P.M. James Robertson’s family / Ali Levack / Irish Piobaireachd Society

Pipe Major James Robertson, from the cover of the June 1961 'Piping Times'.
Pipe Major James Robertson, from the cover of the June 1961 ‘Piping Times’.

Tobar an Dualchais, the archival project that digitises, catalogues and disseminates Gaelic and Scots sound recordings online, is seeking information on the surviving family of Pipe Major James Robertson, Gordon Highlanders (b. 1886-d. 1961). 

Recordings of Robertson, the composer of Farewell to the Creeks, have been discovered – both spoken and musical. Tobar an Dualchais would like to give community access to the recordings on its website but needs to track down any remaining family he may have in order to gain their permission to release any content online.

James Robertson was a fairly prolific composer of pipe tunes. Whilst in the Gordons he became under the influence of the great Pipe Major G. S. MacLennan. During his incarceration as a Prisoner Of War in 1915 he composed his best known tune, Farewell to the Creeks, the ‘Creeks’ being the three well known rocky island formations off the coast of Portknockie in Morayshire. In the Gordon Highlanders collection, there is a tune composed by him in 1957 for his wife, Mrs Grace G. Robertson

After retiring from the army Robertson worked as a janitor at Banff Academy until 1953. He also served as a Special Constable in Banff, and founded the Turriff Pipe Band. One of his most famous pupils is Ian Duncan who received lessons from Robertson before the family moved to Caithness and then to Perthshire.

During his latter years he taught and judged at highland games in the northeast of Scotland.

He died in 1961 and was buried in Banff cemetery.

If anyone has information on Robertson’s surviving family please contact us at news@bagpipe.news and we shall forward the details on to Tobar an Dualchais.

Congratulations to Ali Levack from Maryburgh in Easter Ross, Scotland, who has been named BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year for 2020. The 26-year-old piper and whistle player won the final held at Glasgow’s City Halls on Sunday.

Ali wins a recording session with BBC Scotland and will perform at the Scots Trad Music Awards later this year. 

Each of the six finalists performed live on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC ALBA as part of Celtic Connections. Ali was a student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and studied for a piping degree.

The Irish Piobaireachd Society held its annual competition last weekend at the Firgrove Hotel in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. The results were:

Beginner (Ùrlar only) – Eamonn Casey (Glengarry’s Lament); 2. Dylan Lawerence (Salute on the Birth of Rory Mòr MacLeod).
Intermediate – 1. Brian Crawford (Lament for Mary MacLeod); 2. Ernesto Góngora (The King’s Taxes).
Under 18 – 1. Tigerlily Keoghan (Struan Robertson’s Salute); 2. Dylan Lawerence (Salute on the Birth of Rory Mòr MacLeod).
Open Amateur – 1. Con Houlihan (The King’s Taxes); 2. Michael Harvey (The Desperate Battle); 3. Ernesto Góngora (Lord Lovat’s Lament); 4. Brian Crawford (Beloved Scotland).
Former Winners – 1. John McElmurry (Rory MacLoude’s Lament); 2. David Stone (The Little Spree); 3. James Stone (The MacLeod’s Salute); Con Houlihan.
Open MSR – 1. James Stone; 2. Brian Crawford; 3. Ernesto Góngora; 4. Con Houlihan; 5. John McElmurry.
Willie Morrison judges all events.