After the excitement of the Michael Grey book launch at the previous meeting, it was back to the more familiar format for tonight’s meeting, featuring a debut, a set from one of the up-and-coming young pipers and rounded off by a few tunes from another young whippersnapper by the name of MacLellan.
As usual, the Hon Pipe Major Euan Anderson kicked off the evening in his own inimitable style. I was a little late arriving and entered the room just as Euan was sounding the final note but the pipe was sounding well despite the low room temperature. The heaters went on.
Proceedings were a little relaxed and as there didn’t seem to be any takers for the first slot (possibly due to the sub Arctic temperature in the room at this point), I was gently cajoled by the Hon PM into having a tune, and took the opportunity to test Douglas Gardiner’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the repertoire, as he was noting down the tunes for the match report at this stage. I played a couple of classic 6/8s of which he didn’t know the name, and some heavier strathspeys and reels. I finished up with a tune I’ve been polishing of late, the Piper’s Controversy by John MacDonald of South Uist, followed by The Judges Dilemma by PM Donald Macleod and finally The Skylark’s Ascension by the late Archie Lindsay, also South Uist.
Next up was our first debutant, Eddie Gaul from Dundee. Eddie informed us that he had taken a ten-year hiatus from piping, but had once again caught the bug and was back playing. Eddie is a pupil of Ian Duncan, who was also in attendance this evening. He started off with a bang, straight into Crossing the Minch, and settled into some fine playing including a couple of competition 2/4 marches and a strathspey and reel – The Caledonian Society of London and Sandy Cameron. With things warmed up, he then launched into the Groat – an unexpected but welcome surprise as he played the whole tune, demonstrating first class technique and lovely music on a very stable bagpipe. Ten year’s break has
clearly done very little harm and we hope to hear more from Eddie in future.
Thankfully, the pies were reaching optimal temperature by the crunluath doubling, and were served forthwith, at the bargain price of one groat per pie according the Hon. PM. The big talking point at this stage was the absence of one T. Peterkin Esq., not a man to lightly forego the chance of an Eagle Pipers’ Pie. As a side note there is of course no requirement for DNA testing; our pie man’s wares being of course 100% pure pie.
Tonight, the post pie piper slot was filled by Calum Watson of George Watson’s College, also making his Eagles bow. Calum was started off by Iain Simpson at Watson’s, and now goes to Tom Spiers. So no pressure then with both his tutors in the audience. Calum clearly wasn’t too concerned and kicked off with a couple of 6/8s, then into the demanding hornpipe John MacKenzie’s Fancy followed by the Thief of Lochaber. He then played an MSR, demonstrating the form that has won many of the major juvenile prizes, with Dr EG McKinnon, Islay Ball the John MacKechnie’s Big Reel.
The pipes were settled by now and Calum gave us one of this year’s Silver Medal Tunes, Melbank’s Salute. There isn’t a great deal of narrative on this tune, other than it being composed for Kenneth MacKenzie of Millbank, Ross-shire, son of Sir Alexander MacKenzie of Gairloch, According to Fionn’s notes, “he was much respected, and was famed for his unostentatious liberality.” [Sounds like a man after our Hon PM’s heart]. Calum handled the tune very nicely, with the bagpipe bang in tune all the way through to compliment the excellent playing.
To finish the evening, our Hon. President Colin MacLellan gave us a good-going selection of light music, tonight playing the famous MacDougall bagpipe played by his father, and now his wife. The tunes included Jean Mauchline, Bonawe Highlanders, a couple of 2/4s including an interesting setting of the Braes of Castle Grant, a competition strathspey and reel set and finally some jigs, including the finger-tying “Jig by DA Campbell”, which I assume was written by DA Campbell, Glendale, Skye.
So that was just about that, with the hour approaching eleven and as we wound down proceedings and started to think about heading home, there was a “tap tap tap” on the window and lo and behold Tam Peterkin appeared ethereally out of the dark Edinburgh night, perhaps overwhelmed by some primal, ancestral urge to return, like the silver salmon drawn inexorably to the dark, swirling, eddying peat-stained highland stream of its birth, (although in this case the stream was in fact a pie). Who knows where he had been, (and whether he took home a pieman’s doggy bag – I had to leave at this point) but thankfully the natural order of things had been restored.