A smaller turnout saw around 10 pipers take to the floor and this gave little bit time to work on the sound. The chanters, set to a lower pitch of 478, allows a nice balance to be achieved when playing different makes.
The band had a solid run through a number of tunes before the pies. The post pie piper was Andrew Yu who, due to band commitments, has not been with us for some time. Andrew settled the pipe with a few light music tunes before giving us a lovely Lament for Captain MacDougall. Andrew is in practice for the SPA contest that is coming up this weekend and he has a very good grasp of this tune which should stand him in good stead.
‘This Lament was composed for one of the Chiefs of the MacDougall’s of Dunolly by the hereditary piper of the Clan, Ronald MacDougall, who also composed a Salute known as ‘Captain MacDougall’s Salute.’
“The MacDougall’s had hereditary pipers up to the time of Admiral Sir John MacDougall, K.C.B., who died in 1864, when his piper Ronald—Raonull Mór—left for some reason or other, and was afterwards appointed Pipe-Major to the local Militia. These Clan pipers lived at Moleigh, near Oban, where they had a portion of land called ‘Croit nam pìobairean,’ or the Pipers’ Croft. They were all MacDougalls; the last who kept a school of pipers there being Ronald Bàn. Ronald Mór, who was grandson of Ronald Bàn, was the last hereditary piper of the Clan.”
The folklorist and translator, Katherine Whyte Grant of Oban, author of Myth, Tradition and Story from Western Argyll (Oban, 1925), responding in the Oban Times, 30/01/1926, to a query from Sheriff J. P. Grant, thought the dedicatee of this piobaireachd was probably Captain Duncan MacDougall (b. 1744), although she did not know the circumstances of his death.’
The final player of the evening was George Campbell who was quickly into his stride with some unusual 3/4 marches. It transpired that George had composed the first one himself, (that has yet to be named), followed by the The Merse Piper composed by Stephen Small.
The ‘Merse piper’ is the late Timothy Ainslie. He served with the Black Watch during the 2nd world war and subsequently settled in the Borders focusing his piping with the Duns Pipe band and teaching in local schools. Stephen Small was one of his pupils.
The final tune was The Dunkirk Boatman, composed by John Balloch. Balloch spent his retirement years living in Port Bannatyne, Isle of Bute where he died in 1949. He was known by the locals simply as ‘the Pipe Major’.
The tune ‘The Boatman’ was composed for Alistair MacMillan of Port Bannatyne who was a sailor with the Caledonian Steam Packet Company and who took part in the Dunkirk evacuation rescuing British and French forces in 1940 under constant attack from the Luftwaffe. When informed of the tune Alistair told the Pipe Major that he had not been alone and therefore the title should refer to ‘Boatmen’, not ‘Boatman’. Great stuff George and many thanks for the tune info.
George then played competition MSR that finished with the great GS tune The Little Cascade. With the pipe well and truly settled he gave us Corrienessan’s Salute. George got all the music from this and it was great end to the night.
Interestingly Corrienessan’s Salute was the tune with which pipe maker R. G. Hardie won the Gold Medal at Oban in 1947. Archibald Campbell described the occasion in a letter to Seton Gordon.
‘The piping at Oban was not very satisfactory, and there was not a single decent performance in either piob. competition. All the players of any repute had entered, but Archie MacNab, Donald MacLeod, PM. Donald Maclean, Malcolm MacPherson and Roderick MacDonald did not appear and Brown and Nicol could not get leave.
A joiner in Glasgow called Hardie was given [the medal] for a not inspiring rendering of Corrienessan. [Robert] Reid was placed first in the open with Craigellachie, a tune which is completely beyond him. D. Maclean was second with an indifferent performance of Antrim. I thought Robertson should have been first with the Children, not that he played it well, but he was about the most local.’
‘Archibald Campbell was born and brought up at Kilberry, Argyll. He entered the Indian Civil Service in 1900 and served in India until 1927, latterly as a judge of the High Court in Lahore.
He retired in 1927, and thereafter until his death in 1963, he was secretary of the Music Committee of the Piobaireachd Society. As such he was responsible for the Society’s publications and he was active in the production of the first ten books of the present series.
In 1948 he published his own collection, the Kilberry Book of Ceol Mor. He made numerous contributions to the Oban Times and to other piping journals, and he was widely recognised as a leading authority on all aspects of Highland bagpipe music.’
And with that we were done.The next meeting will be on Tuesday 16th April where the band will start work on the great Peter R.MacLeod 2/4 march, The Conundrum.
It will be short band session as we have guest piper John Dew as out guest piper. Please make the effort to come along and hear one of Scotlands top young musicians.