The Scottish Pipers’ Association has a 102 year history from its founding on January 10, 1920. It all came about from a regular informal gathering of pipers on a Saturday afternoon in the back shop of Peter Henderson Bagpipes in Glasgow. And that gathering was just part of a 19th century love affair that Glasgow had with the Great Highland Bagpipe when many pipers moved to the city and solo competitions were organised by Gaelic and Celtic societies from the 1840s. Much of the detailed history of the SPA has been written by Jeannie Campbell MBE, and can be found on their website here.
The current SPA President is Logan Tannock, and he has a vision to rebuild the Scottish Pipers’ Association to become a vibrant community of pipers who meet regularly and provide competitions and events throughout the year. When the SPA was founded the objects of the Association, set out in the Constitution in 1920 were: “The study and practice of the music of the Great Highland Bagpipe, the banding together of the pipers of Scotland and the fostering of the spirit of comradeship amongst them,” and the sentiment of that Constitution could easily be applied to Logan’s plans for the future.
Logan teaches pipes to school pupils in Clackmannanshire, and has been teaching pipes around that area from 1986. His first job came in Glasgow when Pipe Major Iain MacPherson left a piping job in education and moved to Alaska in 1982. Logan is likely one of the longest serving school tutors and he thinks he would only be pre-dated as a school tutor by Ian MacFadyen, Iain MacPherson and a few others including, Ian Duncan and Bob Shepherd who were both maths teachers and already in the school environment.
Logan was mainly a solo player, and started his tuition with Tom Philliben who had been Pipe Sergeant of the Millhall Pipe Band, he then went to Tom’s brother Peter who was Pipe Major of the Millhall band (there is a 6/8 tune in John MacKenzie’s collection of bagpipe music named after Peter). Other tutors included Hugh McCallum, Jimmy McIntosh, Angus J MacLellan and finished his tuition with Jimmy Young. “I was fairly prolific around the games and I won every prize in the Gold Medal, apart from the one that really counts, ” said Logan with a wry smile.
As a young learner Logan started with Alloa Colliery Pipe Band and progressed to Wallacestone Pipe Band. However, he didn’t spend much time with pipe bands due to a three-way choice he made in his adolescence between studying for his O Grades at school, solo piping and pipe bands. His studies and solo piping won, and he didn’t go back to a pipe band till 1999 when he guested at the major championships with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Logan had a connection with the band as he had taught some of their pipers in their schooldays, including Scott Methven who went on to become the Queen’s Piper, and he was teaching one of the band at the time, who was on the Pipe Majors course. Logan said: “I then played with Shotts and Dykehead for a season and in 2001 I was a founding member and Pipe Sergeant of Clan Gregor Pipe Band in its first season. I then took a break from bands for a few years, until Jim Semple asked me to go to Linlithgow Pipe Band as his Pipe Sergeant for the 2004 season. In our first season we lifted 26 trophies in Grade 4, won the Champion of Champions trophies for band and drum corp. In 2005 we were runner-up band and best drum corp in 3B and in 2006 we ended up 8th overall and first for drumming in grade 3A but then the wheels started to come off as they often do in pipe bands.
“I didn’t play in bands again until Ian Duncan took over at Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band. We have known each other from our younger days, and he had asked me to play with Vale of Atholl Pipe Band when he was Pipe Major, but I always said I was too busy with solo piping but I’d play in his band once I stopped playing in solo competitions if he still wanted me to. So when he took over Lothian & Borders Police I joined the band and was there until they were disbanded, I now play alongside him in the Atholl Highlanders Pipe Band.”
From a young age Logan and his parents were life members of the Scottish Pipers’ Association when it was held in the Dorchester Hotel in Sauchiehall Street. The SPA stopped for a while, and when they restarted communication had dried up due to house moves/change of addresses till out of the blue Logan received an email from Tom Johnstone to update him and invite him back to the club nights. “It’s a 30 mile drive from home, but I thought I’d go and support the club a wee bit.” Logan quiped: “I made the mistake of turning up to an AGM and ended up with a job on the committee, then became one of the vice-presidents, and then in 2020 there was no-one at the AGM wanting to take the presidents role. So basically, I didn’t step back quick enough, and it fell to me. Though to be honest, I take pride in following in the footsteps of some of the great names who have held this position, and I hope I can leave it in a healthy condition when it passes to the next elected President. The last two years however, have been a challenge.”
“In 2020 I organised the SPA Centenary Recital, then we had our SPA knock-out competition which reached the semi-final stage before Covid-19 put a stop to us holding the final. Since then my Presidency has pretty much been in hiatus for two years, although we did manage to run a Junior and a Senior competition online. I had many ideas that I hoped to get going at the time, and I’m now sitting wondering and hoping that we are going to get a chance to move forward with some of them.”
The professional competition that the SPA are holding this coming Saturday, April 30, 2022 in The National Piping Centre has also been a challenge to get organised for Logan and the SPA Committee, trying to secure a venue and plan the logistics, and he lamented that it would have been easier to get his pipes out and practice for the competition himself. “We thought as this was the first chance for the top pipers to get out and play in an open competition, in a good venue, we would have got a much better response than we have,” said Logan. “It has been suggested that the poorer numbers could be due to covid reasons, or perhaps it is because the competition is on the May bank holiday weekend. However, the SPA competitions have attracted big fields in previous years, and if we look further down the grades to B and C we have a reasonable entry for this year. Surely those reasons would also apply to the B and C Grade players and effect their numbers?
“The SPA will need to discuss this at committee level and try to work out where things have gone wrong and how to progress. I don’t know what the answer is at the moment. My feeling is that pipers need to support the grading system at all levels and failure to do so could mean that Competition promoters will find it harder to run fully graded competitions and to misquote a phrase used in rugby refereeing, if they don’t use it they may lose it.” (Since the interview took place, the SPA have had a few pipers contact Logan to say they would have liked to compete but have prior commitments.)
“We would like to get all our other competitions and events set up but we are just creeping back into it. We plan to have our Junior Competition, which should be October time, and there should also be the Veterans Competition. In theory, we should also be starting to prepare the next Knock-out Competition, as that runs every two years. However, making these arrangements it is not an easy task in the present climate.”
Once the SPA professional competition is over they hope to bring the 2020 knock-out to a conclusion, not with a competition but with a recital on a club night from both of the finalists, Calum Beaumont and John Patrick, who will share the prize purse. The committee are currently looking to secure a venue for the monthly club nights with considerations to a venue which has a bar or not, for easy on-street parking, and a thought to the future when Glasgow City Centre becomes a Low Emissions Zone encompassing The National Piping Centre at McPhater Street in June 2023.
The next club night should be Friday, May 6, and it will likely be at The National Piping Centre at McPhaterStreet (details will be confirmed on the SPA website and social media pages).
Logan finished by saying: “I would like to see the club getting back to the days of old, when on any club night the SPA could have some of the top players in the country coming for a listen or to play a tune. For young players coming up through the ranks, these nights were great for meeting and hearing the top players who were willing to share tips and advice, or give pointers on what you were doing. It felt like a big family back then, and everyone was there for everyone else. Would it not be great to hear some of our professional players perform in a non-competitive environment, playing just for the love of music alongside all other pipers? I’d like to see that happening again.”