Glenfiddich tunes / More online piping activity / Poem mystery / 100 Pipers

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Our article last Saturday, ‘Pipers’ choice’, about the pieces of ceòl mòr submitted at the Glenfiddich, has proven popular with readers.

We noted, you will recall, that at the 1976 competition, the tune most commonly submitted by the pipers was Lament for Mary MacLeod. In joint second place came Lament for the Earl of Antrim, Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay, Lament for MacSwan of Roaig and Scarce of Fishing.

In 1984 event. the top tune was Lament for the Earl of Antrim followed closely by In Praise of Morag and Lament for the Children.

At last year’s Glenfiddich, Donald Gruamach’s March was the most popular tune. In joint second place were The Daughter’s Lament, Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbert’s Fancy, The Old Men of the Shells, The Edinburgh Piobaireachd and Lament for Ronald MacDonald of Morar.

All of these tunes are certainly worthy of their popularity and many of you have asked about the stories behind them. Over the next few weeks we shall look at the stories behind all of them with the exception of Lament for the Earl of Antrim which has already appeared on Bagpipe.News.

We kick off with Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay and it’s a cracking story. Money, religious wars, womanising, political intrigue, witches … it’s got the lot. Read it here.

• Go online to www.thepipingcentre.co.uk/glenfiddich to register for a ticket to this year’s online Glenfiddich. The ticket price is £15.00 which includes entry into a prize draw to win either a set of MacRae Bagpipes (SL4) from McCallum Bagpipes or a set of Peter Henderson (PH1HT) Heritage bagpipes from R.G. Hardie & Co.


Two more piping organisations are resuming some form of online meetings using videoconference software. The Lowland & Border Pipers’ Society is to hold an online meeting/session for members on October 12, during which a tune or two will be gone over.

Also, the Edinburgh-based Eagle Pipers’ Society plans to hold its regular meetings including a group session on practice chanters and an online competition. The Eagle Pipers usually meet at the Scots Guards Club in Edinburgh.

Since the summer, The Piobaireachd Society has held a couple of monthly meetings in a similar way.

Most in-person piping activity has been suspended in the UK since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Kyle Warren.
Kyle Warren.

Kyle Warren, whose new collection Eat Pipe Sleep Repeat was published last month, is searching for a piece of poetry that has gone missing.

Kyle found the poem at Scotch College in Melbourne where he worked as a Piping Instructor for five years. Kyle tells us there is a theory that Alex Connell (ex-Strathclyde Police Pipe Band Leading Drummer) may have brought it with him, possibly from a piping magazine, when he moved there to teach in the late 1970s. 

The poem is called ‘The Pipers in the Stand’. We’ve taken a quick look through the pages of the Piping Times and The International Piper of the period but cannot find the poem.

If anyone can shed light on the poem please contact us in the usual way.


Still on poetry, today is National Poetry Day in Great Britain. To mark it we have dug out this ditty from the June 1980 Piping Times. It’s not realy a poem, rather words put to the celebrated tune, 100 Pipers. The original song, sung in jig time, is attributed to Carolina Nairne, Lady Nairne and was popular from the mid-19th century when it was printed in Edinburgh. Lady Nairn’s original words mention events during and after the Jacobite Rising of 1745, including the surrender of Carlisle.

Allan Hamilton at the 2015 Piobaireachd Society conference evening ceilidh in Birnam.

Apparently, the words were written after the author attended that’s year’s Piobaireachd Society Conference. We are not sure who came up with the words:

The Hundred Pipers (to the original tune)

Chorus:
Wi’ a hundred pipers an’ a’ an’ a’,
Wi’ a hundred pipers an’ a’ an’ a’,
We’ll up an’ gie them a blaw a blaw,
Wi’ a hundred pipers an’ a’ an’ a.’.

There are happy pipers who play with ease.
There are some who play sagging at the knees,
Whilst others suffer from Duck’s Disease*,
But they’re braw, braw pipers an’ a’ an’ a’.

Chorus.

There are some who wander and some who creep,
Like crabs on the bed of the ocean deep,
Whilst others appear to have gone to sleep,
But they’re braw, braw pipers an’ a’ an’ a’.

Chorus.

There are robust marchers with splayed out feet,
There are mincing ones who are too, too neat,
Whilst others never can keep the beat,
But they’re braw, braw pipers an’ a’ an’ a’.

Chorus.

There are some who snarl and some who pout,
And some who can’t stand what their tune’s about,
Whilst others must take their dentures out,
But they’re braw, braw pipers an’ a’ an’ a’.

Chorus.

There are some who gallop and some who glide,
And some who are ready to burst with pride
Or play like the Muc** on the other side,
But they’re braw, braw pipers an’ a ’an’ a’.

Chorus.

There are some who play as if racked with pain
Or strut like peacocks with step so vain,
Whilst others are running to catch a train,
But they’re braw, braw pipers an’ a ’an’ a’.

Chorus.

Then we come to the piper you all have met,
He tunes and he tunes whilst the judges fret.

Is it Radio 4 he is trying to get?
But they’re braw, braw pipers an’ a’ an’ a’.

Chorus.

But in spite of each varied style and flair,
There are no musicians anywhere
With Scotland’s pipers can compare,
For they’re braw, braw pipers an’ a’ an’ a’.

Chorus.

At line 2 of verse 4 the head should be turned hard right.

*If you are suffering from ‘Duck’s Disease’, you are very short or have short legs. In other words, your bottom is very close to the ground.

** The Muc was the nickname of Willie MacDonald (Benbecula), father of Roddy S. MacDonald and a regular attendee at the PiobaireachdSociety Conference.