The Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming is a very special entity that is steeped in Scottish history and culture. For obvious reasons there has always been a strong link with Edinburgh and despite the changing of the guard for the Scottish Regiments, perhaps an economical decision imposed by the Government, piping and drumming in the Army continues to move with the times.
Of course times change and where once Police Pipe bands were plentiful populated by bandsmen who were policemen and the Army bandsmen were exactly that, who did a bit of soldiering when required, the reverse is now true.
The Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming (ASBM&HD) offers courses in piping and drumming at all levels for members of any Regular Regiment in the Army that has pipes and drums.
- The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
- 1st Royal Tank Regiment
- 1st Battalion Scots Guards
- 1st Battalion Irish Guards
- 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
- 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
- 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
- 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
- 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
- 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment
- 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles
- 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles
- The Queen’s Royal Hussars
- The Royal Dragoon Guards
- 19th Regiment Royal Artillery
- 40th Regiment Royal Artillery
- The Royal Corps of Signals
Change for the better? You can chew that one over a dram or two but that is the way it is in 2014.
As you will see from The Eagle Pipers ‘History’ web page the link between our Society and the ASBM&HD has always been strong but lets be honest back in the day it was the Army school of piping and while drummers were tolerated their main function in any pipe band was to keep the wind off the Pipe section.
Seconds away round one?
Here is a bit of the history for you,
“The Eagle Pipers originated in Pipe Major George Stoddart’s shop at 328 The Lawnmarket, Edinburgh.
The Lawnmarket is situated close to Edinburgh Castle where the Army had its School of Piping so it was natural for the students to drop in for a chat and a tune on the pipes. They enjoyed these sessions so much that it was decided to meet on a regular basis and a Wednesday evening was chosen. They would finish around 9.30pm with a Piobaireachd when they would adjourn to the Eagle Bar across the road to catch the last 30 minutes of ‘drinking time’ before the bar closed at 10pm. This continued for several weeks before the owner of the Eagle Bar, Tommy Mowat, offered them a backroom in the bar that they gladly accepted.
Gradually the piping evenings expanded until George Stoddart and his friend, Pat Sandeman discussed the possibility of formalising them. Edinburgh was not served well with piping activities compared to Glasgow. There were two main societies in existence, the Royal Scottish Pipers Society and the Highland Pipers.
The Royal Scottish admitted only non-competitive, non-professional players and the Highland Pipers catered for all ages and strengths. It was absolutely right that the children should be encouraged and this society has done sterling work for many, many years but there was space for something in between where top professionals and non-professionals could meet on licensed premises and promote the best in piping whilst enjoying a convivial evening.
When Pipe Major Willie Ross retired from the Piping School at Edinburgh Castle, the Army took over the School of Bagpipe Music and later created the first commissioned piping rank as it was considered the officer-in-charge should have the status afforded to military band directors.
John A. MacLellan was the first to hold the post and George Stoddart and Pat Sandeman put it to him that they had a good idea for a new society. He agreed with them and the Eagle Pipers was founded in the ‘Eagle Bar’ (now the Ensign Ewart) The Lawnmarket, Edinburgh in 1960.
The founder members were John A MacLellan, who became the President, George Stoddart as Pipe Major and Fear-an-Tighe, Pat Sandeman and students at the Army School of Piping, Edinburgh Castle. The students included Angus MacDonald, (Scots Guards) later Pipe Major, John Allan (Scots Guards) later Major and Director of Army Bagpipe Music, Joe Wilson (Gordon Highlanders) and Jimmy Henderson (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) who both became pipe majors of their regiments……..”
So as young boy in Edinburgh there I was chatting or more likely listening to John MacLellan, Colin’s dad, being taught by P/M David Aitken, WO1. BEM- HLI and Royal Highland Fusiliers and generally mixing with, and being in awe of, the great and good that was Army Piping, not least the late great Angus MacDonald.
And then there was George Stoddart’s son Gavin, well I need say no more, but yet another strong link between the Army and The Eagle Pipers’.
Now those of us who have played in No1 kit know it is really a pain in the backside in that it is uncomfortable and really not the best for actually playing pipes but there is something about it, especially when worn by Army bandsmen that speaks volumes. It says in a nutshell this is who we are and what we are about.
The mini band came on with a selection of 6/8s before playing a small medley beginning with The Men from Argyll. The first soloist was Cpl Charlie Watt who is on the Pipe Majors course. A seven month intense exercise that finishes this April. Once the pipe was settled he gave us the MSR P/M Willie Gray’s Farewell to the Glasgow Police, Arniston Castle and The Sound of Sleet. He concluded his spot with the piobaireachd Fields of Gold.
After the pies the band came back on and started with a lovely arrangement of The Mist Covered Mountains followed by a selection of jigs. Some traditional Highland Dancing followed as Byron Stirton and Damien Light deftly went thought their steps.
Next up was L/Cpl Chris MacLean who is also on his Pipe Majors course. Originally from Campbelltown Chris was a pupil of Arthur Gilles and as such spent many an hour in Taynuilt learning the ropes. He gave us the MSR The Taking of Beaumont Hamel, John Roy Stuart and The Rejected Suitor, finishing off with the piobaireachd Clan Campbell’s Gathering.
And that was the evenings evening. Hopefully we will see all the boys back at the Eagles in a more informal setting where they can perhaps go through their tunes for their final exams and practice for the games.
To those already mentioned and P/Sgt. Colin Simpson, Keith Dalton, many thanks for taking the time to come along and entertain us.
Please put the 15th February 2014 in the diary, The Amateur Clasp competition in the Scot’s Guards Club.
Peter McAlister is on the piob at the next meeting and the Hon Pres. is organising a wee Slow Air and Jig competition on Tuesday 4th March.
PS For any ladies offended by my use of bandsmen, soldiers, and policemen I can only apologise. Be assured that I have attended several Diversity training courses but have yet to pass one however I am still trying. Old school and all that!