Category Archives: General

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.

SPA Professional Contest 2017

spa2The Scottish Pipers' Association's annual competition takes place on Saturday (8th April) at the College of Piping. The competition, which is open to all members of the SPA, commences at 09.45.

Last year, Andrew Wilson from Northern Ireland took the pibroch and the overall prizes.

It is hoped that the competition will be streamed live over the internet.

Meanwhile, the organisation's annual Adult Amateur and Veterans Contest takes place next Saturday at the College of Piping. The competition starts at 09:30. All welcome.

Govan Schools Pipe Band recital

A recital is to be held on April 22 at the College of Piping to showcase the youngsters of the Govan Schools Pipes & Drums Association. The recital features the Govan Schools Pipe Band, Johnstone Pipe Band, Callum Beaumont and Gaelic singer, Bethany Watson. A simple donation gains entry. There will be bar. Time: 7.00pm…
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College of Piping Easter School

L-R: P.M. Iain Watson, P.M. Iain MacPherson and Colin MacLellan.

L-R: P.M. Iain Watson, P.M. Iain MacPherson and Colin MacLellan.

The Easter Schools take place from Monday 3rd of April to Friday 7th, and again from Monday 10th of April to Friday 14th. Classes start at 9.15am and finish at 3.30pm. There is a one-hour lunch break.

This year's lead instructors are Pipe Major Iain MacPherson of the Glasgow Police Pipe Band and Pipe Major Iain Watson of the Govan Schools Piping Project, along with the participation of Colin MacLellan, the College’s Director of Piping.

All of these teachers have specialist skills and training in teaching music to school children and adults.

Students will be taught in small groups of similar ability for three to four hours per day with practice time built in. Workshops, recitals, and the opportunity at the end of the week to gain academic credit from PDQB/SQA exams are all part of the busy and fun week on offer.

The subsidised cost for the course is £95.00 per week. Payment is not required until the start of the course. Places are limited and will be allocated on a ‘first come first served’ basis.

Further information on the course content can be found at the College’s website:

Click here to register for the College of Piping Easter School.

Rab Kelly

Rab Kelly, well-known piper, accordionist and pipe-bag maker, has died. He was 73. Rab played in the British Caledonian Airways Pipe Band under the [then] Pipe Major, Bob Richardson. Also in the band were Tom Johnstone, P.M. Angus MacDonald, Ronnie McShannon, Allan and Dr. Angus MacDonald, P.M. Joe Wilson, P.M. Calum Campbell, P.S. Jimmy Liddell and many…
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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.

Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships 2017 – results

Gairloch High School, winners of the Debut B category.

Gairloch High School, winners of the Debut B category.

The results after a very busy day today at James Gillespie's High School in Edinburgh are:

Juvenile – 1. George Watson’s College; 2. Dollar Academy; 3. George Heriot’s School.
Novice Juvenile A – 1. George Watson’s College; 2. Dollar Academy; 3. Ross &
Cromarty Pipes and Drums.
Novice Juvenile B – 1. Lochalsh Junior Pipe Band; 2. George Watson’s College; 3. Davidson’s Mains Schools.
Junior A – 1. Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools; 2. Fettes College; 3. St Columba’s School.
Junior B – 1. Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools; 2. The Community School of Auchterarder; 3. The High School
of Glasgow.
Debut A – 1. Renfrewshire Schools; 2. George Watson’s College; 3. Sanquhar Academy.
Debut B – 1. Gairloch High School; 2. McLaren High School; 3. Lewis & Harris Youth Pipe Band.
Judges: Jennifer Hutcheon, George Wilson, Alvis Kerr and John McCarlie (piping); Bill Black and Paul Turner (drumming); James Campbell and Jim Baxter (ensemble);

Quartets – 1. St Andrew’s High School; 2. Beath High School; 3. St Columba’s RC High School.
Judges: Tom Speirs and Harry McNulty.

Freestyle – 1. Sgoil Lionacleit; 2. Gordonstoun School; 3. The High School of Glasgow.
Judges: Craig Anderson, Craig Munro, Gary West and Phil Cunningham.

David Johnston, chairman of the Scottish Schools Pipe and Drums Trust said: “The whole purpose of this event is to encourage the formation of pipe bands in state schools and to put our national instruments on a par with other music provision in the classroom.

“Currently, we support the delivery of piping and drumming tuition to over 2,000 young people in programmes the length and breadth of the country and we are keen to see that number increase rapidly. We welcome approaches from local authorities and others who need funding to get tuition going where currently there is none, and we can draw in other funders to help the process and make the projects sustainable.

“We are building up a body of hard evidence that shows how members of school pipe bands achieve positive destinations on leaving secondary education armed with the many qualities grown by band involvement – qualities of confidence, discipline, comradeship, dress sense and commitment that will serve them well in later life.”

John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, said: “Music si a vital part of who we are; it enriches us culturally, economically and personally. Learning to play an instrument helps people develop many skills that they can apply to other areas of learning and which are also useful in wider life and work.”

The prizes were presented by Ruth Davidson MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.


Robert McCreath's nephew (centre) hands over his uncles MBE and certificate to the RSPBA.

Robert McCreath's nephew (centre) hands over his uncles MBE and certificate to the RSPBA.

The 86th Annual General Meeting of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association took place today (Saturday, 11th March) at Trades Hall in Glasgow city centre.

The meeting came 24 hours after a blaze swept through the first floor of the organisation’s headquarters one mile away. Six tenders and 30 firemen attended the scene in the early hours of the morning of Friday, March 10. Chief Executive, Ian Embelton, assured attendees that the damage caused by the fire affected mostly the first floor and that while the ground floor was badly affected by water damage and was without electricity, he nevertheless expected to the office to be functioning again within one week.

Mr Embelton said he had been informed by senior fire fighters that the fire was the result of a malfunctioning thermostat in one of the old storage heaters in the upstairs area of the building. Coincidentally, the building is due to be renovated and a decision will be made to that effect in July. Mr Embelton said only luck prevented the fire from destroying the whole building.

As a result of the meeting, pipe bands will not be able to play a member who has not been registered as a Band Member for a qualifying period prior to a contest date. The qualifying period for a transfer from a higher grade band to a lower grade band has now been increased from 14 days to 42 days. On behalf of the Music Board, Bruce Cargill stated that this was due to abuse in recent years by one (nameless) band who had registered new players two weeks prior to the World Pipe Band Championships and who went on to win the contest in their grade.

Alex and Wilma Dalziel with their Life Member certificates.

Alex and Wilma Dalziel with their Life Member certificates.

The AGM itself was uneventful. Alex and Wilma Dalziel were made honorary life members of the association, and the nephew of former RSPBA President, Robert (Bob) McCreath MBE presented the association with Bob’s MBE and certificate. These will henceforth be displayed in the McCreath Room at 45 Washington Street.

The AGM also heard that the Chief Executive had met with representatives of Renfrewshire Council to discuss improvements to St James Playing Fields which was the subject of much criticism from bands at last year’s major championships.

The Consultative Pilot Scheme introduced last season will be introduced again for this season.  This was the process whereby adjudicators at all five major pipe band championships were allowed the option to confer during the contest “where it is deemed appropriate and conducive to the adjudication process.” This was passed by a majority vote.

Pipe band secretaries will now be able to check their band members’ registration online as soon as electricity returns to Washington Street.

Jimmy Young: funeral details

The funeral of James 'Jimmy' Young will take place next Wednesday. A church service is scheduled for 1.00pm at Cumbernauld Free Church, 140 Kilbowie Road, Cumbernauld G67 2PY. The burial will then follow at 2.00pm at Eastfield Cemetery in the town's Craigalbert Road (G68 0BY). Thereafter, the family would welcome mourners to join them at…
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Fire breaks out at RSPBA HQ

Washington-StreetA blaze which broke out at the headquarters of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) this morning has been brought under control. Around 30 firefighters brought the blaze in Washington Street, Glasgow under control by 5.00am. No-one was hurt in the incident.

Eight crew members entered the building wearing breathing gear, while others fought the fire outside using water jets.

A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "We arrived to discover the fire affecting the roof of the two-storey building. It was attacked externally by two powerful water jets as eight firefighters entered the building dressed in protective breathing apparatus to eventually bring it under control by 4.56am.

"The fire has now been extinguished. There are no casualties and firefighters remain at the scene damping down.”

The blaze will give impetus to the RSPBA’s proposals to refurbish the building including re-roofing.

The RSPBA’s AGM is tomorrow in Trades Hall, Glassford Street, Glasgow.