A wee bit of history

Eagles member Len Durham and tales from the past…

“It was a special pleasure to be at the gathering of the Eagle Pipers Society at the the Scots Guards Club in Edinburgh on 1 November.  My only previous visit was in 1973 (ie nearly 40 years ago) on my first trip to Scotland from my native South Africa.  At that time, I had particularly wanted to visit the Eagle because I had previously been the winner of the silver salver presented by the Eagle as the prize for the Marches at South Africa’s main solo contest, popularly known as the “100 Guineas”.

It was with some tridation that I ventured into the big wide world of Scottish piping for the first time. Coincidentally, the first person I introduced myself to happened to be Ronnie Ackroyd whose brother George (ex PM of the Black Watch) was the leading light in South African piping and my tutor at the time. Ronnie made me very welcome right away, although I was a bit surprised by having a set of pipes thrust on me and being told I had the floor for 10 minutes!  However well I might have played, it was nothing compared to the pleasure and to me complete novelty, in hearing some outstanding players who, I think, that night included Duncan Johnstone.

That night I was also introduced to George Stoddart.  A few years later that acquaintance became a firm friendship when George came to South Africa to take charge of the pipe bands at the Durban Tattoo I was the pipe major.  

My visit this year refreshed other connections to Edinburgh piping.  Captain John MacLellan was a frequent visitor to South Africa as a judge and tutor in the mid and late 1970s.  On several of his trips he was accompanied by Bunty, so I was delighted to to be able to meet Colin at the Eagle this year.  On one of his visits to Siuth Africa, John had described a cutting edge water trap which Colin had shown him – nothing more than a long tube inserted into the blowstick stock which is old hat these days but was very novel then. How things have moved on.  Bunty was very interested in Hector MacDonald – Hector the Hero – who had been in South Africa during the Boer War and was able to visit some of the Boer War battlefield sites associated with him.

The welcome this time was just as warm as on my first visit and we heard some good tunes.  I now live in London so hopefully it won’t be 40 years until the next one.”

Thanks Len and hope to see you back soon.

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