Category Archives: Butter Fingers’ Blog

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.

Butter Fingers' Blog 13/01/2017


GOOD LUCK TO all those going to Winter Storm this weekend. This event, held in Kansas City and run by the Midwest Highland Arts Fund, has established itself as a great weekend of competition, concert and workshops in the midwest of the US. The pipers performing this year are: Callum Beaumont, P.M. Brian Donaldson, Ken Eller, Ann Gray, Matt Kline, Jack Lee, Terry Lee, Ian K. MacDonald, Colin MacLellan, Willie McCallum, Fred Morrison, Michael O’Neil, Richard Parkes, Terry Tully and Tristan Wilson.

The drummers are: Hugh Cameron, Kahil Cappuccino (what a great name!), Stephen Creighton, John Fisher, Jake Jørgensen, Stevie McQuillan, Duncan Millar, Jason Paguio, Johnny Rowe, Jim Sim, Doug Stronach and Paul Turner.

The concert looks like it will be be a sell out. I think it may be Livestreamed as well.


inauguration-logoTHE UNITED STATES of America swears in its 45th President next Friday (January 20). Five pipe bands have been selected to play at the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue:

Coastal Florida Police & Fire Pipes & Drums (from Palm Coast, Florida);

Nassau County Firefighters Pipes & Drums (from East Meadow, New York);

NYPD Emerald Society Pipes & Drums (form East Moriches, New York);

the US Border Patrol Pipes & Drums (national);

tmarylandhe DCFD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums (from Washington DC), pictured.

Still in the US, I didn’t know that there are 22 states which have an official tartan. This could rise to 23 if Maryland resident Paul Wiedorn’s design for the state is adopted. Paul’s initial attempt in 2015 failed but he’s trying again. Good luck to him, I say.

A STORY IN The Sun last week caught my e’en. For readers outside of the UK The Sun is a popular newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, aka the Dirty Digger although the word ‘newspaper’ really needs to be in inverted commas. Anyway, the story sun-logoconcerned a guy in Falkirk, central Scotland, who was fined £800 at Falkirk Sheriff Court earlier this month. John Darling – great name! – had had a domestic argument with his wife in December but then went to his bedroom and began playing his pipes “in a bid to drown out what his wife Mary was saying to him.” He later stopped playing but the argument resumed and his wife called the police.

However, shortly after the ‘quality polis’ of Stirlingshire arrived, Darling, who had taken a dram or two, attempted to head butt the police officer and was promptly arrested. His solicitor, a wit by the name of Gordon Addison, said his client thought the police should not have entered the house, and that Darling had done his best to avoid the domestic argument. Addison told the Sheriff: “Your Lordship will be aware that the definition of a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the bagpipes, but doesn’t. Mr Darling knows how to play the bagpipes, but unfortunately did.” What a wit! Put this man on the stage!

Helpfully, the Sun included a photograph of someone, from the neck down, playing pipes, presumably because its readers are too stupid to picture in their heads what a person playing pipes looks like.

However, after reading this story I was reminded of a time someone complained when I was having a wee tune on the Kyle of Lochalsh-Glasgow train many years ago. I took the only action one can take when confronted with a situation like this: I threw the guy off the train.

davidSAD TO HEAR of David Murray’s passing. He was the very definition of the 'gentleman piper’ and was an extremely knowledgeable man in matters piping and military. Well do I remember the Northern Meeting of 1991 when he asked Alasdair Gillies to leave the competition platform due to him tuning for too long. There now remain only two surviving Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders who defeated the Japanese at the Battle of Kohima in 1944. In Inverness a couple of years ago David attended a service in remembrance of the battle. There are not many of his kind left now.

HarryWE KNOW THAT it takes intelligence to master the pipe but I doff my Balmoral to young Harry McLachlan of Aberfeldy who displayed evidence of his precocity recently. The Breadalbane Academy pupil scored the highest mark in Scotland for Higher Physics and attended an award ceremony before Christmas at Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh organised by the Institute of Physics. Meanwhile, on the competition platform, Harry continues to display a sound understanding of piping science. At the recent Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band junior solo piping competition, the unassuming lad came second in the Under 18 2/4 March and first in the Strathspey and Reel,

Harry was taught by PT Editor Stuart Letford and now goes to Willie McCallum. He continues to be an exciting prospect.


A crowd-funding campaign has been launched to help build an arts centre in Daliburgh, South Uist. The new centre will promote Gaelic arts and culture through formal and informal provision of music education. The building will be called Cnoc Soilleir which means ' Hill of Bright Light.’ Go to:

Butter Fingers' Blog 05-01-2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you. Aye, it’s me, Butter Fingers. I’m back after a year’s enforced hiatus courtesy of the College. A lot has happened since you last heard from me this time last year – some good, some bad. Some of you appear to be glad 2016 is over. “Brexit!” “Trump”! I hear from some, not realising that those have still to come; that it was only the votes for these that took place in 2016.
social-media-iconsWe live in unstable times but then we always have. Can someone please tell those millenials who live on social media that 2016 was no different to every other year in history. My grandson showed me a Tweet, er, tweeted last week from Madonna who had just heard of the death of George Michael. It read: “Farewell My Friend!  Another Great Artist leaves us. Can 2016 F*** Off NOW?” As if the abstract concept of time has become a phenomenon rather than a noun. CNN News did the same thing: “Dear 2016: You just took and took and took. Here are a few reasons we're glad this year is almost over.” It then showed a montage of famous people who had died. I liked quite a lot of them but I would rather reflect privately on their deaths. I don't understand this modern trend of flaunting your grief. It seems to have began with Princess Diana's death in 1997 which, some of you will recall, happened as most of us were still returning (drunkenly) from the Cowal Games that year.

I say again: 2016 was essentially no different to every other year in the history of mankind. The world has always been unstable, and the future, by definition, unpredictable. Our current worries could be much worse, and if nothing else, last year’s centenary of the Battle of the Somme, should have reminded us all of that.

You may gather that I just don't get this social media nonsense. Nor email. I send my handwritten musings to the College on a piece of old parchment manuscript paper that my great-great-grandmother found in a cupboard at Dunvegan Castle during her time working for MacLeod as a cleaner. Some sheets actually contained bits of canntaireachd scribbled on them but successive generations of my family used them to get the fire going of a morning …

IN PIPING, IT was another memorable year. One highlight was the solo piping judges’ decision to prevent members from judging their own pupils at the three ‘biggies’: Oban, Inverness and London. This was looooooong overdue and it’s interesting to note that the only dissenting voices emanate from the handful – and it is actually less than a handful – of judges who view the decision of 95% of their colleagues as treacherous. If they were gentlemen they would either accept the SPJA’s decision and move on accordingly or else resign from the organisation. Their sniping merely compounds their selfishness. They view the decision as draconian … the sane world views it as common sense.

2016 was a also a very good year for Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band, Inveraray & District Pipe Band, North Lanarkshire Schools Pipe Band, Stuart Liddell, Bruce Gandy (nice chanter; it only needs tape on E, really), Major Steven Small (who is to receive a gong from Her Maj), Roddy MacLeod, Callum Beaumont … and Colin MacLellan who returned to the CoP as DoP. I hear Colin has been busy since his appointment with, among other things, revamping the College’s best-selling publication, the Book 1 tutor book. Truth be told, the College was never happy with the way the book was revised and edited some 14 years ago.bazza-and-wheel

Speaking of Colin MacLellan, I see his better half will be among those pipers competing for the first time at the City of Edinburgh Pipe Band’s annual ‘Wheel of Fortune’ competition on Saturday, February 11 at, as ever, Danderhall Miners Club, Edinburgh. Sarah Muir makes her debut, too. Normally at the WoF, the only females you see are those either serving behind the bar or in the kitchen cooking the square slices. The very best of luck to you, Jenny and Sarah, and lads, let’s keep the jokes, as well as the taorluaths, clean …


THE WILLIAM GRANT FOUNDATION may have pulled out of sponsoring the fiddling element to its annual musical bash at Blair Castle, but I hear that the fiddling competition will continue. It is to go ahead in March to coincide with the Niel Gow Festival in Dunkeld. Meanwhile, the future is safe of the piping element to that weekend. For now. The Foundation has made cuts to other aspects of its support for piping but ‘the Glenfiddich’ is, after all, its flagship event, an event which has added immensely to the piping calendar since its inception in the early 1970s by Sandy Grant Gordon and Seumas MacNeill. However, perhaps it is not good for piping to have all its competition eggs in one basket.

Speaking of Blair Castle, the white castle is becoming more like a white elephant these days. I understand its roof has been replaced at a cost of … £500,000! Gulp. Liz Maxwell should perhaps steel herself for the castle proposing an increase in the hire of the place.

zuckerbergI HEAR THE genius founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has discovered an inspiring new foundation to which he will donate huge amounts of his fortune in a bid to defeat all disease over the next century. “It’s called the government,” the über geek told Butter Fingers. “I’ve been thinking about how I can make a difference with the huge fortune I’ve amassed from clever tax structures that minimise my company’s tax liability. I was flabbergasted to discover that this ‘government’ is devoted to ending disease. And not just that. It also has projects dedicated to running schools, hospitals, road systems, parks, and tons of other worthy projects which make our planet a decent place to live.

“So, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be giving lots of my money to the ‘government’ and I expect to get a lot of great publicity out of my generosity.”


Anyway that’s enough of me for now. It’s good to be back. Here’s to 2017 and another memorable year. The future’s bright – but not as bright as Willie Morrison’s new hose.

See you anon. An’ on, an’ on …

Butter Fingers.

P.S., can someone explain to me what a ‘meme’ is?

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

Butter Fingers' Blog


The Piobaireachd Society’s annual conference will take place next spring (March 18-20) at the same venue as in recent years, the Birnam Hotel in Perthshire. Topics for discussion this time are:
• David Hester (The Alt Pibroch Club: Re-extending the tradition to recover our idiom.)
• Simon Chadwick (Clarsach Ceol Mor.)
• Colin MacLellan (The Piobaireachd compositions of John MacLellan)
There will also be a demonstration of the 2016 Set Tunes on Sunday.
The Society is encouraging those who only wish to attend for Saturday’s talks with a Day Rate of onlt £35 (includes coffee/tea/lunch). Bargain, says I.
Birnam is around one hour from Edinburgh and 80 minutes from Glasgow.


The Grade 1 Vale of Atholl Pipe Band has announced a recruitment drive for the 2016 season. The Perth-based band says it would like to hear from groups of players from all over the country who could hold regional practices, reducing the need to travel to some of the Perth practices. This type of set up isn’t uncommon in Grade 1. Interested pipers and drummers should contact P.M Adrian Cramb at:

Currently, the band is without a Leading Drummer after Alistair ‘Bongo’ McNab stepped down after the 2015 season. The band had hoped Jim Kilpatrick and his corps wouldbe joining for the 2016 season, but sources tell me that there were members of his corps who were reluctant to make the journey up the A9 from the central belt. Some apparently didn’t even know where Perth was. Ultimately, the corps has now joined the Spirit of Scotland for the season.

The Vale has also teamed up with the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust (SSPDT) to tackle the issue of a lack of piping tuition in the state schools of Perthshire. For many years the band has benefitted from a constant stream of locally-taught pipers and drummers coming through its ranks, but this has somewhat dwindled in recent years. Perth & Kinross Council hasn’t replaced the post of piping instructor since the retiral of part-time postholder, Gordon Rogers. P.M. Adrian Cramb, drummer Graeme Peters, respected local solo piper, Graham Mulholland, and Vale Grade 3 band Pipe Major, Angus Clarke, are involved in the initiative.


Topical humour from the chaps at the Royal Scottish Pipers Society. Dugald Macleod shares the following piece of correspondence which was sent just before yesterday’s re-opening of the Forth Road Bridge:

Dear Pipers,

I wonder if anyone has composed a tune yet, ‘The Broken Bridge’? The broken Forth Road Bridge has certainly put paid to jaunts to Edinburgh from N.E. Fife so I'll take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and will hope that normal service is resumed in the new year.


Leslie Barrett.

Dear all, The tune has been composed already – quite some time ago, in fact. It's called ‘The End of the Great Bridge’! Best wishes to one and all for Christmas and the New Year,

James Burnet.

wee govan pipers

Two television programmes not to miss: ‘Ceòl Chaluim’, the story of Calum Campbell’s family’s journey to bring out a collection of tunes composed by him as a positive memory for themselves as a family and their South Uist community. It was 10 years that three generations of the family – Calum, his daughter Murdina, her husband, Archie MacPherson and their two children – perished in the storms of 2005. The programme is to be broadcast on December 28 at 9.00pm on BBC Alba. Also on Alba, ‘Pìobairean Beaga Bhaile Ghobhainn’ (The Wee Govan Pipers) will be broadcast on January 1 at 9.00pm. The programme is essentially a documentary following the development of a junior pipe band from Glasgow’s Govan district.

SMO awards to Runrig musicians Calum and Rory Macdonald.

SMO awards to Runrig musicians Calum and Rory Macdonald.

Whilst on the subject of Gaelic, a celebratory dinner was held at the Gaelic college on Skye, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, recently to present brothers Rory and Calum MacDonald, from Runrig, with their Sàr Ghàidheal awards. It was at this year’s graduation ceremony that the title of Sàr Ghàidheal was bestowed upon them and although unable to attend, they filmed a video thanking the College for the award which was shown to all those present. Sàr Ghàidheal is the annual award given by the Gaelic college to people who have made exceptional contributions to the Gaelic language.
The photograph shows Roddy John MacLeod, Rory and Calum, and Prof. Boyd Robertson and the dinner.



This house is avaialble for rent in the town of Georgia, USA. Great address!

I wish to extned seasons greetings to you all for reading my blog throughout this year. I’m now off to my ancestral home on Skye. All the best to you and yours.

In case anyone is puzzled as to why the we removed Butter Fingers’ blog post, we felt the old curmudgeon was a bit more cantankerous than necessary with some of the comments he made. The College doesn’t wish to become embroiled in what can be at time fruitless social media debates which have been shown elsewhere to quickly degenerate to animosity among posters. Our blogger tells us his comments were actually intended to start a debate on pipe band sponsorship. His views certainly do not reflect the views and opinions of the College, and we regret the angst it generated within a few of you. Butter Fingers may return in the New Year if his Hebridean festive break results in him having a more positive disposition. – Stuart Letford, Editor, the Piping Times.

Butter Fingers' Blog

Celtic Connections kicks off next month. Long-term festival goers will remember the early days when there was plenty of piping events to go to, including an invariably good Saturday afternoon concert. In recent years there has been a marked decline in piping being represented at this festival. I’ve just taking a quick look through the programme. Is it just me or does anyone else feel it has become something of a for the middle class trad luvvies? Check out some of these words and phrases:
“Curated by” … “master and apprentice” … “across the festival’s musical landscape” … “the House of Song” … “explore fresh collaborative horizons” … “Pipe Major Emeritus” … “a musical gospel of outlaw country and out-there cosmology” … jeez, who writes this stuff? Haud on, I’m gonnae boak! Before I do here’s what’s of interest to pipers this year:

The Armagh Pipers Night at the Old Fruitmarket on January 20 looks promising. This is a celebration of 50 years of the club which was started by Brian and Eithne Vallely and features Lúnasa, Buille, Flook, Jarlath Henderson, Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Barry Kerr, and Leo McCann, Niall Murphy, Méabh Smyth, Mairead Mitchell and Eoin Murphy.

Gordon Duncan will be remembered in a show called ‘Just for Gordon’. It features brother Ian, son Gordon Jr., The Tannahill Weavers, Ross Ainslie, Ali Hutton, Jarlath Henderson, Angus MacColl, Allan MacDonald, Stuart Liddell, Duncan Chisholm, Julie Fowlis. Susana Seivane from Galicia is also in the line up. The show in on January 24 at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

On January 30 at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band’s influential 1987 ‘Live in Ireland’ recording will be remembered in a concert performed by a band which will include in its ranks Ryan Canning, Stuart Liddell, Steven McWhirter, Duncan Nicholson, Richard Parkes, Ian Duncan, Terry Tully and Ross Walker.

The Big Music Society, which aims to create “new and exciting performance contexts” for piobaireachd, presents another evening devoted to fusing the big music with other musical forms such as jazz and classic. The evening features Fraser Fifield and Matthew Welch’s Blarvuster. This is at the Drygate Brewery on January 22. This sounded quite interesting until I read the words, “bringing pibroch into the 21 century.” Then my heart sank.

Rikki Evans, the Aberdonian who set a world record after playing his pipes for 24 hours, has had his achievement confirmed officially by Guinness World Records. In total he played for a 24 hours 10 minutes and 42 seconds. Rikki tells me he will probably wait until someone else breaks his record before attempting to claim it back.