May 10, 2005

Tommy Pearston

I didn’t know Tommy Pearston, the co-founder of the College of Piping who died last week, but I knew of him and certainly liked watching him at competitions. He was small in stature and quiet in demeanor, and seemed the exact opposite of Seumas MacNeill, who was tall and skinny and never met a podium he didn’t like.

MacNeill was “Famous Seumas” while Tommy was just Tommy, as far as I knew. I really like the less-known people who make a strong impact on the piping world, and the Piper & Drummer tries to bring these folks to the fore as much as possible. Of course, because of their natural reticence, it’s often difficult to draw them out. Willie Kinnear, Edith MacPherson, and Hugh Cheape are just a few of the less-known people who have been profiled.

For this reason, too, we sometimes overlook those who deserve better. Tommy Pearston would have been a great interview. His side of the College of Piping story and his view of Seumas certainly would have made fascinating and important reading. The fact that Seumas MacNeill, who had so little time for anyone who wasn’t an intellectual challenge, had so much time and respect for Tommy Pearston says a lot about Pearston as a person.

Beth Orton on Central Reservation sings that “Regrets are just things you haven’t done yet.” So, I greatly regret not thinking of Tommy Pearston until now, and it’s too late.





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