OT: 2 February 1935 – [unsigned] “Prince of Wales as Composer” [Review]

The Oban Times, 2 February, 1935

Prince of Wales as Composer
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.”

 Learned Piping at School

The Prince of Wales has always been fond of pipe music, and is president of the Scottish Piper’s Society. When he was at Eton he received instruction in the playing of this difficult instrument from Pipe-Major William Ross of the 2nd Scots Guards, and later when he was at Oxford he was in the habit of practising with his former tutor once or twice a week. The Prince of Wales often played the music of the bagpipes for the reels at any of the dances which were held in his college. Pipe-Major Ross speaks of him as a very apt pupil who took a keen interest in his playing.

 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.”

OT: 17 November 1934 – Donald MacIntosh “Pipes and Drums”

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.


  1st 2nd   3rd 4th
Dunoon 97 96   95 93
Inverkeithing 92 91   91 88
Renfrew 89 85   84 80
Crieff 89 98   95 94
Renfrew 92 89   88 88
Glasgow Police Sports 92 90   82 80
Inverkeithing 95 93   90 90
Dunoon 97 96   96 95

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

OT: 6 August 1927 – Another of the Clan MacRae Society “Clan MacRae Association”

The Oban Times, 6 August, 1927

Clan MacRae Association
 Inverness, 30 July, 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

OT: 9 July 1927 – A Member of the Clan MacRae Society “The Clan MacRae”

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

OT 9 July 1927 – Seton Gordon “Piobaireachd Music”

The Oban Times, 9 July, 1927

Piobaireachd Music

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.,

Seton Gordon

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