So it’s January in not so sunny Scotland. We go to work in the dark; we go home in the dark. It’s cold wet and miserable. Most are suffering from post festive blues and looking at the latest celebrity diet. All in all the light at the end of the tunnel may turn out to be a train.
They happen most of all when you least expect them. On a bleak January Tuesday evening in the Scots Guards Club we had, in the words of the now retired sports commentator, Arthur Montford ‘ a bobby dazzler.’
The players, to continue with the football parlance, one after the other played a blinder and there was a fair smattering of wee gems along the way.
First up was Joshua Townsley. His support team was there in the shape of dad Stephen and sister Taylor, who was in possession of a chewed mobile phone courtesy of the new pup-Pebbles.
Its been quite a while since Joshua has played at the Eagles and it was a real treat. Drones as steady as a rock that he tunes very well himself and a fine wee repertoire of tunes. He finished off with the ground of MacCrimmons Sweetheart. When he was done I asked if he knew who the ‘sweetheart’ was thinking he might say ‘his wife?’ He replied, quick as a flash ‘A cow’. Without missing a beat some wag at the bar said ‘Ah that’s maybe true but in all fairness she could make a fine pot of broth.’
Next up and the pre pie piper (there was fair bit of chat going on as we all had a lot to catch up on) was the first of the Canadian mafia who had travelled through form Glasgow, Matt McIsaac. Matt was over to play with the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band at the Celtic connections concert.
Now I know you enthusiasts are always keen to know what pipe players have on their shoulder Hendersons, Sinclairs, McCallums etc. but all you need to know about Matts instrument is that they were ‘Holy Shit’ pipes. Booming covers it. Fantastic. A Pipe Majors dream.
Now I had been given the heads up that Matt could play a bit. Large hands with fingers of dynamite. It’s a long time since I have been so impressed with a player straight off the bat. The last time was probably when I first heard the late great Scott McAulay. Spookily enough Matt started his performance with Mrs Margaret Ann MacLeod, one of Scott’s 2-4 compositions. This was one of the gems of the evening I mentioned earlier. It had more swing that a children’s play park and was a beautiful start to an excellent MSR. He didn’t stop at the reel and went into some hornpipes that included the not often heard John MacLellan tune The Golden Wreath. For once the pies were a bit of a nuisance but as Matt had not put the HS pipes away there was a hint more was to come.
By this time there was a fair old crowd and there was a buzz in the room as everyone got stuck into a pie (or two). The chat was in full flow when there was a wee stramash
(another Arthur favourite) at the door nearest the bar. It burst open and in came the legendary Alan MacDonald with a wee swagger and hat cocked at a jaunty angle. Alan was in fine form and a very welcome addition to the company.
The post pie piper was another member of the Spirit of Scotland, Canadian Andy Rogers, who made a welcome return and gave us one of the gold medal set tunes Macintosh of Borlum’s Salute. This tune is new to me and to my knowledge I had not heard it before. Andy gave a very polished performance and it was a great pleasure to have him back at the Eagles.
Next for shaving was yet another Canadian, Curtis Leblanc who was with his girlfriend, Steph Barteaux (who is now in possession of my tie). Curtis was modest in his approach stating that he hadn’t played much and was a bit out of form. He borrowed up the ‘HS’ pipes and BOOM we were off and running again. A great performance full of music.
Another welcome addition to the company was Canadian Tiber Falzett who I thought had come in disguise but it turned out his hair was genuine! Tiber is studying at Edinburgh Uni. and hopes to be frequent visitor at the Eagles.
Now it was a brave man that was going to follow Curtis but resplendent in Highland dress up stepped Donald MacLeod. He stared off with 2 2/4 Marches PM George Ross’s Farewell to the Black Watch and Bonnie Anne. Two more absolute gems. He continued with some small strathspeys and reels that were a real teat to listen to.
And that as they say way that…..until Mr McIsaac decided to put more air through the HS pipe. We sat, we listened and he literally blew us away. Great stuff and a fitting way to close the evening.
As the Canadian entourage disappeared into Haymarket station, whooping and hollering as only Canadian hockey type people can, I headed for home in the dark, in the cold and in the rain, however I had this impish grim on my face for a couple of reasons. One was the quality of the night and the other was a bit of reminiscing. If that night had taken place some twenty years ago, the Canadians would have missed their train being ensconced behind heavy velvet curtains in a certain West End Hotel with mine host Neil Robertson calling the shots. We would have partied into the wee small hours and enjoyed yet another Eagles lock in. Ah how times have changed. Yes the Canadian mafia got out of jail last Tuesday but what a night.
A bobby dazzler indeed.