Diary: Cowal/Bob Shepherd/Celtic Connections/John Wilson

Malin Lewis and Jarlath Henderson.

Cowal Highland Gathering may not be the piping and pipe band event it once was but its organisers are celebrating winning a leading tourism prize. Cowal has just been awarded the Best Cultural Event or Festival title at last weekend’s The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards. Cowal beat the HebCelt Festival and Tiree Music Festival.

Cowal, whose illustrious piping history is currently nearing the end of a major serialisation in the Piping Times, will now go forward to the national Thistle Awards, which will be held in Edinburgh in March 2020.

Meanwhile, a spokesman told bagpipe.news that no decision has been taken yet with regard to solo piping returning to for 2020. Worryingly, we were told that any decision “could be dependent upon successful funding applications.”

Alasdair Henderson leads George Heriot’s School into the circle at Cowal in 2013.

Earlier this year, organisers cancelled the 2019 senior solo piping competitions at Cowal because of a date clash with The Northern Meeting. The 2020 Cowal Highland Gathering will be held on August 28-29.


Bob Shepherd’s funeral takes place today at 2.15pm at Kirkcaldy Crematorium in Rosemount Avenue, Kirkcaldy KY2 6HQ. Thereafter, there is to be a get together down the road at the Dean Park Hotel, Chapel Level, Kirkcaldy KY2 6HF. A large turnout is expected for this giant of the piping world, a true Fifer.

Alistair Aitken OBE, who knew Bob for a long time and was a colleague for over 30 years on the RSPBA Adjudicators’ Panel, has written a lovely tribute to Bob which will appear in next month’s Piping Times.


Malin Lewis and Jarlath Henderson.

An interesting ‘festival within a festival’ will feature at next year’s Celtic Connections. The leading cultural event is marking Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters with a full day of events all anchored to the maritime traditions that have shaped the country’s history. Coastal Connections commences on January 18, and has a busy programme of ocean-themed music, talks, film, storytelling, exhibitions and workshops.

Naturally, piping is included, with acts such as Tiree-based Skerryvore, Hebridean group Daimh, North Uist-born Julie Fowlis – apparently she can sing, too … – and others. It sounds great but perhaps more could have been done to do justice the piping side?

On the subject of Celtic Connections, it is good to see one of the unexpected successes of this year’s Piping Live! festival is to be given another airing. The concert given by Skye’s Malin Lewis, the instructor on The National Piping Centre’s bellow’s piping evening class, showcased the Lindsay System Chanter, a chanter that reaches beyond the usual solitary octave. He was joined with Jarlath Henderson on the uilleann pipes and Ali Hutton on the highland pipes and guitar. The result was an extraordinary success – indeed, a standing ovation – and we look forward to hearing the trio again at the City Halls in Candleriggs for what is sure to be another great night.


John Wilson and Dr Peter Cooke.

Finally, John Wilson is to be inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame. The respected RSPBA judge and Senior solo piping judge will be inducted at a reception at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards on December 7 in Aberdeen Music Hall.

Also being inducted is Peter Cooke, the Welsh-born ethnomusicologist, and folk band Clutha. Clutha is thought to be the first folk band to include a piper in its line up, firstly Jimmy Anderson then Tom Johnstone, who still appears with the band.

The Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame was started in 2005 and now features well over 100 inductees from the Scottish traditional and folk music scenes. including pipers Murray Henderson, Hamish Moore, Martyn Bennett and Iain MacFadyen.