The 2014 Raspberry Awards

Published: January 3, 2015

It’s time again for my annual Raspberry Awards, now in its third year, where we highlight some of the more epic fails from the last 12 months. The year 2014 had so many contenders that I’m almost out of slavers, and one that deserved the biggest, most sloppy splutter doesn’t even bear repeating. Like Toronto Mayor Rab Ford, let’s just be thankful it’s over.

And now, my 2014 Raspberry Awards . . .


The Harry Tung Band Management Award

Inveraray_logoFollowing the theme of last year’s rant, yer pal Harry likes to start with a bit of bright news. He delivered a virtual pat on the back last year to SFU and SLOT for the way they handled their changes of command, and in 2014 Inveraray & District Pipe Band made a pretty big change in the leadership team that seemed to go well for the band. Replacing the long-serving and very involved Dougie Campbell with Alasdair Henderson turned out to be a solid move for the band, which won its first Grade 1 major in 2014, and narrowly missed winning the World’s.


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All-stars trying luck at 8th annual P-M’s Wheel of Fortune

Published: January 2, 2015

Douglas Murray, winner of last year’s P-M’s Wheel of Fortune competition, receives the silver tankard trophy from Harry McNulty, one of the judges at the 2014 event.

The Pipe-Major’s Wheel of Fortune Solo Piping Competition continues to be one the world’s more inventive contests, and the eighth annual edition on February 7th and Edinburgh will again attract some of the best pipers in Scotland, including 2014 pipes|drums’ Solo Piper of the Year Douglas Murray.

Organized by the Grade 2 City of Edinburgh Pipe Band, the 2014 Pipe-Major’s Wheel of Fortune winner Murray will be joined by Callum Beaumont, Alasdair Henderson, Brian Lamond, Angus J. MacColl, Angus Nicholson, Lee Moore and Niall Stewart in the competition, which combines the playing of traditional music with creative fun.

Among other requirements, each competitor must tell a funny story or joke and spin a golden chanter that determines the content of their medley. Depending where the chanter stops, a contestant will have to include tunes in their selection by a specific composer or musical genre, with results determined by audience and selected judges’ votes.

The competition will be held again at the Danderhall Miners Club just outside of Edinburgh, and starts at 12:15, doors at 11:30 am.

While most of the competitors are well known solo pipers Lee Moore will bravely maintain the tradition of a member of the City of Edinburgh Pipe Band participating. A member previously of the Grade 1 St. Laurence O’Toole, Moore recently joined City of Edinburgh, and is also Pipe-Major and piping instructor of the Preston Lodge High School Pipe Band.

(Updated) Easton starts New Year with a bang


Stuart Easton

Waipu, New Zealand – January 1, 2015 – The 144st Waipu Highland Games kicked off the New Year for the world’s pipers and drummers, and Stuart Easton emerged the most successful in the Professional solo piping event, with three firsts, two seconds and a third. The events were judged by Stuart Findlayson, Bain McGregor and Greg Wilson.

In the solo drumming, Louis Norton won the overall A-Grade Robert Turner Championship Trophy. Corryn Parry took the aggregate of B-Grade award, winner of the Clan Cameron Trophy for overall C-Grade was David Mouat-Cortes, and the D-Grade Piping Hot Summer Drummer Trophy went to Nathan Ballantyne.

Solo Piping
Helen McGregor Memorial Medley

1st Stuart Easton
2nd Willie Rowe
3rd Liam Kernaghan
4th Stewart McKenzie

1st Willie Rowe, “Lament for Captain MacDougall”
2nd Stuart Easton, “Nameless Cheradee Darievea”
3rd Marion Horsburgh, “Lament for the Children”
4th Liam Kernaghan, “Lachlan MacNeil Campbell of Kintarbert’s Fancy”

1st Liam Kernaghan
2nd Stuart Easton
3rd Marion Horsburgh
4th Willie Rowe

Strathspey & Reel
1st Stuart Easton
2nd Stewart McKenzie
3rd Liam Kernaghan
4th Marion Horsburgh

1st Stewart McKenzie
2nd Liam Kernaghan
3rd Stuart Easton
4th Willie Rowe

Hornpipe & Jig
1st Stuart Easton
2nd Willie Rowe
3rd Liam Kernaghan
4th Geoff Hallberg

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The 13th annual pipes|drums New Year’s Honours!

Published: December 31, 2014

NewYears_Pipers_2013_02_medIt’s been another great year for world piping and drumming, and, as pipes|drums has done since 2001, we bring you the annual pipes|drums New Year’s Honours!

We put together a panel of experts who closely watched the scene, following pipes|drums every day, and they provided their selections in the different categories. As always, we strived to ensure that each had no overlapping bias or interest, and, as such, leave them anonymous to better maintain their influence, or lack of it.

We have two categories for pipers: one strictly for solo competition success and the other for all pipers for all of their work in the art. The decline in the release of new collections of music continues, and those are again considered in the general “Product of the Year” category.

In every area there was strong debate and votes were close. To be sure, any band, person or product mentioned deserves huge praise.

Congratulations to all winners on their impressive, prestigious success!

(Two-three-paced) drum rolls please . . .

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Northcote Invitational swept by Kernaghan

Published: December 30, 2014

Liam Kernaghan competing at the 2014 Northcote Invitational.

Northcote, New Zealand – December 29, 2014 – Liam Kernaghan of Dunedin, New Zealand, won both events at the second annual Auckland & District Pipe Band Northcote Invitational Challenge Solo Piping Competition, which required contestants to play a double MSR and a Freestyle Medley. The informal competition was held outside in grand New Zealand summer weather. As the previous winner of the competition, Martin Frewen judged both events.

1st Liam Kernaghan
2nd Stuart Easton
3rd Willie Rowe
4th Benjamin McGlaughlin

1st Liam Kernaghan
2nd Stuart Easton
3rd Benjamin McGlaughlin
4th Scott Armstrong

Do you have competition results? You are welcome to send them by email to pipes|drums along with photographs and details of the event. Please be sure to use the format above, and send as a standard text file.

pipes|drums’ Top 10 news stories of 2014

Published: December 28, 2014

It was another year of ups and downs, of highs and lows, of contraband and confiscation, of comings and goings.

We’ve looked at the more than 300 stories we brought to pipes|drums readers over the last 12 months, and here are our Top 10 News Stories of 2014.

Let’s count them down . . .

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Winter Storm tracking for record windfall attendance

Published: December 27, 2014

WinterStorm_logoWith about a week to go the annual Winter Storm in Kansas City, Missouri, has 186 solo piping and drumming competition entries and is expecting more than 350 students at the workshop – potentially record numbers for the thirteenth annual event, this time January 9-11, 2015.

The previous record for solo entries was 160 in 2014.

Further, according to organizer Cliff Davis, the Saturday night concert featuring instructors and major winners is trending towards a sell-out, with very few of the 1,000 tickets still available.

The Friday Gold Medal Piobaireachd, Gold Medal Light Music-Qualifier and Final, Gold Medal Snare Drumming Final, and the Awards Ceremony will be streamed live for free, as will the Saturday evening concert. The Midwest Highland Arts Fund has started an Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign to offset the costs of the streaming.

Instructors and judges at the 2015 edition of Winter Storm include Brian Donaldson, Ken Eller, John Fisher, Roddy MacLeod, Willie McCallum, Doug Stronach and Jack Taylor.

Winter Storm is also hosting the ANAPBA Summit, about which Davis said, “We have arranged luxury meeting space for the two day Summit at the Simpson House which is one block from the Winter Storm campus. We’ll also cater award-winning Kansas City BBQ lunch on Saturday to the ANAPBA attendees.”

Merry Christmas and all the best from pipes|drums!

Published: December 24, 2014

As the world’s pipers and drummers take a collective break, pipes|drums Magazine wishes all of our readers a Merry Christmas! It’s been another great year for us, and we thank you for keenly following us throughout 2014. We counted just more than 300,000 unique visitors  and more than one-million visits overall to the magazine in the last 12 months, accounting for more than 4.5-million page-views in 2014 alone!

We brought our readers more than 50 full-length feature articles and, overall, more than 400 original stories came your way in 2014 – by far our most active year. We couldn’t do it without the help of the world’s best writers on piping and drumming.

We also launched our newest design in March, elevating us to a completely new level!

These are the people who provided you their insight and wisdom, whether through interviews, feature stories or reviews, over the last year:

  • Euan Anderson
  • Chris Armstrong
  • Andrew Bonar
  • Malkie Bow
  • Glenn Brown
  • Jeannie Campbell
  • Meagan Canning
  • Ryan Canning
  • Willie Donaldson
  • Ken Eller
  • Andrew Fuller
  • Michael Grey
  • Jenny Hazzard
  • Patricia Henderson
  • Nick Hudson
  • Graham Kirkwood
  • Jack Lee
  • Bill Livingstone
  • Bob MacCrimmon
  • Iain MacDonald
  • James MacHattie
  • Kylie MacHattie
  • Peter MacKenzie
  • Colin MacLellan
  • Mike MacNeil
  • Derek Maxwell
  • Liz Maxwell
  • Willie McCallum
  • Jim McGillivray
  • Gary Moore
  • Duncan Nicholson
  • Gareth Rudolph
  • The late Bill Sawyer
  • Peter Sinclair
  • Anne Spalding
  • Jack Taylor
  • Harry Tung
  • Eric Ward
  • Gary West
  • Bob Worrall

To all of them and the dozens more who provided news tips, predictions, data and comments during 2014 – thank you!

And we especially want to thank our subscribers and advertisers. These are the folks who allow us to maintain pipes|drums, because the magazine is completely nonprofit – all proceeds are plowed back in to maintenance and development. We appreciate your support and will continue to work to ensure that we return great value on your investment.

For those of you who don’t yet subscribe, but have enjoyed pipes|drums, we encourage you to invest a nickel a day to have access to all of the magazine’s current and archived content. And remember to shop from our advertisers – these organizations are not only top-flight purveyors of drumming and piping product, but they are true patrons of our arts.

If you thought 2014 was a good year for pipes|drums, just wait’ll you see what we have in store for 2015.

From all of the staff here in the north tower of the editorial wing of the GHB Communications here in Building 1 on the pipes|drums campus, have a Merry Christmas and all the best for a terrific 2015!

World associations to convene at ANAPBA Summit

Published: December 23, 2014

ANAPBA_LogoThe RSPBA, Pipe Bands Australia, Scottish Pipe Band Association of South America and, possibly, the Royal New Zealand Pipe Band Association will join the nine-member Alliance of North American Pipe Band Associations (ANAPBA) in Kansas City, Missouri, January 9-11, during the annual Winter Storm Weekend.

It is the first ANAPBA Summit in four years, the last meeting being in Salt Lake City, Utah, in February 2011.

Most representatives will attend in-person, and according to ANAPBA Chair Jeff Mann, who is also President of the Western United States Pipe Band Association, “a variety of topics” will be discussed, specifically:

  • U.S. border issues
  • Mini-MSR
  • Grade 4 and Grade 5 vs. Grade 4A and Grade 4B
  • Several minor contest rules

A recent US Customs & Border Protection crackdown on piping and drumming adjudicators from other countries coming to judge in the United States has resulted in many games committees and associations in the US scrambling either to button down paperwork or find domestic judges. At least one adjudicator has reportedly been banned outright from entering the United States for any reason.

The Mini-MSR discussion will be about the possible introduction of a March, Strathspey & Reel comprising two-parted tunes for lower grade bands, rather than the traditional minimum of four-parts for each.

The agenda item on Grade 4 and Grade 5 pertains to the thought that, in North America a popular Grade 5 category exists, while the RSPBA divides Grade 4 into two halves, with no Grade 5 category. Grade 5 bands, without special dispensation, are unable to compete in RSPBA events.

Mann said that Brigadier David Alfrey from the Edinburgh Tattoo will make a presentation to the group.

In 2009-’10 a Las Vegas Invitational Pipe Band Championship was planned with the cooperation of ANAPBA and Mann’s management. Bands were to be brought in from around the world, but the event was abruptly scuttled, with the 2008 recession blamed for its demise.

Started in 1998 with an aim “to advance the development and quality of pipers, drummers, and pipe bands across North America, ANAPBA consists of:

  • Alberta Society of Pipers & Drummers
  • Atlantic Canada Pipe Band Association
  • British Columbia Pipers Association
  • Eastern United States Pipe Band Association
  • Midwest Pipe Band Association
  • Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario
  • Prairie Pipe Band Association of Manitoba
  • Saskatchewan Pipe Band Association
  • Western United States Pipe Band Association

The subject of the RSPBA regrading non-RSPBA-member bands apparently is not on the agenda. RSPBA Chair Kevin Reilly, at a previous ANAPBA Summit assured the North American associations that it would stop regrading bands, and practice grading reciprocity. Since that time, the RSPBA has frequently regraded non-member bands, most recently the EUSPBA-member Stuart Highlanders of Massachusetts.

New UK solo piping judging group set up

Published: December 19, 2014

The Solo Piping Judges’ Association (SPJA) has been created as the new governing and organizing body in the United Kingdom for adjudication at the major senior solo piping competitions.

The SPJA will be responsible for maintaining the list of judges deemed suitable for judging major contests.

“Discussing judging matters through the Joint Committee for Judging (JCJ) has become impractical as these are often not relevant to competition organizers,” SPJA Secretary Jack Taylor said in a news release, which also shared that “the SPJA is run and managed exclusively by judges and will liaise closely with the Competing Pipers’ Association. The previous situation with three judge representatives was rather informal, and the new arrangements aim to ensure that those best qualified are judging, and that judges have the chance to develop and update their knowledge and skills. The twice yearly judges’ seminars have been successful in doing that, and they will continue.

“There is not a lot of difference from the previous set-up. The Joint Committee for Judging was established to bring together competition organizers, judges, and pipers to discuss matters of common interest. Whilst there were, and are, areas of common interest, it became clear that the pipers had their specific issues, the judges had theirs, and the competition organizers had theirs, and it wasn’t relevant to talk about these within the large committee which consisted of representatives from each group. The pipers were well represented by the CPA, but the judges had no specific structure.  There were three representatives whose job it was to maintain the judges list.  This was a fairly informal arrangement.”

The initial managing committee of the SPJA comprises Andrew Wright, Chairman; Taylor; Colin MacLellan and Ronnie McShannon, with an additional member to be appointed in 2015.

The Joint Committee for Judging has also been renamed the Joint Committee for Solo Piping Competitions (JCSPC) and “will refocus on providing a new, broader platform for competition organizers, judges and competitors to discuss issues arising in solo contests including maintaining standards and encouraging innovation.”

The JCSPC comprises representatives from various major competitions and groups, including the Piobaireachd Society, the Northern Meeting and the Argyllshire Gathering, and will now add representatives from the Glenfiddich Championship and the Piping Live! Masters.

The SPJA’s list of judges are categorized in light music and piobaireachd each as “Senior” or “Approved,” currently with 47 judges based in the UK and 10 non-UK.

Unlike virtually every country where solo piping competitions are available, there is no single association in the UK that governs rules, judges or grading. The traditional solo competition system in Great Britain adheres to only two general classifications: “Senior,” for those 18 and older, and “Junior,” for those under 18.

The Competing Pipers Association grades Senior pipers, but relatively few competitions adhere to the system, with mainly the major events following the classifications.

Also unlike essentially the rest of the world, there is no formal accreditation or testing or training system for solo piping judges in the UK, nor defined criteria or competition success prerequisite for who is eligible to adjudicate, thus enabling pipers who have never competed at a high level to judge even the most major contests.

Taylor, a doctor who had to go through a rigorous training, testing and ongoing education in order to practice medicine and maintain his practice throughout his career, said that there are currently no plans to bring in any form of accreditation.

About 100 pipers in the UK regularly compete in Senior solo contests in the UK.

A gift subscription: the thoughtful present for pipers and drummers!


Unless it’s to a greedy pipe-major or leading-drummer, why give 12 drummers drumming or 11 pipers piping when, if you were a real true love, you could give a far more useful and realistic present to that special piper or drummer in your life?

Give a gift subscription to pipes|drums Magazine!

We offer an easy way for those looking for a last-minute special something for that special someone, with delivery right on Christmas Day, or whatever day you prefer.

What’s more (or less, as the case may be), at only $14.99 (about £8.25) for an entire year of access to both subscriber-only and free content on pipes|drums, that’s an incredible four cents a day.

Isn’t your piper/drummer BFF worth four cents a day?

And a two-year subscription of $24.99 (£13.75) works out to astounding value of only three cents per day!

To send your gift, simply go to our Gift Subscription page, fill out the quick form, and designate when you would like your own gift email message to be delivered to your lucky piper, drummer or piping and drumming enthusiast.

You can be extra proud of your savvy choice knowing that pipes|drums is nonprofit, meaning we don’t pocket a nickel from the whole endeavor, with all subscription and advertising income plowed back in to the operation or donated to worthwhile nonprofit piping and drumming causes.

And while your securing your gift subscription, be sure to check out the fine array of gift ideas from pipes|drums advertisers, who also know excellent value and a great cause when they see it!

From the Archives: Lodgings on a cold, cold ground

Published: December 16, 2014

We put together the following piece for the February 1998 issue of the now-defunct paper Piper & Drummer magazine.

John McLellan, DCM

It’s natural for pipers and drummers to hope the graves of our post-greats suitably reflect their contribution to the art. The great composer Roddie Campbell’s plot is pristinely adorned with living roses, the grass beautifully kempt. The piping genius G.S. McLennan’s site, on the other hand, is a disappointment: difficult to find, overgrown, and seemingly forgotten in a defunct cemetery in Edinburgh.

When we set out to find the final resting place of John McLellan, DCM, one of piping’s greatest composers, we sent our investigators to Dunoon, the Argyll town that’s synonymous with McLellan and, of course, Cowal Games.

Recognized by most as a genius of melody, “Jock” McLellan’s masterworks include “Lochanside,” “Highland Brigade at Magersfontein,” and the tune now known as “Road to the Isles,” which was originally entitled “The Bens of Jura.” He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1900 for his gallantry as a piper at Magersfontein in the Anglo-Boer Wars. In the First World War, he battled alongside Willie Lawrie in the 8th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders until Lawrie was invalided to England. McLellan took over as Pipe Major of the 8th Argylls from James Wilson in 1919. He wrote lyrics for many of his tunes, and was also an accomplished poet.

The final resting place of the great John McLellan, DCM, at Dunoon Cemetery.

On the Dunoon waterfront a commemorative plaque in homage to “Jock” McLellan cites his achievements in and contributions to Scottish music. But we really wanted to find his burial site, and, after seeing the plaque, thought that surely McLellan would have a massive monument erected to him in Dunoon Cemetery.

We were saddened to discover that the great John McLellan is indeed buried there, but in an unmarked grave. After two thorough visits, our faithful and dedicated reporters couldn’t find a marker for him, and then resorted to contacting the records office of the Argyll & Bute Council, which got back to us with information on McLellan’s plot.

According to the Campbeltown Courier of August 13, 1949 – which the council very kindly sourced for us – McLellan’s funeral was quite a grand affair: “The funeral, which took place to [sic.] Dunoon Cemetery was attended by a large and representative gathering, including a great number of ex-Servicemen. Pipers who attended played the lament ‘The Flowers of the Forest’ as the cortege made its way to the cemetery and later played ‘Lochanside’, one of the Pipe Major’s own compositions.”

According to the Observer and Argyllshire Standard of August 6, 1949, the pipers who played were Pipe-Major George D. MacDonald, Pipe-Major James Wilson, and pipers David and George Smith.

The actual plot in which John McLellan rests is marked with the stone of one “A. McK. Henderson” of the Royal Scots. Apparently, John McLellan’s grandmother, who is said to have raised him, is buried in the same plot.

We are pleased to report that, because of the Piper & Drummer’s unfortunate discovery that the great John McLellan’s grave is unmarked, a move is on in Dunoon to erect a marble stone to mark his final resting place. Readers interested in getting more information on this project are encouraged to contact the Argyll and Bute Council, Area Office, Manse Brae, Lochgilphead, Argyll PA31 8OU Scotland.

Our thanks to Jean Towie and Margaret Wilson for their help with this piece.

Update: Despite some efforts since this piece appeared 16 years ago, John McLellan’s grave is still unmarked.

Canterbury convincing win at Jenny Mair Highland Square Day

Published: December 13, 2014

Canterbury_logoPalmerston North, New Zealand – December 13, 2014 – Next to the national championships, the Jenny Mair Highland Square Day is the biggest pipe band contest of the New Zealand season, and Canterbury Caledonian emerged victorious with first places in each of the Medley and MSR Grade 1 events. Weather was warm and sunny in the morning, but became blustery and cold by the afternoon, and then calm and warm by the time results were announced. Grade 1 and Grade 2 competed together.

Grade 1 & 2
1st Canterbury Caledonian
2nd Manawatu Scottish
3rd Auckland & Districts
4th New Zealand Police
5th Northland Caledonian (Gr2)

1st Canterbury Caledonian (1,1,1,1)
2nd Auckland & Districts (2,3,3,2)
3rd Manawatu Scottish (3,2,2,4)
4th New Zealand Police (4,4,4,3)
5th Northland Caledonian (Gr2) (5,5,5,5)
Judges: Martin Frewen, F. Jones (piping); A. Roach (ensemble); R. Levy (drumming)

1st Canterbury Caledonian (1,2,1,1)
2nd Manawatu Scottish (2,1,3,4)
3rd Auckland & Districts (3,3,4,2)
4th New Zealand Police (4,4,2,3)
5th Northland Caledonian (Gr2) (5,5,5,5)
Judges: A. MacKenzie, Philip Mair (piping); L. Turnbull (ensemble); J. Hilliard (drumming)

Canterbury Caledonian competing at the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships.

Grade 3 Overall
1st Celtic
2nd Wellington Red Hackle
3rd Manawatu Scottish No. 2
4th City of Hastings
5th Auckland Police
6th City of Auckland
7th City of Wellington

Grade 4 Overall
1st Scots College
2nd Hamilton Caledonian
3rd City of Tauranga
4th Manawatu Scottish No.3
5th Kapiti Coast
6th Te Puke & District
7th Wellington Regional Development

Do you have competition results? You are invited to send them by email to pipes|drums along with photographs and details of the event. Please be sure to use the format above, and send as a standard text file.

Asset Guardian Solutions backs Shotts with sponsorship

Published: December 12, 2014

The Grade 1 Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band of Shotts, Scotland, has struck a sponsorship deal with Asset Guardian Solutions Limited, a leading industrial software company. According to a statement from Shotts & Dykehead, the financial support will “enable the band to continue its evolution . . . and further develop links with young pipers and drummers.” as demonstrated in its recent, highly successful youth competition that it staged in partnership with North Lanarkshire Council.

The band said that Asset Guardian Solutions and its sister company Elite Control Systems have indirectly supported the band in the recent past, stemming from a relationship with the McAllister family, who have been closely connected with Shotts & Dykehead for most of the last century, including three former pipe-majors.

“The band is absolutely thrilled to announce our partnership with Asset Guardian Solutions Limited,” said Pipe-Major Ryan Canning. “It’s such an enormous job to run a band of this size, and having the support of Sam Mackay, our own Ewan McAllister, and the Asset Guardian Solutions team will go a long way towards helping us continue in our development.”

Shotts & Dykehead is arguably the most celebrated and award-winning pipe band in history, and one of the first great civilian non-police bands.

Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia competing in the Grade 1 Final at the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships, where it placed fifth.

Canning continued, “It’s also very meaningful to us that Asset Guardian Solutions is a local company, supporting a band in its own local community. It’s with the help of this kind of local support on which Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia was originally founded in 1910, and we’re very proud that Asset Guardian Solutions will be a part of our next chapter.”

Asset Guardian Solutions is headquartered in Livingston, Scotland, and is in the business of compliance, configuration management and disaster recovery of process critical software, with business around the world and annual revenues of approximately £2-million. Band member Ewan McAllister is a partner in the four-year-old company.

“We are happy that we can play our part in this success story,” said Sam Mackay, CEO of Asset Guardian Solutions. “Also, as a local lad myself, it will be nice to see our brand proudly displayed throughout the UK and especially when the band attends our local championships in Bathgate next year.”

McAllister said that the band’s name will remain the same, and only the placement of the Asset Guardian Solutions logo on the bass drum and bag covers is required.

Shotts & Dykehead under former Pipe-Major Robert Mathieson was sponsored by the House of Edgar, and changed its name during the endorsement. The band’s only other sponsorship was relatively informal support from Cummings engineering in the 1980s.

Stuart Highlanders promoted to Grade 1 . . . again

Published: December 11, 2014

Not often does a band have the honour of being moved up to Grade 1 two times by two different associations in the space of six months, but the Stuart Highlanders of Massachusetts are now the answer to a pipe band trivia question after the band’s home association officially upgraded them.

In May 2014 the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association upgraded the Stuart Highlanders without consulting the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association or the band itself. The group did not protest the move and competed at the World Pipe Band Championships in August in the premier grade, and placed ahead of several well-established Grade 1 bands.

The EUSPBA, however, kept the band in Grade 2 over the summer, waiting for due process to take place, and the official upgrade was announced as part of the association’s long list of band and solo changes.

As with the RSPBA upgrade, Stuart Highlanders Pipe-Major Adam Holdaway did not have advance notice of the move, though it was widely expected.

Stuart Highlanders competing in the Grade 1 Qualifier at the 2014 World Championships.

“I was very happy to hear the news myself,” Holdaway said. “The band is excited to be upgraded here at home, thus making our official grading consistent across all associations. On a personal note, I am so proud of the accomplishments of this organization and its members over the past several years. It is truly a testament to the dedication and vision of the membership.”

The band has made a rapid ascent since absorbing the remains of the Grade 1 Oran Mor Pipe Band of New York in 2013.

Also moved up was the Dunedin Pipe Band of Dunedin, Florida, which will compete in Grade 2. Among other prizes, Dunedin won the Grade 3 competition at the 2014 North American Championships at Maxville, Ontario.

Pipe-Major Iain Donaldson commented, “I am delighted with the upgrade to Grade 2 and equally gratified with the City of Dunedin Band Members’ dedication and commitment to raise the standard of piping and drumming in Dunedin. It’s a tremendous reward to see and hear students develop their skills and perform within this organization. The pipe band is a definite attraction for pipers and drummers relocating. In the past two years we have been fortunate that five members have made Dunedin their new home.”

Donaldson added that Dunedin’s first contest in Grade 2 will be Dunedin Highland Games on March 28th, saying that the competition has received a few inquiries from other Grade 2 bands. The group also plans to compete at the 2015 North American Championships and other contests next year.

The EUSPBA also moved to Grade 3 the City of Chattanooga and Saffron United, and, to Grade 4, Cyril Scott, Thomas I Hall Memorial, Grandfather Mountain Highlanders, and the Mohawk Valley Frasers.

Trailing Drones: Burning romance, The Fonz, Dixieland jazz and more . . .

Published: December 8, 2014

Harry’s been warming himself at the fire, which is an environmentally sensitive, high-efficiency, wood-burning stove that burns the family’s recycled paper. And does Harry have paper! First off, there is about 15 years’ worth of wee digest editorial, and then there are the years’ of adjudication sheets from the local games, where “experts” don’t always appreciate the full genius of Harry’s musicality. If you’ve got paper stocks of your own to use, Harry recommends this site for a little pre-reading, but be cautious when you do the mixing – the smell is unbearable. Harry saw some pretty toxic material in those old rags.

The fire’s going, a dram in hand, and Harry turns back to the Glenfiddich [See what he did there? The dram? The Glenfiddich?] and just has to say what a brilliant day of music that was. The live stream, which sounded fine despite Henrietta in the background grinding walnuts for the coffee cake, was again just a joy for the punters who couldn’t be there, and it seems to have enlivened the crowd at Blair Atholl, too. The near-ubiquitous Bob Worrall provided excellent insight and commentary, and only slipped once or twice into band-speak. Well done to Glenfiddich and the National Piping Centre too, for using the LiveStream as a fundraiser for the P-M Donald MacLeod Memorial competition.

Harry loves to see events supporting other events. As Yuletide approaches, bands need to know the roster, and now’s the time when there’s a bit of movement among rosters, especially in AU/NZ as the annual guest player frenzy will be heating up for the season there.

Donald MacPhee, heading for RSPBA panel?

Harry sees that Donald MacPhee will be retiring from Field Marshal Montgomery after some pretty great years with the band. Seems as though he might be missing a pretty big concert in 2016, but I suppose time will tell, and Donald’ll be that busy writing sheets for the RSPBA, he won’t have time to worry about it. Seriously, Mr. MacPhee is one of piping’s really good guys, and him coming on the panel anywhere should be a great addition to balanced and fair.

Big Donald’s from the Deep South (via Detroit Rock City), and Harry hears rumblings from Dixie about a few bands hoovering up players from the lower grades to make a few Grade 3 “superbands” (yes, apparently Grade 3 bands are now aping Grade 1 bands with massive rosters soaking up players from Grade 2). A number of Grade 5 and Grade 4 bands are simply folding in the southeastern USofA. I have to ask Why, why, why is this happening? Little fish, meet wee pond, I guess. Look away, look away, look away . . .

The RSPBA has apparently appointed a Music Board caretaker for piping, drumming, ensemble and drum majoring – a “go to” person to deal with discipline and other items. Names mentioned include Peter Snaddon (piping), Gordon Lawrie (ensemble) and Gordon Craig (drumming). The venerable John Wilson is the new RSPBA Music Board Chair, with Joe Noble and Vice-chair and Robert Mathieson as Secretary.

A. John Wilson‘s name has also come up as the possible new Principal of the College of Piping in Glasgow, and while Harry’s a little miffed he didn’t get the nod, he supposes that’ll be a breath of fresh air for all concerned. Like The Fonz used to say, Heeeeyyyyyy!

Speaking of Spongey, we were reminded of him and his Polkemmet band of the mid-1980s breaking “Itchy Fingers” into the top of the charts for the first time with this wee gem.

That was like a Bad Romance.

Get those tunes and scores learned, decide on the new solo tunes for 2015, and get stuck in for the winter months by the new fire. And, remember, send your burning questions, news and coal-scuttlebutt to


Piping Centre and College of Piping getting together

Published: December 6, 2014

The College of Piping & Celtic Performing Arts of Canada is making news again, this time announcing a collaboration with the National Piping Centre on a week-long sumer school in July 2015 in Summerside, Prince Edward Island.

It marks the first time that two major organizations dedicated to teaching piping have combined. The school will run from July 5th through 10th, with piping, drumming and pipe band classes and workshops on offer. According to organizers, pipe band workshops will probably be customized according to the needs of interested bands.

“Ever since I started here at the College I’ve been wondering about a collaboration, and Karen Hatcher and I threw around the idea from time to time,” said James MacHattie, Music Director at the College. “In August we sat down with [National Piping Centre Director] Roddy MacLeod in Glasgow to see if we could make a partnership work. He was very open to the idea, and we’ve struck an agreement to join forces and run a school jointly.”

Several National Piping Centre instructors will come to Summerside to join with College of Piping staff.

“I’m pretty excited for this,” MacHattie continued. “I love the idea of two organizations committed to instruction getting together, supporting each other and presenting a strong combined product.”

The College of Piping & Celtic Performing Arts of Canada was started in 1990. Among other early achievements under its first director, the late Scott MacAulay, the college had the foresight to secure the URL at the start of the Internet boom, despite the College of Piping in Glasgow having been around since 1947.

The National Piping Centre has held several summer schools in the United States, but none so far in Canada.

CoW and Manchester getting together for 2015

Published: December 4, 2014

It’s not a merger, but a “collaboration,” according to both the Grade 3 Manchester Pipe Band and the Grade 2 City of Washington pipe bands from the eastern United States, as they combine for the 2015 season.

The partnership will see the City of Washington Pipe-Major Dan Lyden and Pipe-Sergeant Ben McClamrock provide instruction to the Manchester group, and members of CoW competing with Manchester over the summer.

The move comes after the former Grade 1 CoW was on hiatus in 2014 due to a loss of personnel, following a gradual decline from the band’s stint in Grade 1 in the 2000s.

Manchester Pipe Band at Loon Mountain games, 2014.

According to a statement from Manchester, “the collaboration will accelerate the pace of development within MPB, improving access to high-quality instruction for MPB pipers, and redoubling MPB’s efforts to field a pipe band at the forefront of the grade.”

Each band will continue to run on its own, with individual practice schedules, except for combined monthly weekend practices in alternating locations. Manchester is based in Connecticut, several hours from Washington, DC.

The combined competition group will operate under the Manchester Pipe Band name, in Grade 3, and will be led by Pipe-Major Jared Otto and Leading-Drummer Wes Cole. They predict a roster in 2015 of at least 25 pipers, eight snare drummers, two tenors and a bass.

A source within the band said that 10 to 12 pipers will come into Manchester from CoW, and that the band’s drum section has added former members of the 78th Fraser Highlanders, Toronto Police, Oran Mor and the Stuart Highlanders, as well as a few Manchester alumni who have returned.

PEI College of Piping hoping to secure funding with public support

Published: December 2, 2014

The College of Piping & Celtic Performing Arts of Canada is looking to their supporters to help them gain funding to repair the organization’s rapidly corroding Mary Ellen Burns Amphitheatre, site of many events throughout the year, including its annual Highland Storm summer production, a primary source of revenue.

The College of Piping’s theatre is under constant repair.

The Summerside, Prince Edward Island-based college is part of a contest for funding, put on by Aviva Insurance, in a public-vote competition called the “Aviva Community Fund.” Organizations across Canada make a push for votes for their idea, and the College’s need is to upgrade its indoor-outdoor theatre.

The final round of voting started on December 1st and runs until December 10th. Supporters are permitted to vote once per day per email address at the contest website.

“[We’re] confident that we can make it through this round with the support of the greater pipe band community,” said James MacHattie, Music Director at the College. “The only investment asked is a few minutes to register and to vote daily.”

The College of Piping Pipe Band performing at the theatre in the summer.

MacHattie added that the 350-person-capacity theatre’s structure is metal, covered by tent panels in the summer, but the that “the panels have been repaired and patched as much as they can be – and yet the ceiling leaks, which is a concern for the light and sound equipment, let alone the performers moving about the stage. Spectators don’t usually like unexpected drips either. The seats are wooden benches with cushions on them. The backs are stiff and bolt upright. The theatre is old, and the amount of volunteer and staff hours put into simply maintaining it each year is finally unsupportable.”

MacDougall, Stewart take top trophies at Shotts Junior Championship

Published: November 30, 2014

Shotts, Scotland – November 29, 2014 – The first annual Shotts & Dykehead Junior Piping & Drumming Championship was held at Calderhead High School in Shotts. pipes|drums made a cash contribution, sponsoring the 18 and Under and 15 and Under overall trophies, which were won by Cameron MacDougall and Donald Stewart, respectively. Each first prize winner also received a one-year subscription to the magazine.

The competition is put on with the assistance of North Lanarkshire Council, and was judged by several  piping Gold Medalists and World Solo Drumming Champions.

“When we set out organizing this event, I think we all concentrated on getting the thing to run smoothly from a competitor’s point of view and making sure that everyone had the best experience on the day,” said Ewan McAllister of Shotts & Dykehead. “What we didn’t fully appreciate until after the event is the actual cost of hosting it. Without the fantastic support of North Lanarkshire Council, pipes|drums, Scott Currie Ltd., Jim Kilpatrick Percussion, TyFry Ltd. and many others, financially, these events would simply not be viable. Hopefully, we have established a strong enough brand and with [continuing] support . . . can make it last for at least a few years.”

Solo Piping
18 and Under
1st Cameron MacDougall
2nd John Drew
3rd Fraser Hogg
Judges: Glenn Brown, Finlay Johnston

1st Cameron MacDougall
2nd John Dew
3rd Gregor Stewart
4th Andrew Hutton
5th Fraser Hogg
Judges: Glenn Brown, Ryan Canning, Finlay Johnston

Slow Air (Two Parts)
1st Calum Ramsay
2nd Harrison Bishop
3rd Robert Mitchell
4th Amy McIntyre
5th Leah Harvey
Judge: Ryan Canning

1st Craig Peters
2nd Calum Ramsay
3rd Cameron Cleland
4th Ailidh McDermid
5th Nicholas Knowles
6th Simon McAlphine-Scott
Judge: Ryan Canning

15 and Under
1st Angus MacPhee
2nd Donald Stewart
3rd Bethany Hanley
4th Lewis Russell
5th Holly Frelander
6th Jordan Ednie
Judges: Chris Armstrong, Callum Beaumont

1st Lewis Russell
2nd Donald Stewart
3rd Jamie Campbell
4th Paul Christie
5th Holly Fredlander
6th James Miller
Judges: Cameron Drummond, Peter Hunt

Ground of Piobaireachd
1st Brodie Watson-Massey
2nd Blair Dickinson
3rd Paul Christie
4th Douglas Mair
5th Jack Smith
6th Cameron MacLeod
Judges: Chris Armstrong, Callum Beaumont

Solo Drumming
18 and Under
1st Chloe Taylor
2nd Lachlan Kyle
3rd Rachel Thom
4th Lee McIver
5th Fingal Hall
6th = Niamh Brophy, Rory Power
Judges: Arthur Cook, Jim Kilpatrick

Sticks & Pad
1st Jack Menneer
2nd Heather Dillon
3rd Abigail Hall
4th Millie Wright
5th Sally Weir
6th Caitlyn Malloy
Judge: Jim Kilpatrick

1st Callum Edwards
2nd Conner Hart
3rd Alistair Joyce
Judges: Jim Baxter, Arthur Cook, Paul Turner

18 and Under MSR
1st Rhiannon McAleese
2nd Alison Geal
3rd Heather Nimmo
5th Kirsty Lennon
6th Nicole Kirk
Judges: Amanda Cook, Sharleen Donaldson

15 and Under March
1st Lexy Letham
2nd Kirsty McCron
3rd Phoebe King
4th Joanna Merrilees
5th Lucy Carroll
6th = Jane Mitchell, Katy Robson
Judges: Amanda Cook, Sharleen Donaldson

Do you have competition results? You are invited to send them by email to pipes|drums along with photographs and details of the event. Please be sure to use the format above, and send as a standard text file.

The Style Guy: tassel hassles, willynilly ghillies and back in black


Been awhile, and it’s getting to be a long, cold lonely winter, at least for those north of the equator, but me, I’m writing this from my Tahitian beach house, where the national dress is a grass skirt. For those who like to don the tartan, I’m here to address your questions of dress and deportment.

Remember, you, too, can approach The Style Guy with your wonderings of wandering ensemble.

So let’s get right at the letters addressed to me, The Style Guy, shall we?

We shall!

Continue reading

Pipers go back to College for Echoes of Oban

Published: November 29, 2014

Dugald MacNeill of the College of Piping at the 2014 Echoes of Oban recital

Glasgow’s College of Piping enjoyed the strongest turnout of performers and enthusiasts perhaps since the 1970s for the annual “Echoes of Oban” recital, and event that showcases and celebrates prizewinners from the most recent Argyllshire Gathering.

Among the performers taking the College of Piping stage were Roddy MacLeod and Willie McCallum, each of whom had not appeared at any event at the venue for many years

Other recitalists were Cameron MacDougall (winner of the MacGregor Memorial); Scott Barrie (second in the MacGregor); Alistair Henderson (prizes in the A-grade light music); and Craig Sutherland, who won both the March and the Strathspey & Reel A-Grade events.

MacDougall played “The Old Men of the Shells,” starting the tune at the door and making his way up to the stage while playing the ground. Scott Barrie followed with “The MacKays’ Banner,” also without tuning in front of the audience.

Dugald MacNeill (left) presents the College of Piping Services Award to Sandy Grant Gordon of William Grant & Sons.

Light music was supplied by Alistair Henderson with an MSR and a set of six big jigs, before Roddy MacLeod concluded the first half of the evening with the ground of “Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay” and an MSR.

Fear an tighe Dugald MacNeill then presented the inaugural College of Piping Award for Services to Piping to Sandy Grant Gordon, the head of William Grant & Sons, who have supported piping events for more than 50 years, mostly with the Glenfiddich brand.

After the intermission, then second half started with part of the film that was made of the Inveraray & District Pipe Band walking the West Highland Way in 2008. The video was played because Stuart Liddell was unable to attend, and he film included jigs played in a pub in Balmaha at the end of the first day’s walking, and “The Massacre of Glencoe” as the background music farther along the route.

Craig Sutherland continued with two airs and a double MSR, and Willie McCallum rounded off the night with 6/8 marches and an MSR.

Echoes of Oban was an annual event in the 1960s and ’70s, faded out in the early-1980s, but was resurrected about five years ago.

In August of this year, Robert Wallace abruptly left the College of Piping after 15 years, and the organization has continued since without any apparent challenges.



Invercargill on the L-D search again after Esler departs

Published: November 27, 2014

The Grade 1 ILT City of Invercargill Highland Pipe Band of New Zealand is looking for a leading-drummer once again after Russell Esler decided to return to Scotland, following only a year in the paid positon.

Pipe-Major Alasdair Mackenzie said that if his band finds the right person to fit into the role he hopes never to have to search again for a lead-tip.

“It’s a perfect opportunity for someone to do a bit of travelling, see the world, inspire youth, do what you love to do for a job and get paid for it,” Mackenzie said. “[New Zealand] is one of the most unreal locations in the world. It would give someone one hell of an opportunity.”

The band is only a year removed from settling on Esler, who emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand following a strong experience with the Grade 1 ScottishPower Pipe Band. Esler decided in the New Zealand spring to return to Glasgow and will rejoin ScottishPower under new leading-Drummer Jake Jørgensen, who himself joined the band about the same time following Barry Wilson’s retirement.

ILT City of Invercargill Scottish at the 2013 New Zealand Championships.

“My time in New Zealand was quite an experience,” Esler said. “It is an amazing country and I met some great people who I continue to keep in touch with. I was particularly encouraged with the drive and commitment of the young drummers who were either in the existing Grade 4 or 4B Invercargill Pipe Bands or in earlier stages of development in local schools. I very much enjoyed teaching them and could see that with further development, they would eventually reach Grade 1 standard. The Grade 4 Pipe Band did very well at the New Zealand Nationals in January and this was in no small part also due to the efforts of my predecessor Scott Birrell.”

The Invercargill band is operated with sponsorship from the Southland Piping and Drumming Development Trust.

“I became frustrated because my goals for the competitive side of Pipe Band Drumming seemed to be at odds with the goals of the Trust. Also, locally and indeed further afield, recruiting experienced drummers seemed impossible. However, with the right systems and procedures in place and a pool of drummers to draw upon at Grade 1 level, the potential for a great set up is there.”

Esler added that the band “would have benefited from several more drummers, rather than having to rely on ‘fly-ins’ from other countries at competition time. We did however experience some success at the New Zealand Nationals, coming second in drumming – quite an achievement considering it was the first year at Grade 1. The judges were particularly supportive in our efforts and it was inspiring to get positive feedback and encouragement from them.”

Mackenzie said that the band invites interested applicants for the teaching and leadership position.

“Being distant from family and friends is tough,” Mackenzie said. “[Esler] returned home for personal reasons and so the search again begins. It is however a unique and exciting opportunity for somebody as there aren’t too many jobs like this in the world. Queenstown is like no other place on the planet.”

Drummers interested in the SPDDT job and the leading-drummer position should contact SPPDT’s Allister Macgregor.

ILT is an Invercargill-based non-profit foundation that distributes grants to the community from the proceeds of gaming machines.

Following a number of years with ScottishPower, Mackenzie himself emigrated from Glasgow several years ago to take on the pipe-majorship of Invercargill.

Denver Cardwell, 1943-2014


Denver Cardwell

The prolific RSPBA adjudicator Denver Cardwell died unexpectedly on November 26, 2014, at the age of 71.

A native of Northern Ireland and a resident of Portadown, Cardwell was a member of the now defunct Royal Ulster Constabulary Pipe Band in the 19070s and early-’80s. He joined the judges’ circle in the mid-1980s, and quickly became one of the most active on the panel.

He was often called upon to judge ensemble and, with most high-profile adjudicators of top-grade pipe band competitions, was frequently in the middle of controversy.

After leaving as a playing member of the RUC, he stayed close to the band in advisor and management capacities as the band gained success in Grade 2 and Grade 1 before breaking apart following the departure to Australia of Pipe-Major Nat Russell.

The funeral will be on Saturday November 29th, at the Methodist Church in Holywood, Co. Down, at 10:30 am.

We extend our condolences to Denver Cardwell’s family and friends at this sad time.

April 26John MacAskill wins under-16 March, SPA Competition, Glasgow, 1958. Capt. John A. MacLellan, MBE, dies, Edinburgh, 1991.
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UPCOMING EVENTS May 2, 2015Savannah Scottish Games & Highland GatheringBethesda Academy 9520 Ferguson Avenue Savannah GA

May 2, 2015The LivingstoneHamilton, Ontario

May 2, 2015Ogden Legion Indoor CompetitionCentennial High School 55 Sun Valley Boulevard S.E., Calgary, Alberta

May 9, 2015Kiwanis Amateur Piping/Drumming & Mini Band CompetitionLondon Central Secondary School, London, ON

May 9, 2015Bob Worrall RecitalThe London Club, 177 Queens Ave

Sunglasses should never be worn in competition. They don’t look cool. They’re uncool.
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