Category Archives: Butter Fingers’ Blog

Butter Fingers' blog, 24/03/17

logosTONIGHT SEES THE annual College of Piping Lecture in the Birnam Hotel, Perthshire. I’m looking forward to this. The subject being discussed is that of ‘Piping Societies in the Modern Era’.

The College has invited Euan Anderson of the Eagle Pipers and Alan Forbes of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society to present the lecture.

It won’t be all talking, of course. I understand we’ll be treated to music from Jenny Hazzard, Iain Speirs and Roddy MacLeod plus a quartet from the RSPS.

Tickets are £10.00 which includes refreshments. Looking forward to a convivial evening in Perthshire.

spa2THE COLLEGE'S LECTURE kicks off the Piobaireachd Society conference that is held over this weekend. Next weekend, however, sees the SPA’s Adult Amateur and Veterans Contest which takes at the College on the 1st of April. Then, the SPA’s Professional competition will be held the following Saturday (8th). If you haven't entered already download the entry form: Annual Professional Piping Contest Entry Form 2017.

The judges this year are P.M. Ian McLellan, Andrews Wright and Frater, and Roddy Livingstone.

Pipe Major Iain Watson with some of the youngsters from the Govan Schools Pipe Band.

Pipe Major Iain Watson with some of the youngsters from the Govan Schools Pipe Band.

YOU WILL NO doubt be aware of the great work being done in the schools of Govan over the last three years by Pipe Major Iain Watson and Pipe Major Iain MacPherson of Greater Glasgow Police Pipe Band. If you aren’t aware then where have you been?

Well, to showcase the progress of the kids from this deprived part of Glasgow – Govan is recognised by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation as one of significant deprivation – the College is hosting a recital on the 22nd of April. The recital features the Govan Schools Pipe Band, Johnstone Pipe Band, Callum Beaumont and Gaelic singer, Bethany Watson.

A simple donation gains entry. Bar. Time: 7.00pm for 7.30pm. Do come along.

SADDENED TO HEAR of the passing of Rab Kelly. He was a great character and had been off the drink by the time I met him in the early 1980s. In tribute, this weekend I’ll be dusting off the eponymous tune big Angus MacDonald composed for him.

Bagad Lorient playing down 5th Avenue, Manhattan, March 2017.

Bagad Lorient playing down 5th Avenue, Manhattan, March 2017.

GREAT TO SEE my Breton friends in the Bagad Lorient performing in Manhattan a couple of weeks ago. You may recall I mentioned they would be performing at the Highline Ballroom on March 14? Well, they also took part in the St Patrick’s Day Parade a few days later, playing down 5th Avenue. I hear Bagad de Vannes will take part next year.

Chris Duncan. Photo: Derek Maxwell.

Chris Duncan. Photo: Derek Maxwell.

I HEAR THE effervescent Chris Duncan – the better half of Ian – has been voted as Chairman (Chairwoman?) of the Vale of Atholl Pipers' Association.

Chris takes over from Alister Walker who himself replaced Angus Clarke. This is a great move on the part of the Vale and its three component bands, which currently comprises a Grade 1 band, a Grade 3 band and a Grade 4 band.

Butter Fingers.

Butter Fingers' blog, 17/03/17

THE CAPTAIN JOHN A MacLellan MBE Memorial Trust Dinner will this year be held on 26th August at the Caledonia Hotel in Princes Street, Edinburgh. More details soon.

VETERAN TEACHER OF highland dancing, Jean Swanston is trying to track down young piper called Ruaridh Brown from Dunblane. Ruaridh is aged about 12/13 years old. If anyone knows him please send contact details to Gillie McNab

Speaking of Gillie, her well known family of pipers and drummers is to be honoured at this year’s European Pipe Band Championships in Forres. The family was featured in the February 2015 Piping Times:



Major General Seymour Monro.

Major General Seymour Monro.

ON THE SUBJECT of the Europeans, Major General Seymour Monro (QOH) will be the Chieftain this year. Major Monro is the Convener of the Northern Meeting Piping Trust and is Director of the Highland Military Tattoo.

A local man, he spent 35 years in the Queen’s Own Highlanders and is a friend to pipers and pipe bands. For once, organisers of a pipe band competition have made a very good choice in appointing Major Monro as chieftain.

stagSIR EDWIN LANDSEER’s famous painting, ‘The Monarch of the Glen’ has been offered to the National Gallery by Diageo. The price tag is £4m and they have the museum trustees until today to decide if they can meet the asking price, thus enabling the celebrated 1851 depiction of a stag to remain in public view.

Perhaps if this multinational if feeling really charitable it could simply give it to the National Gallery … after all Scottish heritage helped build the whisky industry. It still does.

The painting was sold in 1916 to Thomas Dewar of the famous Perthshire whisky company, who adopted the stag as a branding device for the business. The Distillers company bought Dewar’s in 1925 and was in turn bought by Guinness in 1986. In 1997 Guinness merged with Grand Metropolitan to become Diageo. Diageo sold the Dewar’s brand to Bacardi the next year, but kept the Landseer and soon after gave it on loan to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, which has displayed it in the 17 years since.
 Last year, Diageo made an operating profit of £3bn.

logosDEVOTEES OF THE 'big music' will gather next weekend in Perthshire for the annual Piobaireachd Society Conference. The subjects being covered are: Angus McKay and the Society’s revised Book 10, fiddling and pibroch, new tunes from the Campbell Canntaireachd, the amateur piping league that is the CLASP, and the usual demonstration of the 2017 Set Tunes. As ever, there will be a convivial dinner and ceilidh on Saturday evening.

I’ve never been to this conference but I will attend this year because I’m intrigued by what fiddler Pete Clark has to say on the subject of fiddling and piobaireachd. I understand he’ll be featuring MacIntosh’s Lament and a Scott Skinner piece.

The weekend kicks off with the annual College of Piping Lecture on Friday night. I note from the Piping Times that the speakers this year are Euan Anderson and Alan Forbes. These wise men from the east (Edinburgh) will be delivering a joint presentation on the theme of piping societies in the modern era. A good topic, given the vagaries of health that some piping organisations worldwide find themselves in.

Euan will be giving the Eagle Pipers’ take on the subject and Alan that of the venerable Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society. I hear a quartet from the RSPS will play Roddy Campbell’s eponymous 2/4.

Tickets for the lecture are £10.00 and are available at the door or from the College in advance. Refreshments are provided.

GOOD LUCK TO all pipers competing in tomorrow’s Duncan Johnstone competition.

Butter Fingers

Disclaimer: the views of Butter Fingers are not necessarily those of the College of Piping.

Butter Fingers’ blog, 10/03/17

  THE SCOTTISH SCHOOLS Pipe Band Championships take place on Sunday at James Gillespie High School, which is, incidentally, looking for a Teacher of Gaelic. This competition is the result of hard work by the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust. The competition is going from strength to strength and, as I’ve  reported previously, a…
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Butter Fingers' blog, 03-03-17

Angus back in the day.

Angus back in the day.

IT WAS GREAT to read in this month’s Piping Times that Angus Lawrie is still composing gems. The magazine contains a new tune of Angus’s which he has written for his cousin, Father Colin MacInnes. It’s a good-going 2/4 march and it’s very musical although it will take me a few runs through to learn it.

I hear that the collection of tunes which the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders hope to have ready for this year’s PipingLive! festival will feature 16 of Angus’s tunes.

Angus is 86 now and joined the 8th Battalion when he finished his National Service in 1950. Do check out the tune in this month's PT. It's a cracker.

U&BTHE FIRST MAJOR event of the solo piping calendar, the Glasgow Uist & Barra Association’s Solo Piping Competition, takes place tomorrow at the College of Piping. Yer auld da’ here remembers the days when this competition was held in the Henry Wood Hall at the corner of Claremont Street and Berkeley Street. It was quite a thing to see each competitor access the stage from the tuning rooms directly beneath.

The Uist & Barra is always a great day; for me, it’s one of the two sociable piping highlights of the year, the first being Echoes of Oban.

Tickets are £12.00 and the competition begins at 09:00.

It’s good to see Niall Stewart among those competing. Niall had to call off last year due to tonsillitis. Roddy MacLeod and Willie McCallum have pulled out for personal reasons. The pipers competing tomorrow are:

Glenn Brown, Finlay Johnston, Callum Beaumont, Faye Henderson, Innes Smith, Craig Sutherland, Dougie Murray, Wilson Brown, Jamie Forrester, Niall Stewart, Cameron Drummond and Graham Drummond (son, I believe, of the late Colin Drummond).

Last year’s competition was won by Callum Beaumont.

inchdrewer-houseIT’S A BUSY weekend of piping! The 25th Archie Kenneth Quaich takes place in the rooms  of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society in Rose Street, Edinburgh, and across the city at Redford Barracks (Inchdrewer House) the Army Piping and Drumming Championships take place on Saturday and Sunday. There will be competitions in solo piping and drumming on Saturday with a mini band competition on Sunday.

It all kicks off at 09:00 on Saturday with the Open Piobaireachd.

The organisers hope to stream the event live over the internet.

ON THE SUBJECT of solo piping competitions, the SPA will be holding its annual Adult Amateur and Veterans Contest at the College on Saturday, April 1. This is followed a week later by its Professional Contest. The provisional date for its Juvenile Contest is Saturday, September 9.

Entry forms are on the College website.

sgA SHAME ABOUT the cancellation of this year’s Spring Gatherin’ in Belfast. This has been a very successful event for the past couple of years but last week the Ulster Scots Agency withdrew its funding abruptly and without warning. Bands and performers had been booked including Fred Morrison and Jim Kilpatrick.

The agency still hasn’t explained to the Spring Gatherin’ committee why this has happened but to me, it could be down to the rekindled warmth between key personnel in both the agency and the Northern Ireland branch of the RSPBA. The branch was behind the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band’s second revisiting of its 1987 ‘Live in Ireland’ concert last Saturday at the Belfast Waterfront. I believe the agency hosted a reception. The show was, of course, great but it wasn’t a sell-out by any stretch and I suspect there are some red faces down Lisburn way.

Let’s hope that the Spring Gatherin’ organisers can rally support to bring back the event in 2018.

The Belfast Tattoo is unaffected and takes place at the SSE Arena, Belfast from 31st August 31-2nd September.

Butter Fingers.

Disclaimer: the views of Butter Fingers are not necessarily those of the College of Piping.

pupilTHE COLLEGE’S EASTER School has some great tutors lined up: Pipe Major Iain MacPherson (Glasgow Police Pipe Band), Ian Watson (ex- Strathclyde Police Pipe Band) and Colin MacLellan (ex-Pipe Major, Lothian & Border Police Pipe Band).

Quality polis right enough!

The dates are April 3-7 and April 10-14. The cost is only £95.00. Click HERE for more details.



Hamish Moore playing at the College of Piping, October 2015.

THIS YEAR’S TRADFEST in Edinburgh will open with a piping concert. Hamish Moore is the main organiser for the concert and he has pulled together an interesting line-up for the show which is on Wednesday, April 26. Son, Fin and Angus MacKenzie of the group, Dàimh, will play a set of Cape Breton step dance tunes on pipes copied from the ‘Black Set of Kintail' housed in Inverness Museum.

Brighde Chaimbeul, last year’s BBC Radio 2 Young Traditional Musician of the Year, will play a set on Scottish smallpipes and the wonderful Callum Armstrong is to play a set on Border pipes accompanied by George Pasca on cello. If you've never heard Callum before, take a look at THIS.

Allan MacDonald and Seonaidh MacIntyre will play a set exploring the relationship between ceòl mòr and Gaelic song. This is another bellows piping segment. For those who prefer something a bit more mainstream – for want of a better word – Roddy MacLeod is included in the lineup.

C3BEDd6WIAA-_YETODAY IS THE deadline for applications to receive a piping bursary courtesy of the Clan MacLean Heritage Trust. Applications are invited worldwide from a promising MacLean (or sept of the clan, such as Beaton, Black, Gilzean, MacEachan, MacVey, MacCormick, MacFadyen, Rankin and more) piper. This bursary is offered once every five years.

Application forms can be downloaded by clicking HERE.

CDTHE PARK BAR in Argyle Street, Glasgow, that famous post-Worlds watering hole and long-time haunt of Glasgow’s Gaels, has produced a CD of the many performers who’ve played and sung there over its 50 years. The CD can be bought in the pub. Proceeds to the RNLI.

Butter Fingers

Disclaimer: the views of Butter Fingers are not necessarily those of the College of Piping.



TOMORROW SEES THE Metro Cup Solo Invitational Piping Competition in Newark, New Jersey. The order of play is: 1. Alastair Lee; 2. Alasdair Henderson; 3. Derek Midgley; 4. Callum Beaumont; 5. William McCallum; 6. John Patrick; 7. Andrew Lee; 8. Bruce Gandy; 9. Dan Lyden; 10. Glenn Brown; 11. Alex Gandy; 12. Andrew Hayes; 13.…
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BUTTER FINGERS' BLOG 10/02/2017 UNBELIEVABLE! ONE WEEK after my comments about the Daily Record, they’re at it again. You will recall how I was left vexed after reading its online story about how the AC/DC track, 'Thunderstruck', had been performed by a group of Spanish pipers. The story didn’t mention the basic fact that it…
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IN A WEEK that saw Donald Trump(et) sign an executive order banning stairs (well, would you be surprised?), what fake news and alternative facts are on my mind? Well, first things first: the closing date for entries for this year’s Highlands and Islands Music and Dance Festival is Monday, March 13. This is always an enjoyable event and is invariably well supported by pipers. As ever, the piping takes place at Oban High School.

burnsWE’RE NOW INTO February and there are Burns Suppers still being held around the world but I hear a good story of the Perthshire farming couple who last week were so keen to support the local Junior Agricultural Club’s event – and blag a good seat – that they turned up at the venue in Pitlochry early … one week early. Aye, the best laid schemes of mice and men go aft agley, right enough.


IF ANYONE KNOWS of any highland pipers near Chennai in south-east India could they please get in touch? Dr Felicity Mehendale, Consultant Cleft & Plastic Surgeon based at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, is promoting the 2021 International Cleft Lip and Palate Congress. This conference is held once every four years and in 2021 will take place in Edinburgh. This year it is to be held in Chennai next week and Dr Mehendale would like a local highland piper to feature.

If you know of anyone please contact Dr Mehendale on +44 (0)131 536 0976 or email here at:


plateNOW HERE’S A car registration plate! I see it’s advertised for sale in this month’s Piping Times. £1,000 would clinch it. The owner is a piper in advanced years who is ill.

Contact Stuart Wilkie on or by phone: 07545 786764.


caseI SEE R.G. Hardie has brought out a brand new bagpipe case. They look quite good to me, and I see there’s plenty of room for the post-competition carry out. They'll be available from the College shop later today.



Mervyn Herron.

Mervyn Herron.

IT WAS GREAT to see pipe band stalwart, Mervyn Herron (pictured, right) at the recent Glasgow Tattoo. He appeared to be in a buoyant mood and spent a great deal of time chatting to members of the audience. He is still saddened by the way he feels he was treated by the RSPBA(NI) but his charm and charisma are being put to good use by the Belfast Tattoo and the Glasgow Tattoo. Good on you, Mervyn.

reporterRECEIVED A PM from a native of Auld Dreichie (as I prefer to call Embra) who tells me he is enjoying the blog. He goes by the nom de plume of ‘GreyfriarsBoab’ and writes: “You were spot on with your comments about the Scottish press in general and the Daily Record in particular in your blog last week. I stopped buying The Scotsman years ago but last week I noticed a story on its online version, headed, ‘Baby’s Highland jig goes viral’. The ‘story’ itself concerned 19-second-long clip which had been uploaded to a Facebook page. It shows a baby bouncing in a harness. Pipe band music can be heard playing quietly in the background. Well, dang ma poons and hold the front page!

“I’d like to know, as I’m sure you would, when it was that social media trivia became ‘news’. What is happening that we don’t know about because the media is producing drivel like this?”

I couldn't agree more, Mr GreyfriarsBoab, and with the Hootsmon last week celebrating its 200th anniversary, I’m sure Eric MacKay, Alastair Dunnet, Magnus Linklater et al would be so proud to see what’s become of their once respected title.


Balblair Farm, Bonar Bridge.

AFTER MONTHS OF uncertainty, it looks like Invercharron Highland Games will return for this year. The games had been in doubt due to a stooshie between members of the committee and the landowner of the field where the games take place. A new committee is in place which is keen that all antagonism and difficulties experienced last year are forgotten. Invercharron takes place this year on September 16.


I’M AWAY TO to fire up Twitter to see what nonsense Trump(et) has been saying today. Have a good weekend.

Butter Fingers.

Disclaimer: the views of Butter Fingers are not necessarily those of the College of Piping.

remt-logoButter Fingers' Blog 28/01/2017

THE PIPERS’ TRAIL is recruiting for this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (REMT). The ‘Trail’ is the non-military collective of pipers and drummers, teachers and supporters who have been taking up one of the lines at the REMT for the past few years. Interested? Go online to: or email
In the Piping Times of March 2016, Tom Breckenridge wrote about his experience as part of the Pipers’ Trail.

Drumnadrochit pic

THE COLLEGE’S POPULAR Highland school returns to Drumnadrochit on the shores of Loch Ness on April 9-14. What a great setting. I couldn’t help notice that the photo the College has using to publicise the school showed most of the students playing a concert inside the ruins of nearby Urquhart Castle. The photo was taken during last spring’s school. A little known fact is that a fair number of the students in the photo were from Belgium. That must have been quite an experience for them but it also shows the ‘reach’ of this successful school.

recordANYBODY NOTICED HOW truly awful – embarrasingly awful, for them – the online versions of some of Scotland’s newspapers’ have become? Last Friday, I read a story on the Daily Record’s website about the Galician band, Rondalla de Santa Eulalia de Mos, performing an AC/DC track. The track was, of course, ‘Thunderstruck’ and the band was performing it, the reporter reported, “in the streets of Spain.”
That’s a lot of streets …
I digress.
On reading that the band was playing performing ‘Thunderstruck’ I would imgine that your mind, like mine, automatically registered ‘Gordon Duncan’. It was, after all, his arrangement of the AC/DC track that brought the track to the attention of most of us in the first place. It sometimes seems that just about every piper under the age of 25 plays Gordon’s wonderful arangement and buskers piping from Buchanan Street, Glasgow to Yonge Street, Toronto can be heard playing it.

Yet, nowhere in the Daily Record’s online ‘story’ did it mention the late Pitlochry genius, a man whom Hamish Moore said many years ago: "This man is precious and should be one of Scotland’s national treasures.”

“Crowds gathered to watch the pipers' enthusiastic rendition of the rock classic.” ran the sub-heading. It could and shoud have added something along the lines of, “– as arranged by piper, Gordon Duncan’. But it didn’t. And the reason it didn’t add those words can only be because the content on the Daily Record’s website is produced by, what seems to me, to be 12-year-olds sitting in the clickbait battery cages that used to be called the newsroom. The reporter’s research amounted to, er, no research.
Did you know that the Glasgow Herald is produced in India?

WITH MORALE AMONG Scotland’s boys in blue at its lowest these days it was refreshing to read a humorous report on the Police Scotland website on Wednesday of “a bizarre unsubstantiated report of a public disorder incident in the vicinity of the Alloway Auld Kirk.” South Ayrshire police made this appeal for information:

It’s good to see they can still manage a smile in the face of adversity.

STILL WITH SOUTH AYRSHIRE, the council there is seeking a part-time Piping Instructor (Piping). Anyone considering this will need to hurry as the deadline for applications is this Sunday.

rspbaTHE RSPBA’s MUSIC BOARD met last Sunday and approved the following further grading changes for this season:
* Juvenile to Novice Juvenile – Dollar Academy.
* New registrations: Jefferson Pipe Band (Grade 4B) and The Greater Victoria Police Pipe Band (Grade 4A), Skye Youth Pipe Band, Tobermory High School and Queen Victoria School (all Juvenile B).

HAVE A GOOD weekend.

Butter Fingers.

Butter Fingers' Blog 20-01-2017

ANY SCHOOLS WISHING to compete in the forthcoming Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships need to have their application forms in by January 20. Go to:
The date of the contest – which usually attracts entries from around 120 schools – is Sunday, March 12. James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh is the venue this year.

jim-wFRESH FROM BEING nominated into the Piping Times’ Hirsute Hall of Infamy – see January’s PT – ex-Strathclyde Police Pipe Band Pipe Major, Jm Wark, has another reason to be full of the January joys. His well known strathspey, ‘Molly Connell’ was used in a television advertising campaign in December by Specsavers.
Jim tells me that STV apparently thought the tune was a very old traditional air and that the composer had long since shuffled off this mortal coil. Alas, for the keepers of the STV biscuit tin, they had to part with a very modest sum and pay Jim his due royalty. “Should’ve gone to Specsavers?” STV’s researchers should’ve gone to the College. A simple phone call or email would’ve put them right.
Jim’s great tune is still played these days, of course, but it was a real ‘chestnut’ of bands during the the1980s/90s.

I HEAR THAT Pipe Major Gordon Walker may be heading ‘down under’ this summer to perform in Western Australia. It’s been a few years since the maestro was last there.


I HEAR THAT the Vale of Atholl’s Grade 3 outfit has attracted some notable players for the forthcoming season. Major Stevie Small, the recently retired former Director of the Army School of Piping & Drumming – and who is soon to have an MBE pinned to his breast – and Ross MacNaughton will have their hurdies clad in the Muted MacNaughton tartan. Logan Tannock, too. Both are also members of the Atholl Highlanders, the Duke of Atholl’s private ceremonial army. Other ‘Highlanders’ in the Vale include Pipe Major Ian Duncan, Pipe Sergeant Angus Clarke, Pipers Euan Clarke, Alex Duncan, Adrian Cramb, Scott Murray, drummers Alistair ‘Bongo’ McNab, Alan McNab, Ian Elrick and Drum Major Alister Walker. At this rate the band will need to change its name to the Vale of Atholl Highlanders!
Highlanders competing with other bands this season include: Dougie Murray (P.M. of Fife Police), Mark Stewart (Fife Police), Bill Wotherspoon (ESL City of Newcastle) and ‘Pipeline’ presenter, Gary West (Glasgow Police).

BUCKSBURN & DISTRICT Pipe Band is to hold a 70th anniversary dinner on March 18 to which all band members past and present are invited. The dinner will be held at the Douglas Hotel at 7.00pm.

winnipegA PLEA HAS been made for tunes to go into a planned second volume of The Winnipeg Collection. Proceeds of the book will go to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
Tunesmiths should contact the book’s compiler, Nathan Mitchell on or go to the Facebook page:

See you anon. An’ on, an’ on …

Butter Fingers.

Disclaimer: the views of Butter Fingers are not necessarily those of the College of Piping.