two terms as Chairman of CPA’s Grading Committee as well as returning to international teaching and judging commitments, examining and reedmaking. Instrumental in the reformation of Edinburgh’s famous Eagle Pipers Society, he serves as its Honorary President and was appointed a Senior Judge of Scotland’s Joint Committee for Judging upon his retirement from competition in 2007. Colin also served a term as Chairman of The Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board starting in 2014. He is currently a member of the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band, and has recently produced a book and CD of his father’s complete piobaireachd compositions..

A Canadian citizen as well as a UK national, Colin lives and works in Edinburgh with his wife Jenny Hazzard. He has a daughter, Emily Kate, who has played in the grade one 78th Highlanders Halifax Citadel and the grade one Toronto Police Pipe Band, and a son Iain, who plays with the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa Pipes and Drums.

In August of 2016, Colin was appointed Director of Piping at The College of Piping, Glasgow.

Stay tuned to Piping Press for more.


Judging Dilemma – When is it Time to Call it a Day?

By Robert Wallace

At what age should a judge retire? In the pipe band world this is set at 75. After that, irrespective of your health, it is time to hang up the clipboard. No more standing in the rain listening to 30 Grade 4b performances and other such delights these dedicated professionals have to endure on the bands’ behalf.

No, it’s straight into the armchair with a bag of peppermints and re-runs of YouTube videos of the Worlds I’m afraid and thanks for the memory. Is this right? Two adjudicators that I know of have had to call it quits this year and they are very fit individuals, brains and hearing as sharp as ever. Should not retirement be predicated on fitness for the job?

The problem with that is when you get someone who clearly can’t hack it round the circle any more – but thinks he can. A major championship is a long day, with perhaps juvenile grades in the morning and then a senior grade later and all of it spent on your feet in all sorts of weathers.

A tap on the shoulder and a word in the shell-like from the adjudicator management board produces the opposite effect than that desired. Instead of resignedly accepting the inevitable, the judge concerned contacts his lawyer and his doctor – not necessarily in that order.



‘Who do they think they are telling me I’m not up to it,’ is the likely opening line. Suddenly the RSPBA has a major problem on its hands; a judge whose faculties are failing but whose stubborn self-belief and consequent high dudgeon clouds the creaking reality that is as plain as pie to everyone else.

We could also have the scenario whereby an individual loses it aged only 70 but is allowed to continue on a rocky path of inconsistency for another five years. Presumably the management board would spot this and could at least steer him away from the majors.

Judges at Braemar: Norman Meldrum (centre) with Angus MacPherson, Invershin, to his left

That aside, I can see the need for a simple cut off point but that doesn’t help the fit men who clearly are still on the ball physically and mentally at 75+. Isn’t there some way of accommodating all that knowledge and experience; a dispensation of a couple of years whereby they are allowed to continue adjudicating until the panel thinks they should call it a day with no appeal or legal recourse when that happens? Remember, today’s 75 is the new 65. We’re living longer; just ask the pensions people.

In the solo scene, in Scotland at least, you can go on adjudicating forever. Unless you actually repeatedly fall asleep on the bench or keel over half way through the Gold Medal it seems the judge’s pencil is yours for as long as you want it. Is this wise? After all, judging a solo contest can be a much more drawn out affair than any single band contest – in Gold and Silver Medals maybe 12 hours of near continuous concentration.

The three-man bench is always a safeguard I suppose but I wonder if it is time for a review. I am told the late James Campbell, Kilberry, refused to judge after the age of 75, this even though he had the sharpest mind ever to grace a piping contest – right to the end of his days too. I suppose my point about the health of the individual is the crucial one and in the solo world promoters will soon know when to stop the invites to anyone who is obviously failing. Word travels fast.

Judging, bands or solo, can be an exhausting business but it is an opportunity for those whose playing days are over to put something back into a game they have derived a lifetime of pleasure from. Being invited on to a bench can, in return, bestow prestige and honour on those chosen to preside over Grade 1 at the Worlds or maybe the ‘big’ MSR at Oban or Gold Medal at Inverness.

RSPBA judges age 75 must hand in the clipboard

It does not come without risk. Listen to the chat in any band hall or beer tent and you will see that a thick skin is required. And it is not pleasant when a top piper such as Roderick MacLeod of the National Piping Centre refuses to play for you as happened to me at the Uist & Barra earlier this year. As I said at the time he clearly thought me either incompetent or corrupt or a combination of both and was happy for the public to know it.

Yet if there are no judges there can be no competitions. Promoters and organisers can and do show concern for the welfare of their adjudicators and that includes making sure facilities are up to scratch and a long day is made as comfortable as possible.

In addition that duty of care should extend to providing an opportunity for judges to continue to contribute to the music as long as they are physically and mentally able to do so – but also to point the way to the fireside for those whose time is up.


Shotts Junior Championship – Full Results with A Few Comments Added

One of the busiest junior competitions of the year took place yesterday at Calderhead High School, Shotts, Lanarkshire. Run by the World Championship winning Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band, the event attracted over 185 young pipers and drummers. The picture above shows some of the earlier class winners.

I spent most of the afternoon at the competition and it was very well organised, even with the large entry, the school an excellent facility, writes the editor. The promoters were well served by some of our leading professional pipers who acted as judges. These included, Bill Geddes, Peter Hunt, Gordon McCready, Darach Urquhart, Graham Drummond and Alasdair Henderson.

Listening to the Under 15 Piobaireachd, there was an outstanding performance for one so young from Andrew Ferguson of Dollar Academy. His performance of the Earl of Ross’s March was mature, well controlled – and the bagpipe not far from professional standard. Andrew is clearly one to watch and a credit to his teachers who I presume to be Dollar instructors Matt Wilson and Callum Beaumont.

Poor pipes and poor memory affected the performances of the other youngstersin this event but it would be wrong to expect too much at this early stage of their development as soloists. The importabnt thing is that they are studying ceol mor, learned their tunes and put themselves forward for the competition.

EVENT 1 Chanter Age 18 and Under Slow Air (Two Parts)
Sponsored by: Maverick
1 Fraser Smith
2 Finn Gilmour
3 Lloyd Ferguson
4 Erin Allison

EVENT 2 Chanter Age 18 and Under March (2 Parts)
Sponsored by: Canning Reedmakers
1 Fraser Smith
2 Christopher Drummond
3 Harrison Bishop
4 Finn Gilmour
5 Erin Allison
6 Rachel Donald

EVENT 3 Piping Age 13 and Under 2/4 March
Sponsored by: Wallace Bagpipes
1 Nicholas Knowles
2 Bobby Allen
3 Richard Kneen
4 Adam Dandie
5 Donald Morris
6 Jack Smith

EVENT 3 A Piping Age 13 and Under Strathspey and Reel
Sponsored by: Wallace Bagpipes
1 Bobby Allen
2 Nicholas Knowles
3 Cameron May
4 Joshua Reilly
5 Jack Smith
6 Christie Mcnab

EVENT 4 Piping Age 15 and Under 2/4 March (Minimum 4 parts)
Sponsored by: Wallace Bagpipes
1 Christopher Happs
2 Andrew Ferguson
3 Ross Connor
4 Luke Kennedy
5 Ruairidh Brown
6 Brodie Watson-Massey

EVENT 4A Piping Age 15 and Under Strathspey and Reel
Sponsored by: Wallace Bagpipes
1 Christopher Happs
2 Andrew Ferguson
3 Brodie Watson-Massey
4 Ross Connor
5 Ruairidh Brown
6 Luke Kennedy

EVENT 5 Piping Age 15 and Under Ground of Piobaireachd
Sponsored by: Wallace Bagpipes
1 Joshua Reilly
2 Evan Hawkins
3 Donald Morris
4 Bobby Allen
5 Gregor Grierson
6 Ryan McCreadie

EVENT 6 Piping Age 15 and Under Piobaireachd
Sponsored by: David Naill – First prize won a David Naill Silver Practice Chanter
1 Andrew Ferguson
2 Cialan Kellett
3 Luke Kennedy
4 Emma Hill
5 Ross Connor
6 Cameron May

EVENT 7 Piping Age 18 and Under 2/4 March (Minimum 4 parts)
Sponsored by: Maverick and Canning Reedmakers
1 Finlay Cameron
2 Angus Macphee
3 Robbie MacIsaac
4 Ben Muir
5 Lewis Russell
6 Callum Davidson

Winners at the 2017 Shotts Junior Championship

EVENT 7A Piping Age 18 and Under Strathspey and Reel
Sponsored by: Canning Reedmakers and Trap-Dri
1 Finlay Cameron
2 Angus Macphee
3 Robbie MacIsaac
4 Luke Shearer
5 Ben Muir
6 John. A. McLaren

EVENT 8 Piping Age 18 and Under Piobaireachd
Sponsored by: Canning Reedmakers and Trap-Dri
1 John. A. McLaren
2 Finlay Cameron
3 Lewis Russell

EVENT 9 Snare, Stick and Pad Age 15 and Under March
Sponsored by: Stephen Creighton in conjunction with Promark and Evans
1 Jason Hendry
2 Andrew Black
3 Oliver Burbury
4 Ewan Jeffrey

EVENT 11 Snare Drumming Age 15 and Under March (4 parts)
Sponsored by: Stephen Creighton in conjunction with Promark and Evans
1 Caitlyn Malloy
2 Callum Kyle
3 Mark Bathgate
4 Archie Jaffrey-Smith
5 Niamh McCreadie
6 Luke Cunningham

EVENT 12 Snare Drumming Age 15 and Under MSR
Sponsored by: Stephen Creighton in conjunction with Promark and Evans
1 Kerr McQuillan
2 James Strachan
3 Ewan McDonald
4 Lachlan Kyle
5 Rachel Fairley
6 Fergus Kyle

EVENT 13 Snare Drumming Age 18 and Under March (8 parts)
Sponsored by: Stephen Creighton in conjunction with Promark and Evans
1 Adam McMillan
2 Ross Stevenson

EVENT 14 Snare Drumming Age 18 and Under MSR
Sponsored by: Stephen Creighton in conjunction with Promark and Evans
1 Thomas Barnes
2 Rachel Thom
3 Alex Faulds
4 Lewis Connell

EVENT 15 Tenor Age 15 and Under March (4 parts)
Sponsored by: Ace Percussion; Additional event sponsor: Flourish
1 Fiona McCall
2 Lynsey Merrilees
3 Aimee Reid
4 Hannah McIntyre

EVENT 16 Tenor Age 18 and Under March, Strathspey & Reel
Sponsored by: Ace Percussion; Additional event sponsor: Flourish
1 Emily Davidson
2 Abby Johnston
3 Morgan Lynch
4 Mia Googe

Winner of the John K MacAllister Memorial Trophy for the Best Overall 15 Years and Under Piper, winning a set of Fred Morrison small pipes donated by McCallum Bagpipes: Andrew Ferguson

Winner of the Tom McAllister Jnr Memorial Trophy for the Best Overall 18 and Under Piper, winning a set of Armstrong ABM4a Bagpipes: Finlay Cameron

Winner of the Robert Clark Memorial Trophy donated by Billy Price in honour of his grandfather, and a voucher from the National Piping Centre: Finlay Cameron

The contest blurb reads ‘This being the fourth year of the annual event, we hope to welcome an even larger number of youngsters to North Lanarkshire, to compete in a range of categories including chanter, piping, stick and pad, snare and tenor. The competition reflects Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band’s commitment to supporting youngsters in the pipe band community, and the event is organised in partnership with North Lanarkshire Council.’


Northern Winter School in Germany Comes to a Successful Conclusion

So that is the third annual Northern Winter School over and we are now travelling home, writes the Editor. I think it would be fair to say it has been a success and Principal Ronnie Bromhead has already booked his premises for the next few years ahead. The picture above shows students and instructors.

Many of the students have expressed a wish to have a weekend refresher course a few months hence and that is something Ronnie says he will consider seriously.

The school is on the north German plain and only a few miles from the Bergen-Belsen camp memorial which unfortunately we had no time to see this time round.

The handsome attendance certificate presented to each student

We had a couple of successful students sitting PDQB exams and next year the NWS will be introducing its own series of small exam certificates.

There were a lot of views of instructor Brian Lamont’s playing at the ceilidh the other night (along with the other instructors) so this time we have Brian on his own playing his signature 2/4 march Bonnie Ann:Brian Lamont from Robert Wallace on Vimeo.

Barry lectures on setting up chanters

It was great to see Barry [Donaldson] back in action teaching once more in Germany. He was, as ever, an immediate hit with his students many of whom had been taught by him at various schools over the past ten years. His contribution to piping education in Germany is significant. Of that there is no doubt

Barry adjusts tape

Another instructor colleague was Craig Munro. Craig is a busy man. He heads to Chile on Tuesday for the South American Pipe Band Championships in Santiago, Chile. Amazing, isn’t it? Pipe bands are everywhere these days. Drumming judge is the well-known tenor maestro Tyler Fry.

Craig’s stories about the incredible success of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers left us all very impressed. He is a regular performer with them though due to business and family commitments he no longer takes part in the big eight-week long international tours (who can blame him). The band must have introduced thousands of people to the bagpipe even if you think their music is too pop scene. They sell out major concert halls wherever they go and have a fully professional team of management and light and sound engineers to back them up. The only time the ‘After the Worlds’ concert has been sold out is when the Chillis have taken the stage at the Fruitmarket in 2011 and the Glasgow ABC in 2016.

Before going I want to mention instructor Jim Semple, a six time Worlds winner with Strathclyde Police and now a respected adjudicator for the RSPBA. Jim was great company on the outward and inward journeys and such was the gratitude of his class that they presented him with a lovely glass covered group photograph. Thanks for making the travel arrangements Jim.

Anyway, that’s it from Germany and thanks to the students and teaching comrades for making it such an enjoyable week.


New Chairman for Solo Judges’ Association Announced – Comment from the Editor

Jack Taylor, Secretary of the Solo Piping Judges’ Association, has sent this…..

At the SPJA AGM today Andrew Wright stood down after four years as chair. Colin MacLellan was elected to succeed him, and Jack Taylor and Euan Anderson were returned as secretary and treasurer. 

In his remarks Andrew Wright referred to it having been a busy year with four committee meetings and much email traffic. He used the phrase ‘victims to emails’ which brought wry nods from those present. He also said ‘piobaireachd is a worldwide art form, and competition promotes the playing of it. Things have to be seen to be right’. He also mentioned his concern about what information is made public.

Colin MacLellan was not at the meeting but in a statement read out said:If elected as Chairman of the SPJA, I would aim to be open and inclusive, encouraging input and opinions from everyone within the association. However, I would remain consistent with views which I have previously clearly expressed and which are well known. I also am firmly a believer in the majority view being respected. 

‘Debate, transparency, and open expression of views is to be encouraged, but decisions made with clear majority support must be held, and respected even by the minority who may disagree.  Another of my principal aspirations would be to move on from the lengthy and tiresome arguments about teachers judging pupils. The debate is and has been important and has been hashed out at great length. A decision was made one year ago at this meeting regarding the three major meetings.  That decision has been successfully implemented, and it should be respected going forward and we should move on. This association needs to be about much more;  learning, sharing knowledge, musical interpretation, judging methodologies, analysis, improvement, and development.  Allowing the association to be mired in a single issue is detrimental and if elected as Chairman I would strive to ensure that was not allowed to happen.’



There will be no change in the code of conduct at present. Feedback from the CPA and competition organisers after the first year of operation of the ‘no pupils’ rule is awaited at next week’s meeting of the committee for solo piping competitions. The meeting voted in favour of a resolution to adopt proxy voting for previously notified written resolutions, giving all members the chance to vote on these in future.

It was also announced that the Association’s complaints procedure will be reviewed. Allan MacDonald has been added to the list as a senior judge in piobaireachd and light music, and Alan Forbes has been made a senior judge in piobaireachd.

The Meeting was followed by a successful seminar on the 2018 Gold Medal tunes. Informative presentations were given, including recordings illustrating different settings.


Editor Robert Wallace writes: ‘Mr MacLellan has his work cut out. Apart from a matter about which, for the moment, I cannot write, he has the unholy mess left him by his predecessor to sort out. The piping world may not be aware of it but the past four years have seen spurious allegations of dishonesty upheld by kangaroo courts and others, more legitimate, conveniently ignored because they didn’t suit the political zeitgeist.

We have, and have had, private SPJA correspondence and decisions displayed on the web for the world to see, one judge threatened with a verbal ‘I’m watching you’ comment by the Chairman, and disgruntled competitors allowed to hijack the association for their own nefarious ends. A judge had his 40 year association with a Highland games ended all because he declined to renew his membership of the SPJA union. Are we moving to some sort of closed shop in piping where judges will not be allowed to exercise their personal beliefs and independent thought?

Apart from all of that we have had rulings which effectively allow the Association to censor articles (guess who that was aimed at) and the widely discredited decision to ban judges from judging pupils at Oban, Inverness and London – even when there is a three-man bench and personal integrity at stake. This last, rail roaded through in the most undemocratic manner possible, has of course achieved absolutely nothing, with pupils now refusing to reveal their teachers, judges being more coy than ever about who they are teaching and some giving up on it altogether.
We have had a resignation from the SPJA committee and others on it voicing their concern at having to be involved in witch hunts against their comrades behind the pencil.

The Association has now introduced proxy voting so that those who can’t get to AGMs or special meetings can have a voice, but that won’t extend, as far as I am aware, to the election of office bearers. However it is a start, as is the long overdue review of the complaints procedure.

Mr MacLellan has promised a new dawn now let’s see if he can deliver.

The picture up top is from 1993 and shows adjudicators Captain Andrew Pitkeathly, Ronald Morrison and Kenny MacDonald presiding at the Argyllshire Gathering.