McCallum sponsors ‘Gillies’ and ‘Duncan’ at Piping Live! / Highland games optimism / Jim steps down at PDQB

Angus MacColl and Stuart McCallum of McCallum Bagpipes at the 2018 event … which Angus won.

McCallum Bagpipes Ltd. is once again sponsoring both the Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies Memorial Recital Challenge and the Gordon Duncan Memorial Recital Competition at next month’s Piping Live! festival.

The Kilmarnock, Scotland-based bagpipe manufacturing company has sponsored the festival’s flagship event since its inception.

The ‘Alasdair Gillies Memorial’ evolved from the recital format started in 2001 at the Lord Todd Bar of Glasgow’s Strathclyde University. The recitals were the idea of Willie McCallum and George Wood who both worked at the university at the time. In 2003, the Lord Todd Recital Challenge began with Angus MacColl the first winner. When Willie and George left Strathclyde University, the event became part of Piping Live! and was renamed to remember the late Alasdair Gillies, who died in 2011, aged 47.

Alasdair Gillies, 1963-2011.

Previous winners:
2003 – Angus MacColl
2004 – Angus MacColl
2005 – Angus MacColl
2006 – Gordon Walker
2007 – Stuart Liddell
2008 – Angus MacColl
2009 – Angus MacColl
2010 – Angus MacColl
2011 – Stuart Liddell
2012 – Gordon Walker
2013 – Gordon Walker
2014 – not held
2015 – not held
2016 – Stuart Liddell
2017 – Stuart Liddell
2018 – Angus MacColl
2019 – Callum Beaumont
2020 (held online) – Callum Beaumont

Scotland’s Scotsman newspaper reported yesterday on the impact felt by communities and small businesses around Scotland in this second year of no highland games able to take place.

Around 20 years ago, it was estimated that highland games were worth £25m to the Scottish economy. It is thought that the figure in recent years is tens of millions more. Bagpipe.News believes that when the circuit returns next year – fingers crossed – a comprehensive economic impact assessment is undertaken by officialdom.

Massed bands at Braemar. Without piping, of course, all highland games would be merely athletics events.

However, as reporter Alison Campsie, suggests, the thwarted kinship that underpin these annual events is also being felt. “It is these connections, she writes, “that will drive the return of the games.”

Around 60 games are held each summer in small communities around the length and breadth of Scotland, from Durness to Innerleithen and from the Uists to Stonehaven.

It is heartening to read that at the Lonach Highland Games, people have already committed to travelling from overseas for 2022. Likewise at Braemar, next year’s event looks in good shape given tickets sold back in 2020 still stand.

Gary Nisbet, spokesman for the Braemar Gathering, where around 40% of the visitors is from overseas, said: “As soon as one Braemar Games is over, we start planning for the next one, but this year we knew there was no point. The supply chains have been hit really hard for two years. The fish and chip people, the marquee people … many of them rely on the games. Some of them did get Government grants to cover some of their income – but they would rather have been at the games.”

Iain Watt, president of the Scottish Highland Games Association, said: “For a lot of communities, the games is the only event for the whole town. There’s people who get quite emotional about it. It’s about coming home – and coming together.”

We understand Jim Stout has stepped down as chairman of the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board (PDQB).

A decision on his successor has yet to be taken.

The PDQB is the certificating body for a range of qualifications offered jointly by The Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming, The Tri Service Cadet Centre, the National Piping Centre, The Piobaireachd Society and the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association.