By Iain Bell

L-R: Sandy Grant Gordon, Hazel Whyte and Andy McCartney at last weekend's SWSPDA junior competitions.
L-R: Sandy Grant Gordon, Hazel Whyte and Andy McCartney at last weekend’s SWSPDA junior competitions.

Cast your eye toward the above photo of Hazel Whyte, overall champion piper at the South West Scotland Piping & Drumming (SWSPDA) solo contest held on September 28 at Lockerbie. Hazel is pictured with fear an tighe, Andy McCartney and another, well-seasoned gentleman in a pullover. This is none other than Sandy Grant Gordon. Readers of a certain vintage will know that way back in 1974, Sandy (via Wm. Grant Distillers) was a prime mover behind what has become a Mecca of solo piping contests, The Glenfiddich.

Sandy still maintains his interest in piping and the promotion of our music here in southwest Scotland. Bob Lee (his son-in-law) and the SWSPDA team, do a fantastic job.

Now in their third year, the annual contest and the piping and drumming academy are going from strength to strength. There were 37 competitors this year. The venue was Lockerbie Academy in Dumfriesshire (it’s not too far from Cairnryan should youngsters from Northern Ireland fancy their chances next year). It’s a great venue with good acoustics, a large stage, plentiful seating and very reasonable on-site catering.

Judging the ceòl beag was the legend that is Ian McLellan BEM, who at 82 never ceases to impress. He exudes a pleasant, kindly and calming manner as he goes about judging and offers encouragement to young pipers who have every right to be on edge.

For the ceòl mòr contests, that evergreen authority and reed maker, Andrew Frater sat in judgement. I mischievously teased him by asking, “Are those wee cane shavings lying on top of your brogues?” Andrew, too, has that great ability to be mild yet constructive, putting the young piper at ease. Adjudication in the solo snare and tenor drumming was in the capable hands of Stuart Coils and Sharleen Muir respectively.

The standard of entrants was, in the main, excellent. Of the performances I was able to hear, two really stood out for me: Pipe Major G. S. MacLennan’s 2/4 march, Inveran played by Jack MacGowan of Dumfries as part of his MSR which won the Under 18 MSR. His tune was well measured, neatly executed and played with confidence. The other was overall winner Hazel Whyte from Larkhall with Duncan Johnstone, here offering in the Under 18 Hornpipe contest. It’s a nadgery wee tune, but she handled it extremely well.

One of the beautiful trophies competed for.
One of the beautiful trophies competed for.

The trophies awarded were really smart, some were unusual, and included turned spalted wood cups and bases endorsed with the SWSPDA logo, medals, music books (including my own From Scots Borderer to Ulster Scot) and vouchers (for McCallum Bagpipes of Kilmarnock). In addition, it was announced that 30 pupils who attended the SWSPDA summer school earlier this year had passed various PDQB theory and performance exams.

The future of good piping and drumming in the Lowlands is really looking quite bright.

Thanks and congratulations must go to Bob Lee and his team for patronage, enthusiasm and efficiency.

Some of the prizewinners holding their prizes aloft.
Some of the prizewinners.


Under 15 Piping – 1. Gregor Grierson; 2. Curran Stainthorpe; 3. Fraser Cruikshank.

Under 18
Ceòl Mòr
– 1. Hazel Whyte; 2. Robbie McCutcheon; 3. Jack McGowan.

MSR – 1. Jack McGowan; 2. Robbie McCutcheon; 3. Hazel Whyte.

Hornpipe & Jig – 1. Hazel Whyte; 2. Jack McGowan; 3. Gregor Grierson.

Snare Drum – 1. Robbie Pate; 2. Bronagh Gibb; 3. Ben Pool.

Tenor Drum – 1. Jill Watson; 2. Kali Currie; 3. Rowan Hastie.