Duncan Brown and James Campbell.
Duncan Brown and James Campbell.

James Campbell, the well known piping and pipe band judge, decided to give his Tutor Room some character by hanging portraits of some of the great pipers of the past and present. The dedication of what is now his Pipers’ Room was held last Saturday when the portraits were unveiled. Fred D. McKay was there and sent us this account of the evening.

James Campbell is well known in Scotland’s piping and pipe band world. As well as being an RSPBA adjudicaor he runs Aberdeen Music Lessons (AML) and has many pupils. He commissioned the famous Lanarkshire artist, Duncan Brown to capture legendary piping figures for what is now his Pipers’ Room. Duncan was an invited guest for the evening. Other guests were Ian McLellan, Joe and Lynn Noble, and seven of James’ pupils and their parents.

Earlier this year these James ran a workshop for those pupils who will sit their SCQF levels 5 and 6 exams next month. The workshop was somewhat different as James had asked young Calum Brown [Inveraray & District and the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland] to take the lead. He is only a few years older than some of the pupils but already has a vast experience in pipe band and solo playing. He brought a different approach to the workshop and all the pupils enjoyed the experience. The workshop was sponsored and the fees paid went towards the cost of the paintings.

Piping Times, November 2018.
Piping Times, November 2018.

James opened the evening with a short speech of welcome and explained about the paintings. Initially, they were all covered with a white sheet. The first to be unveiled was not actually painting but was the cover of the Piping Times that featured Duncan [pictured, left] with the story behind it. He is without doubt a great talent, very genuine and extremely good company.

The first painting unveiled depicted the three Victoria Cross (VC) pipers, Richardson, Laidlaw and Findlater. I had the honour of explaining the history of the VCs and to play a dedication to them – the tune I played was, of course, The Heights of Dargai – and in this sad week for pipers lost we all also remembered Trevor Dear and Gussie from Lerwick who gave his all for piping and as fine a man as you could ever hope to meet. And on this morning the news that John Nisbet from New Jersey who was Pipe Major to many of us and who played the Tartan Day Parade in New York city. Three great pipers in their own right. RIP.

Fred piping as the Richardson, Laidlaw and Findlater is unveiled. Duncan Brown is standing, slightly obscured, behind him.
Fred piping as the Richardson, Laidlaw and Findlater painting is unveiled. Duncan Brown is standing, slightly obscured, behind him.

Duncan Brown then gave a piper’s toast:

“Here’s to the hills, the heath and the heather, the bonnet, the plaid, the scabbard, the feather.
Here’s to the men that Scotland has lost. May their names never die.”

Next was a painting of G.S. McLennan and Robert Reid, two great pipers. As the was unveiled, Gregor Wildgoose, a pupil of James’, played the beautiful 3/4 march Kilworth Hills.

The McAllister’s of Shotts were next. Father and two sons with 10 World Pipe Band Championship titles between them. James played The Hills of Alva, a tune Composed, with some McAllister’s input, by accordionist Tommy Muirhead.

This was followed by a painting of Richard Parkes, Pipe Major of Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band, who has 12 Worlds titles. Jake Robertson, another of James’ pupils, played the High Drive.

Finally, the last painting unveiled was of Ian McLellan, the former Pipe Major of Strathclyde Police Pipe Band, winners of 12 Worlds titles as well as the record six-in-a-row. Young Jake played the tune composed for Ian by James Wark, Ian McLellan’s Farewell to the Strathclyde Police.

Ian McLellan and James Campbell listen as Jake Robertson plays.
Ian McLellan and James Campbell listen as Jake Robertson plays.

James’ pupils then presented Ian with a wooden music board with Wark’s tune inscribed on it. The board was made by Burgess Bagpipes of Forres, and our thanks go to Burgess for his quick response in making it for us.

McLellan and James Campbell with tune engraving

All the tunes on the night were played on my pipes which I purchased from the College of Piping about five years ago. The set had belonged to Dugald MacNeill and was made in Aberdeen by G.S. McLennan. They are as good a set of drones that you could ever hear. All the pupils had a tune on these pipes and Duncan Brown came forward to give us a tune, too.

Snack food was provided Jenny and Fiona. Drinks were also in abundance. Craig and Wendy Hulley took all the photographs.

There followed a dinner with all the guests and wives.