From the archives: Letters of Robert Reid

Published: November 30, 2013
(Page 1 of 1)

The following letters from the great master Robert Reid to Dr. Norman McLeod, the first President of the Pipers Society of Ontario, were forwarded to us by his son, Norman McLeod Jr. We reprint them here strictly as a fascinating insight to Reid’s thoughts about piping, the Piobaireachd Society, and his role in the piping world towards the end of his life. The opinions expressed are solely those of the late Robert Reid.

The first letter is not dated, but, given the second letter was written in May 1958 and alludes to the fact that McLeod had not written “for years,” we can assume it was written from between 1954 and 1956.

Robert Reid’s most famous pupils were Bob Hardie and Willie Connell. In the 1950s, Reid recorded more than 10 hours of his piobaireachd playing, yet refused to part with the tapes and decided not to make them commercially available. Reid also purportedly demanded that his priceless manuscripts from his instruction with John MacDougall Gillies be destroyed upon his death. As far as we know, the recordings and his pipes remain with his son, Robbie.

Throughout his life, Robert Reid was at odds with the Piobaireachd Society for various reasons, and the late Willie Connell, in his excellent Piper & Drummer interview of May 1996, stated that, “He didn’t agree with the way they dominated pipers by dictating to them, by holding up these Gold Medals as carrots and forcing pipers to prostitute themselves just for the sake of winning.”

The letters printed here exactly as they were orginally written, and any grammatical mistakes are Reid’s.

Dear Dr. McLeod,

I regret being so long in writing you, but will make an excuse for my neglectéI could have many.

I enjoyed some of the reading in the “ulletin” you sent me but I agree with you when you talk of its merit.

I’m afraid our own publications are on the same level, and it’s such a pity we have nobody with a sufficient interest, and knowledge of piping, to take up an able pen and write a good book. I know this would be difficult and not worth while from a financial point of view, but some of the stuff we read in “Piping magazines” is really poisonous.

I note in the April issue of your “Bulletin” (this issue came to me also) that John Wilson, Geo. R. Duncan & Seumas MacNeill put themselves to a lot of trouble to justify themselves in quite a few things. Knowing things as I do, each of them were more amusing than informative but at the same time may be quite convincing to others less initiated than myself.

Between ourselves, neither are “perfectionists” to use your word, but that is not their fault, each lack the teachings of the old masters. Its’ not sufficient just to follow the notes – one must follow the teachings of the “ld masters” to get the proper expression. The Piob Socy have become alarmed at the decay in the Great Music and some of the “heads” have confessed to me that they don’t know what to do about it.

I was in London last week and I met, and had a long talk with Campbell, Kilberry and the poor old chap has no answer to the decline. His answer seems to be that I should be teaching regularly but I’m afraid he was very disappointed at my reply. Of course he is aware that I have something better in the form of six hours of Piob playing which I have on Tapes. At my own expense I purchased one of the finest Tape Recorders (German) and had them all done before they thought of it. When Campbell (Shirvan) and Sir Douglas Ramsay of the Piob Socy heard a Recital on this they admitted its the most perfect they have ever heard, and many more agree. It certainly was a lot of work but it was well worth while. My idea was to have them put on discs to sell but the monopoly here forbids that and I can’t get them done unless at the Gramophone Corps price which doesn’t suit me. The Piob Socy spokesman told me they are so perfect that they are too valuable for me to hold, and advised me to put them into the museum for safe custody and for the benefit of future generations. That, in my opinion is impertinence and they will remain in my possession.

All these things apart piping is going as strong as ever over here but although we have many fine young players we don’t have the teachers. The days of the “old masters” have passed and we are now living in the period of “book learned” teachers who lack a background. The real decline set in on the death of MacDougall Gillies who should have established a real College which would have, or could have been a monument to the Piob Socy. On the other hand the Pipe Bands are making great strides and so far as I can see will oust the Soloist in due course. Some of our better class Games are going off and I will be surprised if we have Solo Piping at Bridge of Allan this year, they are turning to bands. Cowal Games gave prizes in kind last year to the Professionals and it will be interesting to see what happens this year. It may have been another way of putting them off but we’ll see. Personally, I’m not unduly worried about it all as I’ve had a lot of pleasure from playing Piob and I’m as keen as ever. I’m still President of the Scottish Pipers Assocn and we are doing very well and try our best to keep the tradition going, but next Competition is for the Veteran Pipers in September (from 55 upwards) and it is our most interesting of the year. I intend having a Championship Gold Medal for this year and if I manage this it will ass to our already good entry. We usually have about 10 – 12 competitors and it makes a great night. Well Sir, I’ve said enough and trust you are fit and well as this leaves me at present in good condition. I’m pleased to say I’ve been quite good generally over the winter and never even had a cold.

Sincerely Yours,

Robert Reid

144 Academy Street

Sandyhills

Glasgow E2

1/5/58

Dear Dr. McLeod,

not having heard from you for years your letter arrived to me like a bolt from the blue. Nevertheless, it leaves me with a feeling of sanity from an otherwise “insane piping world”. I have long given up hope of reading anything sensible, written by a piper on the “great music”, hence the reason your letter gives me such pleasure.

However, as its so long since I heard from you please let me start a bit back and keep you up to date on my news. As you already know I had a serious illness seven years ago, and although I didn’t recover 100% to run my business my piping still retains its 100% playing quality. Under the circumstances, and with a bit of pressure from my wife I retired from business at the end of May 1954.

We had settled down happily and got everything organised for the happy retired life (including one or two sessions per day) on the Bagpipe when the sudden “blow” fell. My dear wife passed away after a short illness exactly a month ago – Imagine! I won’t dwell on this, nor bore you at the moment with the details – I’m really too hurt!!

Now, let me say I do get the “per & Dancer Bulletin” and although I suspected it was yourself who was sending it, I wondered why you have never written me. It gives me quite a bit of amusement to read the “senile” letters of John Wilson with probably a little Scots quotation such as “guess whaur I’m awa tae”, and also the letter of Donald S. Ramsay late of Edinburgh Police, advising all and sundry that a great piper is arriving in America and that Gold Medallists can be churned out by this great expert. If its all so easy why not win them yourself? And how do you teach something you don’t know? As I’ve already said the piping world has gone mad for lack of knowledge!

Steve MacKinnon (Grapevine) serves quite a purpose and keeps some of the people in touch but he should gibe no opinion on “Piob” or the Piob players. Being a Bandsman under John MacDougall Gillies is not just the best qualification to get into print with an opinion. Yes sir, Willie Gray did a good job for the “Great Music” and what he said was completely true, and to my knowledge has never been questioned nor contradicted. Willie Gray has an extensive background to his piping and is most knowledgeable which is apt to place him in the “crank” category so far as the crotchet, quaver & Bar boys are concerned, you’ve already mentioned that and I fully agree the written notes can only supply a reference to the notes being played. Piob, especially Urlar or Ground should be played in passage & phrase form – not “arred Music” as we have today! I’m quite sure you will agree it requires the teaching of a Master to cultivate this, but we no longer have any Masters. I’ve met them all since Sandy Cameron and nobody would admit that the “Expression” required, and essential to good “Piob” can be written in “Barred Music” – it just can’t be done. Up to a point I can agree with you on the good work done by the Piob Socy, but at the same time I just can’t reconcile myself to the thought that they rescued the “reat Music” from oblivion. Please keep in mind that when the “Piob Socy” started we had such great players as the Camerons, MacPhersons, MacDougall Gillies, Robbie Meldrum, etc, and I scarcely think it required a collection of Amateurs, no matter how enthusiastic they may have been to urge these great men on.

I’m not disparaging the Amateur in any way, I’ve a great admiration for him but please tell me this – Why should the Piob Socy assume proprietorship of a great music which belongs to the people?

You may question this statement but I can assure you such a claim was made by one of the heads of P/Socy. Now, let me put your mind at rest regarding my “ape Recordings”. I can’t understand where such a rumour originated that I had passed these to the P/Socy. In fact only one of my “Tapes” has been heard by the P/S Gentlemen and to quote from those who heard them. -

Sir Douglas Ramsay – too valuable for one man to hold.

Campbell, Shirvan – Everybody who presumes to play “b” must hear them.

Seton Gordon – Claimed I’m the only man he has ever heard who could make a song from beginning to end of McIntosh’s Lament – heard nothing like these and many other remarks which were very flattering.

I have roughly 10 -12 hours playing on these “pes”, also some Talks which are interesting I think, and as the P/Socy gave me no assistance in any way, financial or otherwise, I see no reason why they should even know what I’ve done – they don’t! My son, a piper of sorts, with a fairly good knowledge gave me every assistance in the making of these and I venture to say every one is a real gem and played in the Cameron tradition. The “apes” now belong to my son and my guess is that it would take much more than the P/Socy to separate him from them. These are definitely in our possession and should you come over in 1959 as you suggest, I can promise you a real treat should you care to call on me. You ask me about any Piob Recordings worthy of interest – unfortunately I don’t know of any and can only endorse what Willie Gray said.

I have been informed that my fried Willie Ross is very ill and I’m hoping to get some more news later.

I’ve been playing a few “ecitals” and other things during the past winter and had myself in grand trim. Naturally, I haven’t played for the past month but I’ve no doubt the urge will come back to me with the progress of time. My daughter was in Canada on holiday a couple of years ago and she had a most pleasant time in Banff, Alberta. I have a dear old Aunt up there (86 years of age) and we have toyed with the idea of making a trip to see her but I’ll wait and see what happens. I’m fortunate I’ve got a son & daughter at home with me and I must count my blessings. My own hard work plus my dear wifes foresight assured us of four good meals a day, we run a small car for pleasure so we were happy but – at the moment we mourn our l”eline.

My best regards and wishes and your letter gave me

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  1. Bagpipermann

    Wondered who’d go first….(don’t read anything into that).. Interesting letters indeed. It backed up something I had read on line that involved the parties mentioned as well as Archie McNeill and Oronsay…. Anyway, would have been interesting to see what would have happened with all of this sparring if the technology that we have today, particularly the present social media, had existed back then…..

  2. JimMcGillivray

    Well, I guess someone has to comment on this. Reid’s recorded piobaireachd playing is magic, but I’m afraid anything he’s written about piping or that I’ve heard him speak on tape suggests that he was…. well, a bitter and very self-righteous man. The whole idea of him wanting his papers burned and recordings kept private (ie. “the world doesn’t deserve me” or “the world won’t understand”) only confirms these suspicions for me. I have to think it was this approach that limited the number of pupils he had (whether his choice or theirs) and has resulted in his style of play dying a slow but sure death. There. I said it.

    1. Davey Philip

      Wrong Jim the Cameron style is actually alive and well. Also a man of Roberts talent I guess there will always be issues in regards to his mind set. Reading a few or your posts I cant help feel that you like pointing the knife in when you can. There I said it.

  3. iainmacdonald

    Interesting letters, and commentary. More than anything, there is a sadness that pervades. Here was a man whose life was defined by his mastery of the instrument and its music, and yet who clearly held much of the piping world in contempt. Makes me wonder what elements in his own life contributed to this perspective. Donald MacLeod often referenced “the Cameron style” when teaching some tunes, describing how they might have handled this phrase or that, and really pointing out that it was another way of playing it, but just not how he played it. My first real look at tunes in that way was with Jim McMillan in Vancouver, who took me through tunes that he got from Bob Hardie and William Barrie. It seemed to me that there were some interesting alternative timings that could be used, but that really the little nuances of timing were just that, and not a major deal. My thought is that those things maybe had more impact when there weren’t recordings everywhere, and when a player’s “source” was really one or two “masters” to whom s/he had access. Reading Reid’s letters is a backwards echo of the stuff that Alastair Campsie wrote, and whatever one makes of the facts or perspective, this points to a real sadness or loss in these people’s lives. What would Reid’s legacy have been had he happily taught and dispersed his music to all interested, without pre-judgement about how it would be used? Anyway, thanks to p|d for the letters, and to others for their views.

  4. JimMcGillivray

    When I suggested an obligation to comment, it really had to do with our showing interest in the piece. Andrew’s publishing something as significant as this calls for some acknowledgement from the readers, so now this has been done, and I’m glad to see it has occasioned some discussion. I agree with you, Bill, that the differences between the so-called Cameron and MacPherson styles were minimal and too much has been made of them over the decades. I would prefer to say that Reid’s piobaireachd magic had to do with Reid himself and not the Cameron style. One might say he could really find the groove in a tune, though the style of expression was not much different from the rest of us. I always thought it sad that the Reid devotees too often seemed committed to parroting his style rather than assimilating it. I was a great fan of Andrew Macneill’s as well. Having said that, I’ll never forget one weekend I spent going over various tunes with him, every one of which was prefaced by, “This is how I got this tune from Robert.” I recall asking him about one tune which he hadn’t learned from Reid, and him replying, “I never got this tune from Robert, but if I had, I think this is what he would have done with it.” Even at the time I felt it a bit sad to hear a statement like this coming from a man so inherently musical as Andrew was. He needed no such qualifier as a player, but that attitude has always remained in my mind as the defining legacy of the Reid school.

  5. tripper

    Thank you for sharing these interesting letters, It just so happens I was getting my hair cut downtown Toronto and got speaking to the Barber, he was an interesting old guy with a thick scottish accent and it just so happens after having a lengthy conversation about all things scottish while he hacked on my hair it turns out he worked in Robert Reids shop. I was shocked when I heard this so I asked him what his experience was like and what Robert Reid was like. This old gentleman told me that there were always young pipers coming in and out of the shop for lessons with Robert Reid and although he was a bit rough around the edges he spent countless hours teaching and enjoyed doing so. This old barber never played the pipes which also shocked me considering he worked beside Robert Reid. I never went back to this barber again as he was poor with the scissors, but was greatful to spend the time speaking to him and getting an inside look from a nonpiper into a small part of the life of Robert Reid. I unfortunatley have forgotten the finer details of our conversation, maybe I will go back and see this old guy, it might be worth the bad hair cut and perhaps he can shed further insight on Mr. Robert Reid. Steven Tripp

  6. BillLivingstone

    Jim…first of all, there is no obligation to comment on this piece at all…but if you think so, well OK…here is my modest riposte L second …who is bagpiperman…I hate rthese identity concealing titles…who is talkin’ here? is it someone who knows the subject matter….at least a bit? third…it does indeed sound like Reid was a pain in the *** about Piob. and perhaps a self annointed transmitter of what he believed to be the “true and only way”…all I can say on the subject is that I had lessons from Andrew MacNeill one of Reid’s great and unsung pupils (unsung that is out side of the cognoscenti of piob. players), discussed Piob. at great length with Willie Connell and had help from Hardie, and the only one I found to be hidebound by Reid’s thinking was Willie, and even he developed a broader idea of what the art form permitted. In fact I thought Willie rather reveled in the role of Reid advocate, even though he’d begun to see that there were many ways to skin the cat of a tune. The whole Reid business of concealing his playing style is weird, if not a tad neurotic, but at the end of the exercise, we know from Willie Connell’s and Hardie’s playing generally what it was like….and truth be told, it wasn’t such a huge deal as being miles away from the current vogue at the time. Bill Livingstone

  7. JohnDonMacKenzie

    Its interesting to hear the comments of great pipers like Jim. Bill and Iain on this article with their connections to and affection for Andrew MacNeill . I was fortunate to have 18 years with Dr John MacAskill and so through him AMcN as he was Dr Johns mentor and guide . Following Johns death I became keeper to his Sound Library which includes some 40 + hours from AMcN consisting mainly teaching Ceol Mor along with many piping anecdotes , he is almost hagiographic in his allegiance to Reid. As with the knowledgeable players who have already commented Im extremely perplexed at Reids absolute distrust in anybody to continue his  style of playing  it seems he wanted his legacy to die with him ??. Ive many recordings of AMcN talking about this but doesn’t allude as to why , nor did Dr John. Andrew has recordings of some 78s that Robert Reid had made but would not reproduce any of Reids other recording , stating he wasnt allowed to due to copyright , Im assuming that these were the recordings written about in the letters . I also have a recording of a PM Craigie Calder in which he talks about Reid burning his own and John MacDougall-Gilles¡¯s manuscripts and w

  8. Bagpipermann

    William, we’ve been over this an anonymity thing before. I have my reasons fro posting with a nickname which I’d rather not get into. However, since it seems to be pushing your buttons a bit, I’ll help you to guess (keep it to yourself, please). My first instructor was the late John McPhail and I played in your band a while back. Me bad…I mixed up Archie MacNeill and Andrew MacNeill. I’m pesonally interested in the subject as a family friend of ours grew up on Colonsay in the 30′s, maintained a residence there into at least the early 90′s and must have known Andrew. He once showed me a his practice chanter and knowing that he doesn’t play today, I guessed that he must have taken lessons for while as a youngster. It’s not a great leap to think that his instructor could have been Andrew. Interestingly, this gentlemen is also friends with Andrew Wright and at least acquainted with Ian MacLellan and the late Angus MacLellan. I’m looking forward to talking to him soon to gleam what I can from those connections. I won’t find out about anything relating to musical style, but I may find out something about the people themselves. I wonder if he knew Robert Reid? Cheers,

  9. rsm

    I just had to reply to Reid??s Vain Ramblings. I realize that it is correspondence between two individuals, but one was the President of the Ontario Pipers Society, and surely because of his position he should have discouraged such ramblings. I might be the only one around who knew a goodly number of the people involved. I assume that Reid thought that Dr. Norman McLeod because he was President of the Pipers?? Society of Ontario was a fine piobaireachd player. I can assure you that he was not. Many of the founding executive members were amateur enthusiasts, but not stellar players, and I knew all of them. When I was a young player, and because my dad did not drive, to avoid public transport, Dr. Norman McLeod would kindly pick us up on a Sunday morning and drive us to the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds, Dufferin Bandstand. During our travels back and forth I got to know Dr. MacLeod reasonably well. He was a very fine man who would come and listen as we played. I cannot remember exactly who the players were but I do remember: my dad Colin, Bill Gilmour, and myself. We would play for hours each taking a turn to play for the master Murdo McLeod, who was incidentally a student of John MacDougall Gillies. From the above you can imagine my surprise when I read that Dr. Norman McLeod was passing comments about playing in Ontario. I sincerely hope that he was just sending generalities, but I wonder when Reid talks of John Wilson and George Duncan and states,” Between ourselves neither are perfectionists, to use your word.?¡§ This made my blood boil. Having known both players, and having been taught by one, and having heard them both play, I can assure you that they were both the epitomy of perfection. Then Reid, in his own self gratifying way alludes to the fact that each Wilson and Duncan poor fellows lacked the teachings of the old Masters. Well, I cannot speak for George Duncan, but I do know that Wilson took lessons for years from Roddie Campbell, and John MacDonald Inverness. Not a bad record for someone who Reid claims just played from the book and just did not know phrasing. Well, I for one, who went to Wilson probably longer than anyone else can assure you that he did not play as Reid put it “rotchet, quaiver, and Bar.” Now let me speak of Reid himself. When I was a young man I spent several days in Reid??s shop. I arrived I with my pipe in good going order, and was invited into the back room. This was where the German Grundig tape recorder was located. And there was a constant teapot on the fire. Here, the serious piping took place. I was invited to play, and I knew immediately that this was a trial balloon. Can this young Canadian really play? Well, I must’ve passed muster because I spent several days there. Many fine tunes were played. Then a young man came in and played. Later, I realized it must have been Willie Connell. Reid himself played.(excellent) All who played had a fine pipe. In addition, I got to hear some of the tunes on the big German tape machine in Cameron style. I must confess, that they were really well done, and I thoroughly enjoyed them, but I did not come away spellbound. Reid was very kind to me and so you can imagine my dismay at reading his letters. I cannot believe that he would talk in such derogatory terms about the wonderful teachers, mine being one, and players in Ontario. Later Willie Connell and his family became great friends of the Mackay family. Hence, I discussed many tunes with Willie, and as Bill Livingstone succinctly put it, they were not much different from what I was taught. Why the great mystique? I feel sorry for Robert Reid as he had become bitter and I believe his egotism got him there. Let’s examine some of his statements. Piping magazines are really poisonous Wilson, Duncan and MacNeil-may be quite convincing to others less initiated than myself Campbell(Shirvan) Sir Douglas Ramsay-my tapes are the most perfect that they have ever heard Piobaireachd Society asking for tapes-impertinence senile letters of John Wilson-What? I’m the only man he has ever heard who can make a song from beginning to end of” Macintosh??s Lament. Are these not the ramblings of a bitter egotist. Even though a wonderful player. I got a tape recording a few years back from Matt Turnbull. He had been to Wilson for a lesson and he asked John what is the difference between the MacPherson, and Cameron style of playing piobaireachd. John replied” I’ll show you!” He then played a tune in both styles. Upon his completion Matt asked him what style he preferred. John replied” I really don’t know. They are both beautiful arn??t they?” Is it not too bad that Reid did not have the same attitude? ?h I guess the reason that Reid??s letters irk me the most is the fact that here is a man thousands of miles from Ontario, who had never visited Ontario to hear what was being played, passing judgment by listening to people who made in my opinion totally uneducated, worthless remarks, and using the small Piper and Dancer Bulletin to prop up his thoughts. ?h If you don’t know what you don’t know, then keep quiet about it! ?h So sad, So sad! Reay Mackays

  10. JimMcGillivray

    …the great thing about signing your name in places like this… True, Michael my friend. To me, the great thing about signing your name to places like this is that it reinforces the camaraderie I like to think exists in the piping community where we willingly share friendships, favour, music, and our names. Anonymous posters imply something to hide and in fact remind me too much of those vitriolic sports blogs. I have to confess that my disrespect for the anonymous folk leads me not to take their posts too seriously. They generally barely get a skim from me.

  11. gramps

    I as a nonentity in the piping world am just loving this exchange of opinions and views. I have to confess that I spend more time on sports blogs where the level of malevolent bile is accepted as normal discourse. The tone and exchange on this possibly highly divisive issue is extremely gratifying. Good to all of you.

  12. MichaelGrey

    These letters are not the first insight most any of us have had into the perspectives of Reid – especially those of us who have spent time with Willie Connell or Andrew MacNeill. Rather than change my view, these notes reinforce it. I find his letterhead interesting, too, just btw; that is, the contests he viewed as premier. And – unrelated – the great thing about signing your name in places like this: years – or minutes – from now, readers will have a better sense of the cut of your jib – attractive or otherwise. And forget the casual and very human pettiness of Reid, that’s neither here nor there for me, it’s his effed up approach to spreading the word of the music he loved that does it for me. Burning MSs and other records=wrong.

    1. Nick Taitz

      yes I very much agree, burning records and MSS is definitely a very bad approach. It’s crazy – these things should be out there and in the mix!

  13. JimMcGillivray

    Since we’re up to our necks in intrigue, here’s more: at least two the various Reid pupils I’ve known both claimed Reid told them the other was the worst pupil he had. I always found that a bit comical. An an unrelated/related topic, you might notice in the Reid photo in this article that his tenor drone stocks appear quite long. I’ve been told that Reid was known to play three bass drone stocks in his pipes because he believed (perhaps among other reasons) that it helped keep the tenor drone reeds drier.

  14. Lawrie

    Shock, horror – an eminent piper of his time had a few opinions on piping, pipers and the general state of the union, and propensity to sprout them in what was, at the time, private correspondence. Who would¡¯ve thought….? I dare say that the majority of posters here would not want their private piping-related emails trawled through and posted on a public forum. Reid has taken his place in history. This simply sheds light on a complex man, in the twilight of his years and probably feeling somewhat reflective about all things piping and seemingly in need a good purge. Read into it what you will, but it changes nothing on the records for me.

  15. AlMcMullin

    It bothers me that Robert Reid would make nasty, egotistical comments about players and styles. However, having been around for some time now, my experiences and I suspect many others have heard similar and even worse comments about players, teachers and so called “styles.” The fifth paragraph of Reid’s first letter begins “Between ourselves.” That’s enough for me as far as the “private correspondence” issue is concerned.

  16. AndrewBerthoff

    Funny. A slow news period. A Sunday morning. Wanted a new piece. Went to the data backup archive. Picked randomly November 1997. Saw article. Saw graphic. Threw it up there. Figured many would have remembered it from the old print magazine. Always a surprise to me what picks up commentary, but when the likes of McGillivray, Grey, Mackay, MacDonald, Livingstone and MacPhee chime in, it’s something that pretty much happens in only one place: here. On the point of disclosure, McLeod’s son gave permission to run these. They were his property. When Reid sent the letters to McLeod, he gave away control. They are simply a snapshot of a complex man nearing the end of his life. Maybe he was just having a few bad days. Or maybe he was bitter and jaded because of the aristocracy controlling piobaireachd. It would be great to hear Willie Donaldson’s thoughts, actually.

  17. DonaldMacPhee

    Being a conduit for my Dad: “George Duncan was taught by Roddie Campbell while he lived in Scotland and also learned piobaireachds from Donald MacMillan after he moved to the Windsor area (circa 1939) . George was a class player with excellent fingers, he was a short fellow and had hands like Gordon Walker and believe me son just as good as Gordon’s”. Sandy MacPhee All the best to you and yours gentlemen, Donald MacPhee

  18. Joan

    As a low-roader, I’d be dissappointed if this publication became predominantly a place for those who travel in golden carriages. It would also seem rather unfair to base an opinion of anyone, on a few private letters never intended for publication. But if these letters have something important to add to historical information, maybe that can be justified. Personally I dislike the idea of ‘schools’ or allegance to one way of doing things. Always feels to me like people forming a gang, or taking sides, rather than anything to do with music. And hey, there’s plenty of egotism and pomposity alive and well in the piping world today!! I have much regard for those on the high road and have friends there, but I’ll stick to the low road–you learn a lot there, and rumour has it I’ll be in Scotland afore ye anyway!!

  19. BillLivingstone

    What a wonderful exchange this has started. And Reay, as a true admirer of RSM, I echo Mike Grey….we need to hear so much more from you. And migawd, what narcissism and grandiosity from the coal miner from Slammanan (sp?)

  20. NeillMulvie

    I am not sure Reid’s letters tell us much about piping but much more about Reid himself. To be frank I think they could have been more usefully published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology

  21. Stripp

    If Robert Reid was still alive I wonder if he would hold the same opinion. I think he would maintain his view. However from what I have figured out over my short time only starting in the late 90s piob has evolved more and in fact I was told that even by listening to the Donald Macleod tutorials piob is not played the same today as it was when Donald was in his prime, and the tunes are played a bit up tempo from when these masters performed them. So in saying that my question as a student would be what is the right way of playing any given tune? I mean if it’s interpretation and there are so many different styles of playing these tunes how can anyone possibly ever play or better yet judge them accurately. It is all really what each person likes or dislikes. Robert Reid’s mistake if you wanna call it that was vocalizing his thoughts and going as far as writing them and mailing them out. Perhaps these letters should have stayed private as Robert Reid and Dr. Macleod probably intended. After reading these responses I now have a different view of Robert Reid. I think I would have rather kept my initial thoughts that he was a pioneer and not some bitter man that had blinders on. And there are lots of self righteous pipers out there as we all know. It’s harmless really. From the low road. Steve Tripp.

  22. Stripp

    Jim, although I always leave my name on my posts I have to say it is not easy. I think it is fear of what others might think of my comments. The other possibility is those anoymous posters are competing and may very well be judged by one of those on this thread and would not want to disagree with them. I myself am comfortable letting you all know who I am due to the fact given an opportunity to speak with you or anyone else in person would have no problem telling you my thoughts or opinions regardless. I just started back after roughly 13 years of absence from competing but know you guys all too well to think that what I say on this forum would affect a result on the boards from any of you. The other factor that I thought about prior to posting was who am I to add a comment amongst the likes of what I consider people I strive to be like and masters in their own right. The other reason I second guess adding my name is due to the fact that at band all your mates will be criticising your remarks. I have always been kinda outspoken and probably to my dismay. I guess the true reason I comment and post my name is that I really don’t care who reads it. In my work environment I learned to grow thick skin. Years ago you would have never heard a peep from me. 1. Because I was too nervous and shy. And 2. I never had access to any electronics growing up on my fathers farm in Trout Creek Ontario. Actually didn’t have electricity for the first 6 years of my life. I am happy to be able to have discussions with you guys and be included because I learn new stuff all the time. Thank you and the rest of the people for sharing their thoughts. Steven Tripp.

  23. MichaelGrey

    To Stripp and Joan – and anyone else who glommed on to my throwaway “low road” comment: I was referring to those on the low road as those who thought the worst of people [Reid, in this case] – nothing else. High roaders being those fair, thoughtful types like, Reay Sutherland Mackay – people I aspire to be more like. The silly reference had nothing to do with ability to play the bagpipe. Sorry to read some thought the worst.

  24. Rooklidge

    A bit late here, but I’ll play. Tough to judge a man in private correspondence who was ill and mourning the loss of his wife. If being a nasty were a disqualifier, S. MacNeill would not be very well regarded either. I truly enjoy the man’s playing and the pitches warm the cockles. He seemed to have felt slighted in the past and the festering resentment comes off in his words and tapes, but I would have loved to spend an afternoon in his shop listening to his opinion. Anyone who bought a British motorcycle from Cliff Majhor knows how entertaining someone can be that holds his voice as unassailable. The interesting thing is that he holds his playing as that given to him by McD-G and the Camerons with the impression that he added nothing to it of his own. Strange that his pride did not include his own contributions to the music. His Highland Wedding arrangement is truly “Gilbert and Sullivan stuff”. :)

    About the use of handle rather than names: there was a time when spam ruled the earth and putting your name out there invited a full inbox. I don’t fault those that wish to remain anonymous. Anonymity added an immense amount of interest to reading the Oban Times back in the day. If we only skim comments from those with handles, then we are assuming they have no valid voice. This is a shame indeed.

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UPCOMING EVENTS February 25, 2015Red Hot Chilli PipersThe Venue, Peterborough, Ontario

February 27, 2015MacKenzie Caledonian in Concert

TIP OF THE DAY
Do not be frightened to throw out synthetic reeds. Like everything else they have a shelf life and you can hang on to them for too long. If your drones start to become unsteady – bite the bullet.
Euan Anderson, Edinburgh