Where are you from and how did you get into piping?
I live in East Lothian, Scotland and I started learning way back in 1978 at the local band, Monktonhall Colliery from Prestonpans.
How has the pandemic affected your piping personally?
I struggled quite a bit to keep going. It wasn’t just the lack of events but my house is never empty for long enough to allow me to practice. I didn’t touch my pipes at all for eight months. On a positive note, though, I saved up enough to buy myself an excellent electronic practice chanter which kept the fingers moving.
When you travel is there something you particularly miss when away?
My pillow, I take my own pillowcase with me to use in hotels.
What’s your most memorable performance you’ve taken part in, either band or solo?
You remember performances for different reasons. Solo wise, I played a selection at a Burns Supper for about 40 folk and I was on fire! Also, competing with my band in Grade 2 Cowal 1995 sticks in my mind, partly because we didn’t win but mostly because of how good it was! I have also done a single night at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo; musically, it was nothing to remember but it was a really good experience nevertheless.
What’s your most memorable performance you’ve heard – band or soloist?
I heard Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band at the 2018 World Pipe Band Championships and thought it was outstanding, I also heard the 78th Frasers in concert in 1988 in Edinburgh. It was maybe not quite as good as the Ballymena recording from the year before but it convinced me to practice!
Who has been the biggest influence on your piping?
An old gent named Hugh Muir taught me the basics back in the 1970s. To this day that’s the last time I had a 1-1 lesson and when I met up with him years later he was bursting with pride to tell people he’d taught me!
How do you relax and do you have other interests or hobbies?
Rugby – which I am about to retire from. It crosses over and there are times I pipe at rugby events and times I turn up to band with a broken hand … that’s another story.
To which pipers did you aspire, if any?
I knew a long time ago I didn’t have the skill set so I much prefer bands because I can core and play better with good folk around me.
Do you recall the very first competition you competed in?
Yup. It was in the Novice Juvenile grade held at Scotstoun in 1981. The only other time I played there was when it was the venue for the Worlds in 1995.
Do you have a humorous piping anecdote you can relate to the readers (keep it clean!)?
In the 1990s I was the reserve Pipe Major for a Juvenile band and as the regular Pipe Major had injured himself I took the band on at Perth. Marching up to the line, the judge – Bob Shepherd –greeted me warmly and said: “Right son, there’s a lot of guys doing dummy judging runs today but I’m the guy to impress. Good luck and carry on.”
I turned to the band and said loudly, “We’ve got a bunch of dummies here today!” Thankfully, the judges either didn’t hear me or else laughed it off!
Also that day, I barked the command, “Band ‘shun”. And a wee voice came from behind me: “Who is Shaun?”
I realised that day I’m not Pipe Major material but I do still have that excellent piping sheet somewhere. Bob Shepherd was a gentleman realising I was a stand in and putting me at ease.
• Thank you, Grant!