Since I last wrote the Eagle Pipers’ Match Report, I have visited warmer climes and had a thoroughly lovely time frolicking in blazing sun. However, there could be no warmer welcome to be found the world over than that which is found at Eagle Pipers.
Tonight was a night of fine MSRs and rare and lovely compound time marches. Douglas Gardiner was off Match Report duty tonight and launched the evening in fine style with the seldom-heard and very beautiful 12/8 march, Heather Grant of Strathyre, composed by Jimmy McGregor Snr. This was followed by the 9/8 march, Jock Masson, and then some of Douglas’s competition repertoire including an MSR and the ground of the Gathering of the McNabs.
Keen to play next was Chris Ross, making his second appearance in as many EPS meetings. Boldly taking the pipe straight from the box, we were treated to some very musical 3/4s and a competition set, culminating with a slow air and hornpipe set including the Donald Bain composition, Jimmy Blue. Donald Bain is one of the legends of New Zealand piping, and his teaching and influence are still widely felt by many pipers.
12 year old Stewarts Melville student, Jamie Westhead eagerly took to the floor, and began his section with the finest rendition of The Balmoral Highlanders that I have heard in some years. Precision timing, musicality and control exude from this young lad, and as DG said, “Only 6 years until he’s [beating us] in the Seniors.” Jamie finished his set with two big jigs, the Glasgow Police Pipers and Paddy’s Leather Breaches. Classics.
It was approaching Pie Time, but we were all horrified to discover that our usual pie maker is, for reasons known only to himself, not making steak pies until 1st March. Replacement pies could not be found at short notice, and when pie eating champion Andrew Grey heard this, he very nearly stormed out. He would have taken some of the Hon P/M’s toys with him too, as these were being thrown around liberally.
Thus, tonight the “Pre-Peanut Piper” was EPS stalwart, Michael Gray, playing ivory mounted Hendersons set for the band. With a very assertive, crisp and true tone, he treated us to some 6/8s and an MSR. From such precise playing, no one would know we are in fact mid-season.
While the break was bereft of pies, it gave us the opportunity to admire our very own Eagle Peacock, the Honourable Pipe Major Euan Anderson. To my surprise, gone are the hand-knitted Duck Egg hose, dear reader, replaced by… trews. Hunting Robertson trews. Not only this, but the finest Harris tweed waistcoat has been replaced an antique woolen waistcoat the colour of a Glenmorangie box. Or a chicken korma. Or mustard. Or even…let’s just leave it there. Last night alone his appearance was likened to that of a snooker player, a magician and a queen bee. All at once, perhaps. There are not many who can successfully pull off such an audacious sartorial statement. You need to see it to believe it.
EPS regular Nils Michael was first to play after the Peanut Break, and he continues to present new tunes every time he plays. Tonight, Nils’ Pipe Major, Greig Canning, was listening closely to his renditions of some of the band’s 6/8 marches, and seemed to be pleased with what he heard. Phew, Nils. We had another MSR and then a marvelous set of 9/8 jigs. The tremendous Donald, Willie and His Dog and The Foxhunters, with a cracking tune called Arlitrach from the Scots Guards collection sandwiched in between the two.
Cameron Drummond treated us to a magic wee set on the border pipes. What a timbre they have. Gorgeous, and of course, masterfully played. Amongst other tunes, we heard the Jewel of the Ocean by Allan Macdonald, Abercrombie Place by R.S. Macdonald and some cracking Fred Morrison-esque strathspeys, including one of my current Top of the Pops tunes, Seoniadh’s Tune, which was made, I believe, for Fred’s young son. Lucky wee fella.
The evening’s piobaireachd was played by none other than our President, Colin MacLellan. Colin played one of his father’s compositions, The Phantom Piper of Corrieyairack. Captain John MacLellan composed this tune in 1965 and was awarded the College of Piping Saltire Award for piobaireachd composition in 1969 with this submission. The Corrieyairack Pass is a route that links Laggan and Fort Augustus, and has been used for centuries by drovers, Jacobites, Redcoats, General Wade, farmers and, in more recent times, hillwalkers, deerstalkers and electricity workers. A Highland Council brochure about the Pass (available online) records that a group of soldiers heard a ghostly piper in the Pass in 1958. Captain John MacLellan’s company, perhaps? A lovely tune in expert hands. What a grand end to the evening.
There are several events on their way:
Saturday 19th February – Junior Competition at the National Piping Centre, Glasgow. 9am start.
Sunday, 20th February – Scots Guards Recital, 4pm – 6pm. Callum Moffat, Keith Christie and our very own Pie Champion, Andrew Gray.
Saturday 26th February – The Pipers’ Wheel of Fortune, Danderhall Miners Club, 12.30pm start.
Saturday 12th March – Uist and Barra Competition, The College of Piping, Glasgow.
Saturday 26th March – Duncan Johnstone Memorial Competition, National Piping Centre, Glasgow.