Nearly half way there! / “Stan’ back a wee”


After only one week, the National Piping Centre’s (NPC) Crowdfund target to digitise thearchives of its magazines, the Piping Times and Piping Today, has reached almost half.

At the time of posting, individuals, pipe bands and piping organisations have donated £13,570. The target amount is £28,500.

Some individuals have donated £30 and explained that these were in place of their annual subscriptions to the Piping Times. Piping societies and clubs have also donated, some of who have acknowledged that unique records of their respective organisations have been detailed in the pages of the magazine and not anywhere else. Others have commented that they are delighted to hear that the Piping Times will continue in the form of an annual publication.

A spokesman for the NPC said: “Our crowdfunding campaign, which only launched last Tuesday, has already almost half of the total sun required. We would like to thank everyone who has donated already, and encourage those who haven’t yet to donate soon!

“The project will digitise the archives of the Piping Times and Piping Today magazines, as well as produce the first volume of a new Piping Times annual publication.”

• Help the National Piping Centre digitise the Piping Times and Piping Today archives and produce Volume 1 of a new Piping Times annual. There are 20 days left to donate to the Crowdfunder.

Dugald Macleod, who lives near Dumfries in the south of Scotland, sent us this charming yarn recalled by his father who was born in 1893. This particular tale takes place at a mid-19th century Scottish highland games and concerns legendary piper, John Bàn MacKenzie, his employer Davidson of Tulloch and the athletic superstar, Donald Dinnie. Mr Macleod writes:

John Bàn MacKenzie and Donald Dinnie.

“At a certain meeting, Donald Dinnie [born near Aboyne in 1837 – Editor], who combined the mind of a child with a phenomenally deceptive physique, approached the straggling line of spectators and said, ‘Stan’ back a wee [bit].’

“They stood back, but not much.

“Donald came up to them again and said, “Stan’ back a wee.”

“A shuffle greeted this and a giggle. A third approach met with some positively ungallant retorts.

“Donald proceeded to the stance. Swinging with superb ease and grace he worked into a succession of flash-like spins, and sent the hammer soaring over the cowering spectators’ heads!

“To go still further back, there was that August afternoon in the year 1822. The whole district of Kilmuir, Skye, was en fête. The occasion was the final reclaiming of thousands of acres of rich agricultural land by the draining to the sea of the expansive sheet of water known as St Columba’s Loch, one of the many engineering triumphs, by the way, of that man of genius, Dr. Alexander MacLeod of North Uist, ‘An Dotair Ban.’

“Notabilities from far and near had gathered in a spirit of great goodwill to enjoy the sports staged to mark the event in a field near the old mill of Camusmore. In the course of the proceedings a roar went up which, according to local tradition, was heard for several miles.

Duncan Davidson of Tulloch.

“What happened was that Davidson of Tulloch, related by marriage to the proprietor, Lord MacDonald, had brought along his piper, John Bain MacKenzie, an athlete as well as a piper, to put some punch into the contests. MacKenzie, the same whose name survives in the pipe tune, and also, more dubiously, in the popular ditty, Posadh Piuthar Iain Bhain, took first turn at the hammer with a mighty heave that left the spectators gasping. Davidson of Tulloch proudly stepped forward and with a gesture of defiance impaled his elaborately carved ebony walking stick in the mark left by the throw.

“Next in turn was a Murdo MacKenzie from one of the upland townships. Putting all he knew into the effort he beat the mainlander’s throw by a yard, hitting the ebony staff in the middle end breaking it neatly into two halves.

“Few in the midst of the uproar observed the figure of the flamboyant Davidson striding up to the perpetrator and hitting him across the face with the palm of his hand,

“Lord MacDonald quelled the disturbance. On the one hand he admonished his belligerent relative in a few well-chosen words. On the ether, he promised the outraged hill man tenancy of the best vacant croft on the estate rent free for the rest of his days.

“As for John Bain MacKenzie, he expresses no regret or ill will at the thought of being beaten by a clansman of his own.”

The moral is: When watching the athletic events at a Scottish highland games, you just never know … so “stan’ back a wee.”