Revered as the greatest ever pipe major in the history of Edinburgh City Police / Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band this evening we remembered Pipe Major Iain McLeod.
The Society historically and in modern times has had links, not only to George Heriot’s School, where Iain and his sons were pupils, but also with the police service in Edinburgh where Iain led the police band to five World Pipe Championships wins.
Within the Society there are those that played with Iain and those that followed in his footsteps as pipe major of the Lothian and Borders band – namely Colin MacLellan and Kenny McBride.
For some – myself included – the only contact we ever had with Iain was a visit to the shop in Whitehouse Loan, Edinburgh, where as a schoolboy I pawed over things and spent my pocket money on hemp and beeswax or the occasional practice chanter reed. I avoided the very itchy
looking handmade hose however.
The band became iconic for its style of play and immaculate turn out on parade, winning countless dress and deportment prizes at various competitions. When the end of the legendary dynasty was in sight Iain was quite outspoken about its demise.
‘I have been greatly saddened in recent years to witness the decline of the Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band, formerly the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band. It seems incredible that this once proud, respected, highly successful and renowned band, having survived throughout years of the austerity of two
world wars, has now been allowed to decline to the point of extinction. I would hope that Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Police Service now take steps to ensure that the pipe band’s achievements and its role in promoting both the city and its police service over 131 years; are now formally
recognised by way of a permanent record in the history and archives of the city.’
To start the evening the P/M consulted with Martin Wilson Snr – who was a member of the band during Iain’s time at the helm – for something fitting to play. The decision was Rab’s Wedding and Auld Adam, two of the bands 6/8 marches that were in their repertoire for many years, (both coincidentally appear in the new Society’s tune book).
John Kerr wrote Rab’s Wedding for a band member Robert Gibson who was quite the character. Few of Iain’s peers are still with us but Harry McNulty, George Lumsden and Chris Anderson spring to mind. Andrew Berthoff, editor of Pipes/Drums, has a couple of excellent interviews relating to the band in his archives that are well worth a read.
With 15 sets of pipes on the floor we had a pretty good go at it and after a couple of run throughs I’m sure Iain would have been close to giving us a ‘Well done’.
Due to time constraints – Brodie Watson-Massey – took to the floor as the ‘Pie Piper’ as opposed to the post or pre variety and in keeping with the theme for the evening started us off with an MSR comprising of The Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band, John Roy Stewart and Loch Carron.
Brodie went on to play Lucy Cassidy and Donald MacLennan’s Tuning Phrase and was just getting into the swing of things when his dad arrived. Thankfully, however, we were blessed with another fine set before his departure that included Fraser Allison’s Jig, The Famous Baravan, Duncan MacKillop and The Henderson March that he played as a jig.
It’s at this point I feel that it is incumbent upon me to say a few words to all those parents out there who regularly fetch, carry and travel to far flung destinations to enable their children to entertain and compete. We at the Eagles do appreciate it, and would like to thank the Happs, Watson-Massey and Taylor families who do just that.
The P/M went on to tell us a little about the ‘Piping Societies in the Modern Era’ lecture that took place on the eve of The Piobaireachd Society Conference. We were not only represented by the P/M delivering part of the lecture but Jenny Hazzard and Iain Speirs played some great music to compliment the presentation
On that note Gordon Hislop also gave a good account of himself on the Saturday when the topic of discussion was the amateur clasp competitions.
The P/M went on to give us a few tunes – such has been the demand to play this has actually been his first chance to get a tune in. He played a few 6/8 marches that included tunes from the book and as part of a demonstration played Michael Grey composition Blustering Home, as the musical rhythm can be unusual to the ear if not familiar with the tune. Follow the link to see Euan in action
There is a bet on in the Society between the P/M and Martin Wilson Jnr as to whether we will ever manage to play this tune as a band. Watch this space!
A more fitting way to end the evening couldn’t have been found and Kenny McBride (former L&B Pipe Major) illustrated why the demise of the Lothians band was such a shame. On a pitch perfect pipe with rock steady drones and precision fingering it was a delight to hear Kenny play the 3 / 4 ’s Dunaskin Glen and the Highland Brigade at Magersfontein.
He rounded off the evening with an MSR, comprising of Tom Wilson, Susan MacLeod and Thomson’s Dirk.
It was then time to reminisce but not before being told that Auld Adam and Rab’s Wedding will be first up next week.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday 18th April where Jenny will don her Bamber Gascoigne hat and run a ‘Piping Geographical Quiz’.
Until then folks have a good one and keep up the practice.
Note: Iain’s funeral will be a private ceremony on Tuesday 11th April for family and close friends.