Keith Sanger: A sign of “the ‘Times”

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By Keith Sanger

I first subscribed to the Piping Times in 1969 so it is possible to look back at the last half century of its publication, first as a reader and then as an occasional contributor. At the time I first subscribed, the attraction of the ‘PT’ was that it was the only real source of contemporary writing on the historical background to piping in Scotland.

Back in those days the section that was of most use to me was the serialisation of the ‘Notices of Pipers’, (issues vol. 19-27). Compiled by Lt. John MacLennan with subsequent additions by Major MacKay-Scobie and Archibald Campbell, the original manuscript now resides in the National Library of Scotland, but my well-thumbed copies of those issues indicate their value to those without access to the library. Especially after the late Roderick Cannon gave me a copy of the alphabetical index he compiled to the printed PT version for his own use, thereby making finding particular sections much easier.

Of course, the Piping Times’ coverage of contemporary piping and competitions has over time become a historical repository of knowledge in its own right and it remained a home for more detailed historical work to the end.

Part of Roddy Cannon’s Notices of Pipers/PT index.

It is fair, though, to say that at times some of the material published still leaned heavily towards the more romantic and mythical view of piping history. This could at times be irritating when contrasted with more serious research, for example the series of articles by Ruairidh Halford-MacLeod on the MacCrimmons, and studies of the music by Frans Buisman and Roderick Cannon.

However, the fact that all approaches were catered for by the PT was perhaps part of its success and the openness to printing most contributions, especially on how early piobaireachd was played, even when the first editor did not himself agree (and usually so noted in the editorials), must be applauded.

Unfortunately circumstances change and the demise of the Piping Times can only be regretted. It is, though, curious to note that if in looking to the internet to replace the PT as source of piping history, that same issue of articles published in the PT ranging from serious to ‘twee’ is still one of the problems with some of the material to be found online.

• Keith Sanger has been known for decades as an imaginative and assiduous piping and military researcher. He has published a large amount of articles in a variety of academic journals. His discoveries are many and, in fact, too numerous to mention here.