Memories of Andrew Pitkeathly / MacDougall Trophy found


After last week’s post on Andrew Pitkeathly appeared, we were contacted by quite a number of readers who wrote of their fond memories of this unassuming piping legend. One of them, Graham Adams from Australia, was a pupil of Andrew’s father, Bob for many years and he came to know the family very well.

Graham, who at one time ran the White Heather Highland Supplies business in Australia, wrties: “Many years ago my wife and I arrived in Scotland on a working holiday. I was also looking for the best piping tuition I could get. I was fortunate to go to Bob Pitkeathly at his home near Blairgowrie for the almost two years that I was there.

“My lesson was each Sunday and went from 10:00am to 3:30pm with a lovely meal at lunch time. For the months the Queen was at Balmoral, we had Andy at his mum and dad’s house nearly every Sunday.

“The incredible thing for my wife and I was the way we were taken in and adopted by the whole family, which continues to this day. Last year and the year before, we had Andy and [wife] Deidre’s son, Ewan stay with us while out here on tour. I was fortunate to call Andy and Deidre good friends for many years. He was a special person as well as a great piper and tutor.  

Andrew Pitkeathly.

“At the time that I was going to Bob I competed at several highland games with not much success but gained a lot of experience.

“In the mid-1960s, my first wife and I were in London for two weeks and went to see Andy and Deidre at their house at Hampton Court. Andy asked if had an hour to spare and I said yes. He then put his head around the door into the lounge room where our wives were chatting and said simply, “Back soon”.  

We got into his car and drove for about 15 minutes before turning into a gateway in a high hedge. Instantly, a policeman appeared and after a couple of seconds discussion, he stepped back saluted and let us through. 

A minute later we pulled up at Frogmore House in the grounds of Windsor Castle. At that time Frogmore House was about four units. Pipe Major Alex MacDonald occupied one of them. Alex had been a Pipe Major in the Scots Guards and had retired from the position of Queen’s Piper before Andy. We spent about an hour there before returning to the ladies.

“In 1968 we were at Braemar Games where Andy was judging. He didn’t know we were there but when he saw me he motioned me to come over. We spoke for a minute or so and then he turned to face two gentlemen standing near us and asked, “Do you know these two gentlemen?” When I said I didn’t he said, ‘Bob Brown, Bob Nicol, this is Graham Adams from Australia. He used to go to my Dad.’

“At the time I went to Bob, I was living and working in Dundee. Every Saturday night I went to Broughty Ferry for the Tayside Pipers’ get together. Jim Macintosh ran it and I enjoyed every night.

“I well remember the story told to me by Bob about the time he walked into Peter Henderson’s shop for some pipe chanter reeds and Archie McPhedran [the manager] turned to get the box of reeds from the cupboard behind him. Bob said, “No, I don’t want those reeds. I want them out of the wee box under the counter.” Archie said, “How the hell did you know about the wee box under the counter?” Bob said, “I didn’t, but I do now.”

“My last time in Scotland was 2014 when I played a guest piper with the Tasmania Police Pipe Band at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

“One of Andrew’s pupils mentioned in your article was Mark McKenzie. Mark was actually a pupil of mine for seven years before he went to Scotland. He asked my advice on who he should seek about tuition. I was not familiar of the best teachers so I wrote to Andrew Pitkeathly and told him about Mark.

“Mark went to see Andy and they got on very well. He went to Andy for the 12 months he was in Scotland.

“I am very fortunate to have wonderful experiences like these.”

The MacDougall Trophy, presented to the overall winner at the Atholl & Breadalbane Gathering has been found.

Readers may recall our post from last September on the whereabouts of the MacDougall Trophy.

The trophy is presented to the overall winner at the Atholl & Breadalbane Gathering, one of our oldest highland games and the subject of Willie Fergusson’s well known 2/4 march.

Wilson Brown

The holder of the trophy is Wilson Brown, pictured, a piping instructor at the National Piping Centre. Wilson recalls: “I read the article on about theMacDougall Trophy and, to my horror I found it at the back of a cupboard in my house!

“I won it in 2016 during a time when I had a brief return to competition. After I won it I forgot all about it.”

Wilson has now had the trophy engraved with the winners from 2016 to 2018 and returned to the organisers. The winners are himself in 2016, Craig Martin 2017 and Gwenael Dage in 2018.

The trophy itself is a lovely little cup and it features a list of well-known names going back many years, such as Gordon Duncan, Fred Morrison, Tom Speirs, Mark McKenzie, Arthur Gillies, Rory Grossart, Anne Spalding and Roger Huth.