OT: 3 November 1923 – Contributed “Piping in 1923” [Report]

Oban Times, 3 November 1923

Piping in 1923


Another season of Highland Gatherings has come and gone, and it is now possible to write something of the playing of the foremost exponents of the art of pipe music.

In Piobaireachd playing John MacDonald of Inverness has shown us that, on his day, he is still superior to any. Unfortunately, he has not been able to compete much this season, for his duties in another sphere leave him very little spare time. At Lochaber, where he was first, he gave us a glimpse of his old brilliancy.

Among the younger generation, Pipe-Major Robert Reid, of the 7th Highland Light infantry, has enhanced his already great reputation, and his playing of Piobaireachd both at Oban and Inverness was delightful to listen to. Reid is a pupil of MacDougall Gillies, of Glasgow, and this distinguished teacher must be gratified at the success of his pupil. At Oban, although the weather was all against good playing, Reid played his tune, “Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon,” faultlessly, and brought out all the melody of that testing Piobaireachd. The attractiveness of Reid’s playing is that he gives full value to each note, so that one is held by the rhythm of the tune. In addition to this, his fingering is very fine, this being specially noticeable in his Crunluadh and Crunluadhamach.

At Oban, Reid carried off the first prize, and at Inverness he and Pipe-Major W. Ross, late of the Scots Guards and now Pipe-Major of the Lovat Scouts, tied. For a tune they were both asked by the judges to play “Gille Chriosd,” and in the afternoon, on the playing off of the tie, they both played the “Unjust Incarceration.” Ross played the tune through without mistake.

Reid made a couple of slips in the first variation, which allowed Ross to win the clasp to the gold medal. But, apart from the mistakes, and perhaps a slightly hesitating start, Reid’s playing was very fine indeed, his Crunluadh-Amach being brilliantly executed.

In the piping of the lighter music–March, Strathspey and Reel –George MacLennan, late of the Gordon Highlanders, was easily first, and it is doubtful whether a more brilliant performer in this class of pipe music has ever existed. When so many of the lesser-known pipers have had their playing perpetuated on gramophone records, it is astonishing that MacLennan has never, as far as is known, been approached by the makers of records in order that his skilled playing may be handed down to future generations of pipers. Of other performers, Pipe-Sergeant John MacDonald of the Scots Guards, gave an unusually good rendering of the march “Highland Wedding,” at the Northern Meeting.

Island pipers, on account of the inaccessibility of their homes, have little chance of competing at the great meetings on the mainland, which is a pity, for at the local Uist Games some really first-rate piping was heard.

Mull is fortunate in having the Secretary of the Piobaireachd Society (Brig. General Ronald Cheape) in residence on the island. General Cheape is doing much by his own example and enthusiasm to encourage piping in his part of the world, and the leading Mull players have acquitted themselves well this summer. The Piobaireachd Society last spring held classes at Islay and South Uist, both islands having the experienced teaching of Pipe-Major William Ross.