The Turra Coo Collection

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By Euan Anderson

With pipers all over the world trapped indoors going stir crazy, this is a grand time to launch a book. This particular one is A4 in size with a glossy black cover that has a coo’s face on it. It will certainly stick out on the shelf and the obvious first question is, what on earth is the Turra coo?

Well it transpires that the coo was a white Ayrshire-Shorthorn cross dairy cow (‘coo’) which lived near  Turriff in rural Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The cow became famous following a dispute between her owner and the government over taxes and compulsory national insurance raised in 1910. To cut a long story short, local farmer Robert Paterson refused to pay the new government taxes and he was fined. He also refused to pay the fine and, as a result, Sheriff’s Officers poinded* the only movable thing on his farm, the cow.

A riot broke out on the day of the sale. The cow escape but was sold subsequently for £7 – Turriff locals had a whip round, bought it back and presented it back to Paterson. So, it’s quite a famous cow in the folklore of the district.

Stuart Samson MBE has penned a lovely Foreword in which he commends the Turriff Pipe Band for the project, as the proceeds of the book will be donated to the Grampian NHS.

The book itself has some 75 new tunes from a wide selection of composers, some of whose names you will recognise and others perhaps not. Marches, Strathspeys, Reels, Hornpipes and Jigs, they are all there. The coo herself also gets a nice 12/8 march.

The most pleasing aspects about the book is that there is a wee story about every tune explaining the title or where the inspiration came from. I like that. Some of the tunes were already familiar to me as I have been fortunate enough to hear some of the composer play their tunes. Indeed, I had the pleasure of playing Helen Martin’s tune at her wedding when she tied the knot with the good doctor.

The tunes vary in degree of difficulty (try the fourth part of Ben Duncan’s John and Patricia Duncans Diamond Wedding Anniversary) but there is something in this book for everyone. The tune titles reflect current times with furlough, social distancing and the ‘zoom suit’ all getting a mention. Before you delve into the book, read all the tune titles. Some are guaranteed to make you smile.

How often do we buy a book and you love every tune in it? Rarely, thus some of the tunes in this book will be for you and others not. It is always down to a matter of taste but be assured there are some crackers in here and some that band musical masters can do a lot with.

Congratulations to the Turriff and District Pipe Band on producing a first class book that will add value to your music collection and boost the coffers of the Grampian NHS. Hats off.

• The book is priced £14.00 and can be bought HERE.

* poinding (pronounced as if spelled pinnding) was abolished in Scotland after the enactment of the Abolition of Poindings and Warrant Sales Act 2001. Scots law). Formerly, it was the diligence whereby a debtor’s property was carried directly to a creditor.

** Edinburgh-based Euan Anderson is a retired police officer who has played with Drambuie Kirkliston, Lothian and Borders Police and the Pipe Band Club, Sydney. He is Honorary Pipe Major of the Eagle Pipers’ Society, a member of the Solo Piping Judges Association and a trustee of the Captain John MacLellan Memorial Trust.

Turriff and District Pipe Band leading the town’s 50th VE Day anniversary parade.