Pipe Major Peter MacGregor. A find sound and a fine way to bring in 2021.

2021 certainly got off to a mixed start for piping. In Scotland, it seemed that no sooner had Pipe Major Peter MacGregor (4 SCOTS) sounded the last notes of When the Battle’s Over from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle than we lost some weel kent names: Nigel Richard, Dr. Peter Cooke and Pipe Major Tony Crease. Their deaths came only a couple of weeks after we lost Pipe Major Iain Morrison and Sandy Grant Gordon. What a contribution to piping these individuals made! We will miss all of them.

For Peter MacGregor, though, the 38-year-old Wester Ross piper’s Hogmanay performance was something of a regimental affair. For his solo spot, Peter had borrowed Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies’ silver and ivory set of Lawries (early 1900s) to which we understand he put a set of Bruce Hitchings’ highly rated HR drone reeds in. As we all heard, it was a beautiful sound. It was a super way to end a terrible year and to bring in a new one with optimism (albeit tinged with a degree of trepidation over whether we’ll have a piping season …).

4 SCOTS is, properly, the 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. Before the Options for Change defence review of the early 1990s, it was known as The Queen’s Own Highlanders. Bruce Hitchings was Pipe Major of the Queen’s Own Highlanders from 1986 to 1992 and he handed over to Alasdair Gillies that year.

Our recent serialisation of Angus MacPherson’s life in pipe has proven popular with readers around the world. Many of you commented on his recollections being so close (Dr. John MacAskill’s interviewing with Angus was only in 1970) yet recalling how his father knew pipers like Angus MacKay, who died, remember, in 1859.

Angus MacPherson.
Angus MacPherson.

Roddy Livingstone, London, England, in particular read with interest the references to Angus MacRae and Angus both having success “in London“. The dates Angus referred to were well before the formation of the Scottish Piping Society of London (1932) and the inception of its annual competition. Says Roddy: “The references are, I believe, to the games held annually before the First World War at Stamford Bridge (the home of the London Athletic Club & later Chelsea Football Club).

“It is unsurprising that there were games in London during this period as many of the Scots ‘gentry’ spent a good part of the year in London accompanied by their pipers. (David Ross gave a clear account of these facts in a lecture delivered to the SPSL in the early 1960s and later published).

“It would be most interesting to try to trace any records of these early competitions held in the south of England. I don’t think I have ever seen anything much in writing but surely the results would have been reported – perhaps either in the Oban Times or in the papers of the Highland Society of London. It is recorded (although I can’t remember exactly where) that winners of the juvenile events at Stamford Bridge in the early 1890s included George S. McLennan and Archibald Campbell of Kilberry.

“I was also reminded of the story that when Willie Ross was asked how he rated Angus MacPherson as a piper, he is reputed to have replied, ‘Man, he’s the finest highland dancer I’ve ever seen.’ Another one of the great Willie Ross jibes!”

Thanks Roddy. Can readers help? It would indeed be interesting to find out more of these early competitions? Please contact us in the usual way.

Braw power? Donald WG Lindsay and Iggy Pop.

Iggy Pop, ultimate rock performer, stagediver, fearless frontman, one-man whirlwind and multi-faceted rock icon …

… and, it would seem, a lover of chilled out 18th century Scots song!

Just before Christmas, the 73-year-old legend rock god took listeners to his popular weekly BBC Radio 6 Music show, Confidential, by surprise when he included experimental piper Donald WG Lindsay’s interpretation of Robert Burns’ Guidwife Count the Lawin’.

The song was part of 30 Iggy played during a two-hour eclectic show billed as a “seasonal sonic cocktail without a single Christmas crooner”.

Donald, currently ensconced on Ascension Island, told Bagpipe.News: “It was a complete surprise. I didn’t hear it at the time but friends contacted me two days after the broadcast. It was an unexpected bit of airplay for a song I recorded back in 2014. It’s just my vocals with a 12-string guitar, though. No pipes. Iggy was very complimentary about it.

“I’ve no idea how he dug it up. Maybe he’s been fighting the lockdown blues by deep-surfing iTunes!”

Iggy Pop’s – real name James Osterberg – musical legacy has inspired and energised rock and roll’s alternative spirit since the late 1960s. He formed The Stooges in 1967. He is the real deal. However, Iggy has long had a love of free jazz and avant-garde minimalism, which is evident in his programme.

• Listen to Iggy’s show here (you will need a BBC account to listen). Don’t hang around though: there are only 10 days left to listen to the programme. Donald’s performance can be heard at 1:18:37.

A reminder that the National Piping Centre is marking its silver anniversary this year by publishing a collection of music composed by former students and staff.

Send your creations to: tunebook@thepipingcentre.co.uk