David Ross’ mistimed bar / The Bitch o’ Blazes query / 2021 Set Tunes

David Ross of Rosehall.

Roddy Livingstone’s memories of some luminaries of the London piping scene, that appeared on Monday’s Bagpipe.News, rekindled a further memory, this time from Colin MacLellan, chairman of the Solo Piping Judges’ Association. Colin writes:

“When my father [Captain John A. MacLellan MBE] won one of his Northern Meeting Clasps in 1963, David Ross was placed second. Apparently, he was then aged 73.

“Additionally, I did not know about Pipe Major Greenfield changing his name to George MacRae. Believe it or not, when I was about 14 or so MacRae used to play every year in the Former Winners’ MSR at Inverness. He was not at all competitive by then and was well in his 70s.

“Further to the image of the College of Piping publication with the two scores [pictured, right], I was pleased to see the one on the right had the tune’s proper title of David Ross of Rosehall. Seumas MacNeill inexplicably published it in his book as merely David Ross.”

Colin pointed out that the fifth bar of the last part repeat in the tune could not possibly be how Archie MacNeill intended it and that the way it is in Seumas’ book – with a bizarre mistimed grip on high A – must be an error. “That’s the way I have heard absolutely everyone play it,” said Colin. “I’ve rarely been listened to all this time for saying this and lo, and behold! in the printed score it is written as you’d expect.”

For reference, here is the relevant part of the tune as published incorrectly in Seumas’ book, and, below that, the way blind Archie wrote it:


Our thanks go to Colin.

Alistair Duthie of Perthshire, Scotland asks if readers can help him with this 3/4 march mystery:

The tune is called The Bitch o’ Blazes, an unusual title and one the retired Black Watch Pipe Major thinks may stem from an old expression. Alistair found the tune in an old Black Watch manuscript from the early 1930s. No composer is attached.

Is it a Perthshire expression? Is it a reference to a woman? A dog? We are stumped with this one but wonder if there may also be a literary reference to the title. Please send your thoughts to us in the usual way.

The Music Committee of the Piobaireachd Society has announced that the Set Tunes for 2021 will be the same as those for the cancelled 2020 season.

This means that pipers competing for the Gold Medals and Silver Medals may submit their own choices, eight in the case of the Gold and six for the Silver. The tunes recommended for the Senior competitions can be found HERE.

The Music Committee comprises Alan Forbes (Chairman), Andrew Wright, Malcolm McRae, Ronald MacShannon, Robert Wallace and Dr Peter McCallister.