Memories of McPhater St. / NPC ends its magazines / Congratulations to Bruce / Byte size


After our post that the National Piping Centre (NPC) in Glasgow will next year mark 25 years, Jim Todd of the Kilsyth Pipe Band contacted us with some childhood memories of the iconic McPhater Street building.

Says Jim [pictured]: “I was born in 1948, not a quarter of a mile from what is now the National Piping Centre. I was raised in the area and spent 20 years there. Our Boys’ Brigade Company (the 93rd) operated out of the nearby St George’s Road Church until the late 1960s. It amalgamated with the Renfrew Church (which was at the corner of Renfrew Street and Cambridge Street) and the services were held there.

For sale. The deserted and dilapidated former church in McPhater Street pictured in the early 1990s.

“The NPC building was where the 93rd met on Friday nights. By that time, I was married and lived in Cumbernauld but travelled into Glasgow. I resigned from the BB due to family commitments but the band continued under the leadership of my tutor and band creator, Jimmy MacLaughlin, who was also Pipe Major of Kinning Park Pipe Band.

“The church was finally united with others and now operates from Renfield St Stephen’s in Bath Street, just opposite the King’s Theatre.

“My last visit to the McPhater St church was as a BB officer in the very early 1970s. Like many churches in that area, it certainly was in disrepair. Cowcaddens then was a very deprived and densely populated area with many social problems. Everyone played football on tar or concrete surfaces. Glasgow may be called ‘dear green place’ but in Cowcaddens we didn’t have much green ground, only grey ground on which to play.

“Life for many was salvaged through organisations such as the Boys’ Brigade, and piping was one of the activities. Even today, many friendships continue simply because of the link to piping.

“A number of Grade 1 bands benefited from pipers and side drummers from the 93rd. We have a long history and still had a Company at the first COVID-19 lockdown. I’m not sure if it will continue after COVID-19 leaves, and I could say the same for some pipe bands. It’s a difficult time for everyone and we all need help and support.”

Thanks Jim. If anyone from the 93rd would like to update us please don’t hesitate to get in touch. If anyone else has memories of the McPhater St building please also get in touch.

Meanwhile, two aspects of the NPC that won’t make it to the organisation’s silver anniversary are its two magazine titles. The NPC suspended the Piping Times and Piping Today in the spring when staff were placed on furlough. Letters have now been sent to the respective subscribers advising that the economic conditions wreaked by the pandemic mean they won’t return.

Stuart Letford, editor of the Piping Times since the summer of 2014, said: “In common with the rest of the publishing world, as we locked down in March, we sensed there were difficult waters ahead. No competitions and events for the foreseeable future dissolved a lot of the usual seasonal advertising income that helps prop up the magazine and maintains it at a reasonable price. In addition, a few of our regular advertisers were themselves experiencing difficulties and had given notice that they would need to cancel their usual presence in any resumption of the Piping Times.

“During the summer, the NPC Board of Directors took this time to conduct a root-and-branch review of both the Piping Times and our other magazine, Piping Today. As a result of the review, the decision has now been taken to cease publication of both titles due to the economic conditions now proving unfavourable.”

The organisation says its focus is now on its free Bagpipe.News ‘newsmagazine’ website. In addition to reporting news, the website features many articles cultivated from the pages of both magazines. Mr Letford is part of the Bagpipe.News team.

A spokesman for the NPC said it wished to thank former Principal, Roddy MacLeod MBE for his years of guidance and editorship at Piping Today.

The Piping Times was published monthly since October 1948 by the College of Piping then, since 2018, by the National Piping Centre. It was described by Captain John A. MacLellan as “the biggest single repository of bagpipe knowledge in the world.”

Our hearty congratulations go to respected solo piping judge and proprietor of Highland Reeds, Bruce Hitchings BEM MBE on his recent marriage to Dr Karen Hitchings.

The happy couple were married during a small ceremony on Karen’s ranch in Arizona last month.

Bruce, who is widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable people in the piping world with regard to the bagpipe, tells us he will be splitting his time between Scotland and the US.

• We hope to carry a feature with Bruce soon on the wide-ranging topic of the principles of bagpipe sound and harmonics – something most pipers really do not understand.

We hear the Glasgow Highland Club invited members of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society to its virtual annual dinner last night.

All participants supplied their own food and drink and enjoyed the soirée via videoconference software from the comfort of their homes. We wonder if the menu – a drop down menu? – included:

Finger Clickin’ Chicken
Roast Hack of Lamb
Netsurf n’ Turf
(Served with router veg and chips …)

Followed by either a Yule (ana)log or Mouse … or a Cookie.

Yum. We’d take a byte from all of these.


Enjoy your Tuesday!