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J. M. Barclay's painting, The Piper to the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane.

J. M. Barclay's painting, The Piper to the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane.

A painting of John Bàn MacKenzie, piper to the Marquess of Breadalbane, has been stolen in what PoliceScotland describes as a "targeted theft". The painting, pictured right, is valued at £10,000 a and was taken from a house near Kippielaw Farm, near East Linton in East Lothian.

The painting, The Piper to the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane by JM Barclay, dates from 1842 when MacKenzie was employed at  Taymouth Castle, Perthshire. Four other paintings were also taken.

The theft took place at some time between 17:00 on Saturday 15 April and 14:45 on Monday 24 April. Police are appealing for witnesses.

Inspector Andrew Hill said: "Based upon the specific nature of the property taken it is likely that this is a targeted theft. A vehicle would have been involved. The paintings stolen are all originals and very distinctive.

"If anyone has information about suspicious activity in this area, or knowledge of where these works of art are now located, please get in touch."

Taymouth Castle near Aberfeldy.

Taymouth Castle near Aberfeldy.

Born near Strathpeffer around 1797, John Bàn MacKenzie worked for 28 years as piper to the Marquess of Breadalbane. Considered to be the finest piper of his day, he was styled 'King of Pipers' by his contemporaries. He is a key figure in the transmission of traditional piobaireachd from the MacCrimmons to the present day. As a professional piper, he was successively piper to MacKenzie of Allangrange, Davidson of Tulloch and then the Marquis of Breadalbane. He is said to have turned down an invitation to join the Royal Household by becoming Queen Victoria's Piper. The position was then given to Angus MacKay.

The Museum of Piping – which has been housed in the College of Piping since the beginnings of the College in the 1940s – has John Bàn MacKenzie's bagpipe on display along with his wooden pipe box. The museum also has a set of bellow's-blown small pipes which were made by him for his nephew, Ronald.

pipinglive-logoPipingLive! had a press launch this week and it seems like it’s going to be another memorable four days in Glasgow this August with the likes of the Peatbog Faeries and the Battlefield Band – who have been very quiet lately – taking part. There’s also a Grade 1 pipe band quartet competition.

The College of Piping will no doubt be planning some activities, too, and I look forward to hearing about them.

I noticed The Scotsman carried an item on Wednesday about the press launch. It was merely a rehashed press release from Glasgow Life. Read it HERE and weep at what’s become of our national press.


worlds-articleThis year the World Pipe Band Championships sees its 70th anniversary and the May Piping Times has a first class article about the stooshie between the Cowal Games and the Scottish Pipe Band Association in 1947.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Cowal was considered to be the unofficial ‘Worlds’ but when the then Scottish Pipe Band Association promoted the idea of having its own official ‘Worlds’ the Cowal organisers refused to give up the 'World' title. The result was that in 1947 two ‘Worlds’ events were held.

The article is written by Jeannie Campbell and it makes for fascinating reading.


rspbaIs it not about time the RSPBA considered revising its grading system? For years it’s become obvious that Grade 1 has too many bands in it, and too many bands that are simply not good enough to break into the top six. The RSPBA has, in my opinion, simply tinkered with the system by having a qualifier at the Worlds. It needs rethinking. It’s time to introduce a Premier Grade.

While we’re at it, the number of pipers in all bands needs to be capped. In Grades 1 and 2 a band containing 25 pipers is far more unusual. In fact, in recent years some bands have contained as much as 27 pipers and I’m sure the 78th Frasers fielded 30 a few seasons ago.

big-bandIt’s time to level the playing field. A maximum number of 20 pipers is sufficient and those pipers who find themselves not ‘getting a game’ can join other bands with the resultant boost that would give to them.

Grade 1 is becoming too predictable. Everyone’s predictions for the top 6 bands in Grade 1 on the Green in August would be similar. So, introduce a Premier grade and cap numbers. That would shake things up.

Also, perhaps its time to abolish the split grades in Grade 3? There are some decent bands in Grade 4 that could easily take some scalps in Grade 3 whilst there are bands in Grade 4 with no chance of progressing.

Just thought I’d put this ‘out there’.


The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust is offering a paid internship for a piper and snare drummer. The positions will be based at Preston Lodge High School in East Lothian and its cluster primary schools. Click HERE for info.


Dystonia, the curse of many musicians, has forced yet another piper to give up playing. Martin Gillespie plays with the excellent folk group, Skerryvore but the rare neurological condition has been affecting him in recent years. Focal hand dystonia causes involuntary contractions, spasms and general discomofort in the hand(s). It curtailed the piping careers of the likes of Hamish Moore and Stuart Cassells (of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers).


lorient-logoJust watched a promotional video from the organisers of this year’s Lorient Interceltique Festival. It’s very good and features veteran Drum Major Peter MacNamee throughout it. You can see the video HERE. I remember Peter doing his stuff down the main street of Dunoon many years ago now. It was when Cowal was still a major pipe band competition.

peterPeter, pictured left, repeatedly launched his mace high – and I mean high – into the air to the delight of the crowd lining the street. It was all going well until one drunken eejit ran up to him and pushed him just as he launched his mace. Peter valiantly tried to grab his mace but it spun off him and walloped two bystanders. Aye, the joys of Cowal …

The featured country at this year’s festival is Scotland and Scottish acts taking part include Capercaillie, Amy MacDonald, Fred Morrison, the Isle of Cumbrae Pipe Band, Runrig, Blazin’ Fiddles, Methil & District Pipe Band, Breabach, the Prince Charles Pipe Band of San Francisco. Andrew Frater is conducting a master class and Ian Duncan is hosting a tribute night to his late genius brother. It's set to be another cracking festival. I'm away to pour myself a glass of Ricard.

Butter Fingers

Dugald B. MacNeill with Lord Provost Sadie Docherty.

Dugald B. MacNeill with Lord Provost Sadie Docherty.

The city of Glasgow has officially recognised Dugald MacNeill's contribution to piping in the city. On Friday Dugald, now in his 80s, was invited to the City Chambers for an informal reception with Lord Provost Sadie Docherty. The Lord Provost said: “The City of Glasgow is richer for having you in it. As are all the countless pupils whom you helped find their musicality. On the occasion of your retirement, it’s my pleasure as Lord Provost, to send the city’s warmest regards."

Dugald B. MacNeill was one of the very first pupils when the College of Piping opened its doors in the 1940s. He would go on to become an instructor, Principal, editor of the Piping Times and ultimately Director of the internationally respected Glasgow piping institution based in Kelvinbridge in the city's west end.

He grew up in Ardrishaig, mid-Argyll. When his family moved to Glasgow he attended the fledgeling College of Piping.

The College will be hosting a social evening soon to honour Dugald.

BUTTER FINGERS' BLOG, 21/04/17

rspbaThe draw for the first major pipe band competition of the season, the British at Paisley, has been announced by the RSPBA. Here's grades 1 and 2:

Grade 1
14:15 Pipes and Drums of the Police Service of Northern Ireland
14:25 Dowco Triumph Street - Canada
14:35 Field Marshal Montgomery
14:45 Simon Fraser University - Canada
14:55 Johnstone
15:05 Glasgow Police
15:15 St Laurence O'Toole - Eire
15:25 Peoples Ford - Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia
15:35 Bleary and District
15:45 Police Scotland Fife
15:55 Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia
16:05 Ravara
16:15 Vale of Atholl
16:25 ScottishPower
16:35 Buchan Peterson
16:45 Inveraray and District
Adjudicators: Colin Moffett, John Connor, Alexander Russell and Cameron Edgar.

Grade 2
14:00 Manorcunningham
14:09 Grampian Police Scotland
14:18 City of London
14:27 MacKenzie Caledonian
14:36 The Glasgow Skye Association
14:45 Glasgow City
14:54 Scottish Fire and Rescue Services Pipe Band
15:03 Balagan
15:12 Oban
15:21 City of Discovery
15:30 Dumbarton and District
15:39 Isle of Islay
15:48 Lomond and Clyde
15:57 Closkelt
16:06 Colmcille
16:15 Bucksburn and District
Adjudicators: Jim Wark, Harry Stevenson, Stuart Coils and Paul Turner.
The full draw is HERE.

Good luck to both Buchan Peterson and Johnstone as they both make their debut in Grade 1. And to the new band, the City of London in Grade 2.

Incidentally, was at the College of Piping last night and couldn't help eavesdropping on the practice of Field Marshall's Scottish-based members. Very good. Very good indeed.


argylls-logoCapt (Ret'd) Colin H C Graham, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, has been in touch with a plea to any next of kin or family members of the under-noted former Argylls who composed pipe tunes that will be included in the forthcoming tune collection:
names

If anyone has information relevant to any of the above-named ex-members of the regiment please contact Colin as soon as possible on 01786 850213  or email him at: colin@mackeanstonhouse.co.uk


bellowsAnd so to Edinburgh tomorrow for the annual competition run by the Lowland & Border Pipers' Society. This is always an enjoyable event and this year it will be held in the Royal Scottish Pipers' Society rooms in Rose Street. It's a small venue but I'm sure there will be plenty of elbow room …

Aberfeldy Mòd Entries 2017

feldy-mod-logoLate entries are being accepted for the piping competitions at the Perthshire & Angus Provincial Mòd. The competition takes place on June 10 at the Breadalbane Community Campus in Aberfeldy, Perthshire.

The competition has categories for juniors and adults.

Download the entry form: Aberfeldy Mod Piping.

Sarah Muir triumphs at SPA Professional

Sarah Muir from Campbeltown, Argyll, is the overall winner at today's Scottish Pipers' Association's Annual Professional Piping Competition held today at the College of Piping. Full results: Piobaireachd – 1. Gordon McCready (Lady Margaret MacDonald’s Salute); 2. Darach Urquhart; 3. Sarah Muir; 4. Edward Gaul; 5. Sandy Cameron. March – 1. Sarah Muir; 2. Gordon McCready; 3.…
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 SPA Professional Live Stream

Piobaireachd Society Bursary – Closing Date Extended To 31st May

The closing date for this week of world class tuition courtesy of the Piobaireachd Society has been extended to 31st May. The bursary aims to encourage young pipers who do not have easy access to a piobaireachd teacher to learn piobaireachd. Previous successful candidates were very positive about their experience of a week of expert…
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SPA Adult Amateur and Veterans Contest

Scottish Pipers’ Association, Adult Amateur and Veterans Contest, College of Piping, 1st April  Veterans – 1. Andrew Frater; 2. Brian Mulhearn, 3. Graham Alexander. [caption id="attachment_16910" align="alignleft" width="800"] L-R: Veterans – Graham Alexander, Neil Mulvie, Brian Mulhearn and Andrew Frater.[/caption] Best Slow March – Brian Mulhearn. Piobaireachd – 1. Stewart Gaudin; 2. Gregor McCulloch; 3. Janette…
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