Match Report Tuesday 4th April 2017

FullSizeRenderRevered 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.

eagles 12

Iain MacLeod

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


Iain in the shop

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

band 1

John Fraser leads the final parade

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

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Euan Anderson, Alison Gardiner, Dougie McBride, Donald MacFadyen, Brian Lothian

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).IMG_4962

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.


Martin Wilson Jnr on his dads pipe. Better late than never.

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.IMG_4981

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.

IMG_2408The 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


Bring it on

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.

IMG_2414He 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.


Craig Robertson
Membership Secretary



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2 responses to “Match Report Tuesday 4th April 2017

  1. Mairi McLeod

    Dear Craig

    I am Iain’ s daughter and I wanted to express my gratitude to you and your members for the warm tribute to my Dad on behalf of my brothers and I. As you intimated in your report, there are not many of his contemporaries left now. However, there was a symmetry reading that the sons of some of those old friends were there sharing their memories, namely Martin, Euan and Colin not to mention the fact that Martin was playing his Dad’s pipes which travelled to many of the far flung corners of the world such as Moscow and Guam with Martin senior and Dad. You are probably also aware that Iain Spiers, the son of another old friend, played at the funeral at my Day’s request and he did an outstanding job, along with a couple of young pipers from George Heriot’ s band playing as we drove down the drive after the service. They definitely would have got a “well done”!

    It is nice to know that the tradition of the Eagle Pipers continues. We have a picture of my Dad and John Burgess as young boys playing at the Eagle Pipers which I could send you if you do not have a copy in your archives.

    Once again, please express our thanks and best wishes to your members.

    Kind regards

    Mairi McLeod

  2. Craig Robertson

    Hi Mairi,

    I hope you are well and my sincere apologies for not getting back to you sooner.

    It was so kind of you to take the time to write such lovely comments in response to the report on your Dad.

    He was a ‘well kent face’ around the piping circuit for so many years and hugely influential and is a great loss to the greater piping community.

    Like many police officers – former and current – I was deeply disappointed about the demise of the Edinburgh band however, it was great to see that Iain’s passion didn’t waiver – despite the passage of time- and that he was at the forefront of trying to have that decision reversed.

    Sadly – as is quite often the case – this was to fall on deaf ears.

    He will be remembered for so many things but will be undoubtedly revered as the driving force that achieved the modern sound that so many bands strive to emulate.

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