Robert Wallace remembers The Eagle Pipers

“For we Glasgow pipers, the pests from the west, the trip through to Edinburgh in the 70s and early 80s was always a bit of a journey into the unknown. It happened twice a year (more if you were asked to do a recital). The Edinburgh Police competition in April was a two day shot with light music on the Friday evening. In November it was the Eagle Pipers and the Royal Arch Halls and the weird insignia that upset some more than others.

Edinburgh was a hotbed and you knew it once you arrived for the contest. They were all there, all the names. The Army School was at the Castle and Army piping ruled the roost with P/M Angus and Iain Morrison of the Queen’s Own. Captain John MacLellan was one of the top judges and secretary of the Music Committee of the Piobaireachd Society and with his wife Bunty editor of the ‘International Piper’ magazine. The Edinburgh Police Pipe Band was still a force to be reckoned with and their pipers competed with significant success in the solos. Big Jimmy Anderson (the Godfather) was at every gathering supporting, encouraging, cajoling. For the ceilidh stuff the West End Hotel and Neil Robertson were the magnet. More sedate and definitely better behaved were the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society, yet to be christened the Jolly Boys. The Highland Pipers had their devotees and loyal membership and annual competition. There was Andrew Ross in Glen’s shop and Gordon Stobo – what a loveable sharp! Edinburgh had the lot and it knew its place in the piping panoply and played its part in full. And it had more: Hugh MacPherson, the Edcath Collection, Willie Bryson and Donald Shaw Ramsay tunes – great compositions, and Tweedie and Iain MacLeod.

Then all began to fade. The Army moved and the Castle was no more. The police band struggled. Their contest stopped. The Eagles folded. MacPhersons closed. Stobo emigrated. Ross at Glen’s died. Captain John, a grievous blow, was no more. It seemed that with his passing so too did piping in the capital. But Tam and the Highland Pipers and the RSPS and a depleted Army School kept the flame flickering through the dip. And now another MacLellan, another Anderson and another Speirs have seen their chance. The Eagles are back. Banks and the Guards are doing their bit. Edinburgh is on the rise. Prince’s Street parades once more! Well done everyone!”

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