Piping hot! / Second virtual Cowal hailed a success / Donald Drone cools off

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Piping hot. Alen Tully at the Worlds in 2017.

Reader Dave Alton from Australia asks about pipe maintenance in the tropics. He writes: “I live in Darwin in northern Australia – the tropics. There are three seasons here: the wet or monsoon (January-May) which is characterised by torrential rains, the dry (May-October) when virtually no rain falls, and the build up (October-January) – to the monsoon – when humidity builds up but without appreciable rain. We sweat a lot in the build up.

“All three seasons are characterised by daytime air temperatures of 33˚-35˚ Celsius; it’s always hot here.

“The build up and the wet, from the standpoint of any dreaded wood cracking, sound like ideal bagpipe conditions, i.e. warm and moist. Good playing conditions too, I guess.

“The dry season, however, raises concerns, in that it delivers heat with no air moisture i.e. it dries everything out and severely so. Rather than removing excess moisture I am concerned with retaining moisture and even adding it for good measure in the hope of countering excessive drying out. I play most days and don’t do any drying after playing. On non-playing days I add a thimble of water via the chanter stock.

“When not playing, I keep the drones and chanter stock corked at all times to stop moisture escaping. We don’t really know if the foregoing courses of action are best or not. It’s a case of suck it and see, really, but we figure the bottom line is: retaining moisture and occasionally adding miniscule amounts can’t really be wrong. Keeping the pipes in air conditioning may well be desirable but we don’t currently have it.

“I playing a pre-1965 set of Robertsons made of African blackwood.”

Dave wonders if readers have views? Please contact us in the usual way.


Organisers have hailed Cowal’s 2021 virtual Gathering, which took place last weekend, a success.

Ronnie Cairns.

This was the second year the three-day event was held online.

Chairman, Ronnie Cairns said: “Cowal Highland Gathering is a historic event for so many different reasons. It holds the world’s oldest pipe band trophies, it is the home of the World Highland Dancing Championships and it hosts Scotland’s only international heavy athletics championship.

“In August 2020 we said Cowal’s Virtual Highland Gathering was now itself a historic event, when it became the world’s first three-day virtual Highland Gathering. We hope this year we’ll be consigning it to the history books.

“If you joined us online we thank you from the bottom of hearts and we hope we can meet you in person in August 2022 when we can once again gather in Dunoon Stadium.”

The 2022 Cowal Highland Gathering will be held in Dunoon Stadium from August 25-27. For more details visit www.cowalgathering.com or email info@cowalgathering.com


With Scotland experiencing some hot and sunny weather of late, Donald Drone teaches a parched young band member a new trick:

With thanks to the indefatigable Iain Bell.