The Oban Times, 2 February, 1935
Slow March For Scots Guards
Pipe-Majors’ Verdicts on Royal Tune
The Prince of Wales has composed a slow march for the bagpipes entitled “Mallorca,” and has presented the original score, written in his own hand, to the Scots Guards.
The pipe bands of both battalions are at present practising the music under the direction of Pipe-Majors Alexander MacDonald and J. B. Robertson, and it is expected that it will be used exclusively at the changing of the guard ceremonies in Buckingham Palace and St. James Palace, being particularly suitable for that purpose.
The tune was heard for the first time in public on Friday night at the London Burns Club dinner at Grosvenor House. It was played as a surprise item by Pipe-Major D. Taylor of the Royal Caledonian Schools, Bushey, and was loudly cheered by the many experts present. Pipe-Major Taylor said afterwards: “The Prince has written a very fine march with a beautiful melody. It will be very popular.”
The Prince of Wales again started practicing the pipes a few months ago under the tuition of Pipe-Major Henry Forsyth, piper to the King. He has also interested himself in the history and technique of pipe music, and as a result decided to try his hand at composing. His first attempt, “Mallorca,” was so good that the Prince of Wales decided to offer it to the Scots Guards, who have received it with enthusiasm.
“A Rare Tune”
“A rare tune” was the comment of Pipe-Major MacDonald when speaking of the music. “The Prince has obviously spent a great deal of time and trouble over it, and has produced a really fine piece of pipe music–and pipe music is not easy to write.”
Pipe-Major Robertson, who is in charge of the band at Wellington Barracks, was equally enthusiastic. “The tune has been included in our regular repertoire,” he said, “and we shall probably play it at the various ceremonies.”
The Oban Times, 17 November, 1934
Pipes and Drums
Glasgow, 7 November, 1934
Sir,–It is evident that the correspondence anent “Pipes and Drums,” which you have been good enough to publish, is arousing considerable notice among those interested in the advancement and progress of pipe bands.
The position of the Scottish Pipe Band Association is that the annual general meeting decides matters of policy and rules. The question of “time judging” was very fully discussed by the annual general meeting of 1934, and it was decided by a large majority that the piping judge should continue to judge “time.” One would naturally conclude that the bands are in the best position to come to a final decision on such a matter, and that if the position were satisfactory to the bands there need to be no further argument.
Apparently, however, some of your correspondents desire to learn the reasons which caused the bands to vote in favour of the “time” being judged by the “piping judge.” To begin with, everyone agreed that “time” is dictated by the drummers, but it does not follow that the drum judge is on that account the most suitable judge of time. Drumming is an accompaniment to the pipe tune, and the real purpose of “time” marks is to determine the merits of the speed at which the Pipe Tune is being played. The drum judge is less acquainted with the pipe tune than the pipe judge, hence the reason why the bands believe him to be less qualified to act as “time judge.”
The other points brought up by your correspondents I will deal with individually.
“Caber Feidh” is dogmatic about time, but is he (himself) prepared to play a march, strathspey and reel in open competition, and leave the judging of the “time” to the Drum-Major? He is quite at sea regarding the test piece question. The Scottish Pipe Band Association rejects the idea of a test piece for their own championship contests, but made no pronouncement for “test pieces” (either drum or pipe) for any other contests.
“Drum-Major Seton” says if the drum judge awarded every band the full quota of marks, the pipe judges are in a position to place every band in the contest, and as a result of this wisecrack he says, “Is this Scottish Pipe Band Association justice?” The obvious answer is that judges are appointed to judge and mark bands according to merit, and any judge who gave every band the possible number of points would be failing in his duty, and would be guilty of gross betrayal of trust. Did it ever strike the genial Drum-Major to reverse his query, and alter the position of the drum and pipe judge? The championship contests held at Sterling and Renfrew in 1933 were judged with one pipe judge undercover, and the same contests in 1934 were judged with all drum and pipe judges also undercover. So far as I know, no objections were raised by the bands to this innovation.
“Craigellachie” will not get many to agree with him regarding the stagnation in the drum sections. It is beyond doubt that pipe bands in general have improved tremendously since the war, and the improvement is much more pronounced in the drum than in the pipe section. At no time has there been such intimate collaboration between the two sections, and in particular between the Pipe-Major and his leading drummers. It is not so long ago since any two-four beating was considered suitable for any two-four tune, but at present nearly every band has a special beating for each tune, and this is as it should be. Cases of a good general performance being wrecked by over-dominance of drumming are so extremely rare as to be almost negligible.
“An Ribean Gorm” need not lose any sleep over the pert questions which he is anticipating. The success of under-cover judging will be one of the subjects to be discussed at the next annual general meeting of the Scottish Pipe Band Association, and “An Ribean Gorm” should see that the views of his band are thoroughly represented there. The pipe judge is allocated ten points for time, and presumably he would make deductions therefrom in respect of time which did not meet with his approval. This correspondent falls into the error of most of your correspondents regarding the drum and pipe sections as being distinct and separate units, when he writes of the penalty on the pipers of bad time by the bass drummer. The judge does not penalise the pipe section–he penalises the band, and this phase of the question cannot be too highly stressed.
There has been so much loose writing of drumming faults that I have looked up the results of past contests in order to find whether the condemnation was justified by the actual results. I am enclosing a statement showing the results of the most recent Grade I contest judged by each of the panel judges in order to make my point clear.
Possible points. 100.
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Each of these contests was judged by different judges, and the table shows the opinions of the whole panel of judges regarding the standard of drumming of the four highest placed bands. In my opinion, the figures show a very high standard of efficiency, and they provide a definite contradiction to the present critics. As a matter of fact the figures speak so eloquently for themselves that it is needless for me to add anything further respecting this aspect of the discussion.
I am, etc.,
Donald MacIntosh, Secretary,
The Scottish Pipe Band Association
The Oban Times, 6 August, 1927
Sir,–The writer has observed a report on the subject of the unveiling ceremony at Clachan Duich, Kintail. What occurs to the reader is that apparently there are two points to consider in regard to this “auspicious occasion” in Kintail.
First of all it occurs to the writer that in 1909 after an exhaustive trial, the Lyon King dismissed the petition of the late Sir Colin G. MacRae, asking to be officially recognized as the Chief of the Clan MacRae, and stated, “All that need now be asked would be a new grant of such, but to enable me to make this I should require clearer proof of the existence of a Chiefship then has been produced.” No further evidence, so far as the writer knows, has been produced to show that the late Sir Colin G. MacRae was entitled to call himself Chief of the Clan MacRae. Furthermore, the Rev. John Anthony MacRae, Sir Colin G. MacRae’s son, has recorded Arms in the Lyon Register and in this grant of Arms there is no reference made to the Chiefship of the Clan MacRae.
The second point is, that it appears to the writer extraordinary that a Minister of the Church of Scotland should put himself in a ridiculous position by trying to assume a position to which apparently neither he is nor his father was entitled, according to the Court of Law which tried the case. In the ruins of the old Church of Kintail there is no certainty whatever that any member of the Inverinate family was ever interred inside these ruins.
About twenty or thirty years ago the writer believes a small piece of ground was railed off and a tablet put up on the wall of the Church intimating that the Chiefs of the Clan MacRae lie buried here. There is no certainty that these “bogus” Chiefs were interred there, any more than the antecedents of a dozen other families whose tombstones indicate that they are buried inside the ruins of this church.
Can any of your readers say for certain where Mr. Farquhar MacRae, the last of the Inverinate family, according to the history of the Clan, who resided in Kintail and died in 1789, was buried?
One would have thought “that if it was necessary to unveil a memorial to this gentleman (the late Sir Colin G. MacRae), it would have been more appropriate if it had been performed in the Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh,” where the writer understands the late Sir Colin G. MacRae and his forebears since the days of Mr. Farquhar MacRae, who died in 1789, are buried.–Yours, etc.,
Another of the Clan MacRae Society
The Oban Times, 9 July, 1927
The Clan MacRae
2 July, 1927
Sir,–The writer observes in your issue of the 2nd inst., a paragraph headed “Clan MacRae Association Annual General Meeting.” The writer observes that the chief of this Association, the Rev. John A. MacRae, Dundee, attended in person. The article further states “The report stated that the response to the action of the Committee showed the loyalty and devotion of the Clan to its Chief, and the preservation of the Tomb of the MacRae Chiefs in the old Church in Clachan Duich, Kintail.”
The writer is amused at the statements, which appear to be contrary to the facts. The last number of the Rev. John A. MacRae’s immediate predecessors to be buried in Clachan Duich was Farquhar MacRae, who died in 1789. The rest of the Reverend gentleman’s people appear to have been buried in Edinburgh.
It is amusing to read the apparent ignorance of the writer of the article in question on the question of the Clan Crest. There is no such thing in existence as a Clan Crest, as in heraldry Crests, Shields, etc., are the private property of an individual.
It is also amusing to read the following paragraph, “As many who would like to be present and pay their lasting tribute to their late Chief will be on important military duty, and Ladies-in-Waiting, etc., etc., during their Majesties stay in Edinburgh.”
As a member of the general public, one cannot help wondering who the many are who would be engaged on important military duty and as Ladies-in-Waiting, etc., and prevent their going to Kintail if they wanted to.
One would like to congratulate the Chief of the MacRae Association on his interesting and inspiring address which he appears to have given to the gathering, which after all represents a small but very noisy faction of the Clan MacRae.–I am, etc.,
A Member of the Clan MacRae Society
The Oban Times, 9 July, 1927
Duntulm Lodge, Isle of Skye,
3 July, 1927
Sir,–Mr. Angus MacPherson believes, perhaps, that, like the late Lord Fisher, the Piobaireachd Society has adopted the motto, “Never apologise.” Well, perhaps there is something in that, but I want him to know that the present listed tunes have been revised and corrected with great care.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the Piobaireachd Society does not lay down the condition, or even desire, that pipers in their competitions should play its own settings. Any setting is accepted, provided it be a recognised one. It merely publishes the tunes; pipers may adopt its settings or not as they please.
I think this point should be made clear, because there is a widespread belief among pipers that there is a moral obligation to play the Piobaireachd Societies’ setting. I am, etc.,
The Oban Times, 15 December, 1928
Pipe Band Contests
3 December, 1928
Sir,–As most pipers read the “Oban Times,” the columns of which invariably contain something of particular interest to admirers of Scottish music, I ventured to ask your valuable space for a few remarks on the subject of pipe band contests.
Judges of these contests must comply with the directions issued to them by the promoters. In my view, these directions are not always satisfactory, and if a judge were to follow them implicitly he would require a shorthand writer at his elbow to make the reports desired on each performance. I consider it is impossible for any judge to mark down everything, and at the same time pay every attention to the performers. The judge should be left free to devote his full attention to the character of the performance, which is undergoing constant changes.
It is also my view that pipers should play alone without drums, and that the drum Judges should also never submit to the present system of judging; a good band of pipers may suffer a severe loss of points through their drummers, and vice versa. Committees should bear in mind that it is a pipe and not drum band contest. Drummers should be encouraged by providing separate prizes for their performances. Judges should also never submit to the foibles of committees who insist on enclosing them in canvas during solo competitions, for a judge should not be deprived of the aid of any of his natural senses, as they are all needed to do justice to the performers. If a judge cannot be trusted in the open, there is very little hope of him in blinkers!
During the past season I attended several leading pipe band contests and noted the procedure and the results. Of all these, I have no hesitation in saying that the Alloa championship was the best judged, and I should like to tender those responsible my congratulations on their sound judgment.
Might I suggest that the leading piping societies should meet and consider as to framing rules for the guidance of promoters of pipe band contests throughout the country.
The views of your readers would be much appreciated by many promoters whose sole aim is to encourage piping generally, and for whose enthusiasm in the cause all good Scotsmen are grateful.–I am, etc.,
The Oban Times, 10 October, 1903
The Passing of the Piobaireachd
Sir,–I have read with great interest the three articles headed “The Passing of the Piobaireachd” in your paper of dates 29th August, 5th September, and 12th September, signed “A. M.,” and with your permission would like to make a few remarks thereon.
I will begin by confessing that “A. M.” evidently knows his subject very much better than I do, and if he sees this letter he must make allowance and pardon any mistakes I make; but one thing I am sure, and that is, he cannot be a greater enthusiast about, or a greater lover of pipe music that I am.
Can “A. M.” wonder at “the passing of the pibroch?” When the pibrochs were being played at Inverness this year for the gold medal how many people in the grand stand listened to them or understood them? Some there were certainly; but, alas, how few. The first three or four pibrochs could be heard, but after those, when the fashionable throng appeared, their chatter made it impossible to hear properly. At another swell meeting at which I was present the pibroch players and judges were dispatched to the other end of the ground, so as not to horrify the occupants of the grand stand with the savage sound; and I am not sure if this was not a good plan. My own idea is that the piping should be carried on by itself, and nobody need come and hear it unless he wanted; but this I fear is almost impossible to arrange where so much has to be gone through in one day. I must say, however, I did see one lady listening and evidently understanding the pibrochs on the grand stand at Inverness, and I think she wore the Campbell tartan. It is a case of pleasing the majority, and the authorities at all those meetings must go with the majority.
The very best way to prevent “the passing of the pibroch” is the competition announced by the Piobaireachd Society of Scotland to take place at Oban next year, where they propose giving a first prize of £20, and, what is almost of as much consequence, they give out a list of the pibrochs to be played. This, I consider, the Northern Meeting Committee should always have done. For instance, the gold medal was won this year by a piper who got “Glengarry’s Lament” to play; now anyone who knows pibrochs will understand that this is a short and, comparatively speaking, an easy pibroch, but it was this piper’s luck to be asked to play it. I don’t mean to disparage his playing, which, in my humble judgment, was very good and well deserved to win; but had he got a long and more difficult pibroch to play there was always the possibility of his pipes going out of tune. The Piobaireachd Society have thus done the very thing required by giving out the pibrochs now, and making them about the same length and difficulty.
I quite agree with “A.M.” as to the judging at many of the Highland games leaving a lot to be desired. At some meetings I could mention judges are appointed for the reason that they have subscribed liberally to the prize-list, or that they are influential men in the district, or from some such motive. My idea of judging is that there should never be less than two or more than five, and I would have silent voting like the ballot without any consultation. If this did not settle the matter, then I would have a consultation, and I would have judges shut up for marches, and reels, and strathspeys, as for pibrochs. Of course, one is supposed to give points for marching, but I consider that difficulty could easily be got over. Speaking of judging, what can one think of the Northern Meeting having only two judges this year owing to the lamented death of Dr. Bett? Supposing those two could not agree, how were they to settle it; only by tossing, and this is not judging. Inverness is supposed to be an example for all other meetings, and I say they distinctly showed a bad example in having only two judges when they must have known there were several competent judges present who would only have been too glad to give their services. One more remark I will make about judging is, that it is a most unenviable position as the writer knows to his cost. Judges cannot please everyone, and the men we want are some more like the late Dr. Bett, who, in my opinion, always gave a perfectly fearless judgment, and had a knowledge of pipe music possessed by few. He was, in my opinion, the very best judge we had, and when we lost him piping lost a good friend. If we had a few more like him “A.M.” need not be afraid of the “pibrochs passing.”
“A.M.” must remember there are not many pipers who can spare the time to get pibrochs; but now that there is a prize of £20 to be won, I expect there will be a good many competitors for it, and that the competition will last for more than one day. If so, I hardly see how it can be held on one of the days of the Oban meeting, or, if so, it must be carried on quite apart from the other competitions. “A.M.” speaks of four pipers as the thread which links our degenerate era with the golden days of past years, but does he not think it is possible that this number might be increased? I confess I don’t know all the pibroch players, but I think I could mention more than four who could play a pibroch even to satisfy him, and by next year, let us hope, there will be four times four competing for the £20 prize. I will conclude my letter by remarking, “May I be there to hear.”
I consider all lovers of pipe music owe more than a debt of gratitude to the compiler of “Ceol Mor,” who, in my opinion, has done more to prevent the passing of the pibroch than any man living.–I am, etc.,
A Lover of the “Piob Mhor.”
The Oban Times, 3 October, 1903
Sir,–Through a misprint in my letter of last week I am made to say that Dithisd means a compass. What I said was Dithisd means a couple.–I am, etc.,
The Oban Times, 3 October, 1903
[The Passing of the Piobaireachd]
28 September, 1903
Sir,–Having read “H.L.I.’s” letter, kindly allow me to say a few words, through your valuable paper, on one or two points. He mentions that if the MacCrimmons were to rise out of their graves they would be surprised to hear in the improvement made in their own composition of the piobaireachd. What I would like to know is where the improvement comes in.
When a piobaireachd is composed it is utterly impossible to alter it to any degree; and surely anyone who composes a tune ought to know how it should be played. The only improvement I am aware of is the superiority of the instrument both in tone and make. When compared with the old make of the pipes are now [sic] vastly superior indeed, but only in the rendering the sound more pleasant to the ear. The fingering, if not worse than it formerly was, it certainly no better.
“H.L.I.” is quite right when he says that nobody in this generation ever heard a MacCrimmon play. But the MacCrimmons have left behind them pipers who can play and teach, as, for instance, the Camerons, who undoubtedly can trace their teaching back to MacCrimmon’s time. If “H.L.I.” is a Highlander, I am very much surprised to hear him giving a march preference to a piobaireachd. In my own opinion it is impossible for anyone to appreciate a piobaireachd who has no Highland blood in him.
I suppose “H.L.I.” would consider a piper insane if he played more than two piobaireachds in one evening. Perhaps that accounts for some of the judging at games being unfair, when the judges have to listen to about a dozen pipers playing piobaireachds. After hearing the first two they begin to get sick of listening to the rest.–I am, etc.,
The Oban Times, 3 October, 1903
The Passing of the Piobaireachd
Duneira, Row, Helensburgh, 29 September, 1903
Sir,–Would you kindly allow me space in your valuable paper to reply to your correspondents in last week’s issue on pipe music? I think Mr. MacLennan’s letter should do something to stir up all who are desirous of getting the best, not only of piobaireachd, but of all kinds of pipe music. One cannot fail to notice nowadays how tunes are mutilated to suit the individual taste, and in some cases rendered almost indiscernible. Take, for example, “John McKechnie’s Reel.” As played by some pipers you with fail to recognise it.
I am sorry so many are led away by imitation, without musically discerning which is best. Of course, some will say it is a matter of taste; but I think at the root it is a matter of ease. Another example might be taken from the third measure of “Duntroon.” How many good players will go on snap, snapping the C.A’s, whereas, if the old style of C.A. and B.A. alternately were used with good accent, the tune would have a finer effect.
I agree with Mr. MacLennan that some authority should take the matter up, and fix the best and only recognizable setting of each tune.
Your correspondent, “H.L.I.” says “that the toarluath is the only means of cutting the other notes”–(What other notes?)–when it is impossible to sound two consecutive E’s on the pipes. I think this must be a mistake, as two consecutive E’s could be detached by either a top G, or low A, grace note. As to “physique” and “carriage,” with these in combination with good playing the piper is ideal, but the playing is of the first importance.
I agree with “H.L.I.” when he closes by referring to the usual ignorance of judges. This ignorance, or favouritism, whichever it may be, is becoming very common, as evidenced by the Highland games season just closed. The time has come when competence and unbiased judges will need to be selected if progress is to be made. No wonder the bagpipe and its music have no “further future” predicted when the men who are to give life and the stimulus to them are killing them. Hoping some better authority will take the matter up,–I am, etc..