• From the July 2008 Piping Times.

Bruce Thomson, who died on January 13, was an extremely gifted composer of pipe tunes. Robert Mathieson was someone who admired Bruce’s composing skills and indeed became friends with him. Here, we reproduce an article from the Piping Times 12 years ago where he states his admiration for Bruce’s tune Tommy MacDonald of Barguillean, a tune Shotts would play at the World Pipe Band Championships in 2008 and 2009. In the article, Bruce goes on to tell us more about the man who inspired his tune.

As we reported last week, a celebration of Bruce’s life will take place at Fowlis Wester Church, near Crieff PH7 3NR on February 8 at 11am to which all are welcome.

Bruce Thomson [pictured, right] will be well known to readers of the PT through his articles on composition. Of the eponymous Tommy, Bruce writes: “When I knew Tommy, he was farming Barguillean after distinguished war service in the Far East. I was asked to the farm for several holidays from school in those immediate post war years, having been introduced to him by Colonel and Phyllis Young of Portsonacham Hotel. As a result I was lucky enough to spend much time in the Western Highlands. My parents were tea planters in India and I was very grateful to the Macdonalds and Youngs for their kindness.

“The upshot of all this was that I played the pipes frequently with Tommy, Colonel Jimmy Young and his son John. In the end I acquired Tommy’s pipes, a 1920 set of Lawries, which I still play. The result of these associations was a four part 2/4 which I called after Tommy and a second tune for the Colonel. Mrs Macdonald of Dunach was his aunt and at that time I did not know about Pipe Major Lawrie’s famous tune, such being the ignorance of youth. Even now I do not know when it was composed.

“Although I went to Dunach I cannot remember meeting her. Dunach is on the shores of Loch Fyne and Barguillean is astride the old Oban road leading from Taynuilt up Glen Lonan, with a truly great view of Ben Cruachan. There was an article in the Piping Times entitled ‘Mrs Macdonald of Dunach’, Vol. 36 No. 10 July 1984 page 21. The picture [above] shows Tommy on the right of the back row as you face it and his aunt, Mrs Macdonald, at the other end of the back row. She must have had other attributes for the good Pipe Major Lawrie to write such a tune.”

Above are the first two parts of the tune.

• From the July 2008 Piping Times.