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ON THE BORDER CD Gordon Mooney

On the Mooney’s own Traditional Music label, the CD is available from them at Piperscroft, The Avenue, Lauder, Berwickshire, TD2 6TD

THE sweet and wistful strains of Bonnie At Morn on whistle and flute open this fine album from the musical Mooneys of Lauder, with pioneering Border piper Gordon joined by wife Barbara on flute, oboe and clarinet, daughter Shona, now emerging as a talented fiddler, and the occasional rattle on bodhran from son Craig, while David Wood provides occasional guitar.

Gordon and Barbara have forged a very distinctive sound through their reeds partnership, the mellow, pastoral sounding flute and whistle combinations of the opening tracks giving way to Barbara’s clarinet threading its way through the more guttural small pipe lines as they chum the water in a descriptive set of traditional tunes, The Salmon, or the winsome oboe harmonies in the Upland Way.

I particularly enjoyed Gordon’s idiosyncratic and very recognisable piping style echoing out in his atmospheric solo, The Wild Hills of the Border (known south of the eponymous line as The Wild Hills of Wannie), with its trilling variations; also some of the cracking-paced ensemble sets such as the Tribute to Jimmy Allen, a take-no-prisoners skelp through tunes which many of us now know, thanks to Gordon’s collections.

Fiddler Shona comes to the fore with a lovely, affectionate rendering of the Tom Hughes tune, Nancy, while sometimes they look across the Border for inspiration, as in the solo small pipes rendition of tunes by two Northumbrian masters, Tom Clough and Billy Pigg.

My only reservation was a recurring ropy-sounding low G on the small pipes which I found irritating, but that’s carping. While it doesn’t - or perhaps can’t possibly - have the impact of Gordon’s landmark 1989 recording O’er the Border, the content, and particularly the spirit, of this CD make it a very enjoyable and useful recording for anyone interested in Border piping.

Jim Gilchrist



The Pipers make the Maker:

THE PIPER & THE MAKER Greentrax Recordings Ltd. 2004 CDTRAXAX265 .

This CD of 12 performers playing a variety of pipemaker Hamish Moore’s pipes is very en- tertaining. The Greentrax recording is live, captured at the Pitlochry Town Hall on October 31, 2003 on the eve of the Glenfiddich Piping Championship. The pipers are Fin Moore, Iain MacInnes, Malcolm Robertson, Anna Murray, Graham Mulholland, Gary West, Gordon Duncan, lain MacDonald, Allan MacDonald, Angus MacKenzie, Hamish himself, and Martyn Bennett, though Bennett’s two tracks are pulled from another concert since he was unable to be present on the night.

The pipes are all excellent - Border Pipes, Scottish smallpipes in ‘A,’ ‘D’ and ‘C.’ Highland Pipes in ‘A’ and the mysterious ‘Reel Pipes’ - but the stars of this show are the performers


and the tunes, and on almost all tracks the music is riveting. The tunes are presented both unaccompanied and at times with other instruments, including voice. The pipemaker is without question a master, but it is the pipers who bring the maker to life.

One would expect exemplary performances from Fin Moore. Martyn Bennett, Anna Murray, Iain MacInnes, Gary West and the MacDonald brothers, and they fulfill expecta- tions. Anna Murray and Allan MacDonald accompany their own smallpipe playing with Gaelic vocals and the effect is intense, engaging, and distinctly Highland. Gary West and Fin Moore present more traditional fare with power and rhythm, and the Galician March Gary plays is a treat, Iain MacDonald plays reels that are as original in style as they are in content and with the forward motion that seems clearly hard-wired into all three MacDonald brothers. Martin Bennett’s quirky style as usual leaves the listener with a raised eyebrow but also with a finger raised toward the CD player to run the track again.

Iain MacInnes on the ‘D’ smallpipe has perhaps more than any other player evolved a style of music and gracing that draws from the Highland pipe tradition but remains very personal, playing on the strengths and limitations of this high-pitched parallel-bore chanter. There is lightness and freedom here that many smallpipers would do well to emulate.

Gordon Duncan’s performance of a competition march, strathspey and reel on a set of Highland Pipes in ‘A’ unfortunately misses the mark. Why a competition set would be selected for inclusion by a player who exudes magic in any type of pipe music but Highland competition tunes is a mystery.

So much for the proven masters: but one of the great delights of this recording is the playing of some lesser known players. Graham Mulholland’s Baliincrieff on Border Pipes is a model of superb 6/8 march playing and his stylized Maggie Cameron and Miss Proud show, as Fred Morrison has shown elsewhere, how interesting Highland competition tunes can be when freed from their usual Games-day shackles. Malcolm Robertson generates tre- mendous excitement with very rhythmical strathspeys and reels and cross-fingering that show the Border Pipe at its best. Angus MacKenzie, also on Border Pipes in a dynamite set of reels, shows that the musicians of Cape Breton remain a driving force in the Celtic tradi- tion.

The CD ends aptly with a vocal piece called The Piper and the Maker sung by Mairi Camp- bell and accompanied by Hamish on Reel Pipes. It is a haunting tribute, and those familiar with Hamish’s physical problems over the years will be cheered to hear him providing vir- tuoso accompaniment.

The CD is well packaged and presented, with detailed descriptions of all pipes played and some background notes on the recording provided by Hamish. To hear a variety of excellent Highland-fingered bellows pipes play ing intriguing new and old tunes superbly in a myriad of current styles you simply can’t do much better than this.

Jim McGillivray



Stuart McHardy

Birlinn (ISBN 1841582913),

Edinburgh, 2004, paperback, 226 pp,


This is a very entertaining collection of stories about piping and pipers. McHardy is also responsible for a similar collection about fiddling and fiddlers from the same publisher. I must assume he is a fiddler rather than a piper, because he writes in the introduction on page 11, “The drones, two tenor and one bass, each have their own double reed.” It’s difficult to imagine a piper would write that. We all know the only pipe on Highland bagpipe with a double reed is the chanter, I hope. It sent up a warning flag for this reader.

The book is broken up into sections, one of which is called “Lowland Pipers.“The Epitaph to Habbie Simpson. Piper of Kilbarchan” is included in full. There are a number of other stories about Lowland pipers, which taken together are not nearly as complimentary as the stories of Highland pipers. In general terms, the Lowlanders are more apt to be suffering from the abuse of alcohol, have little use for politics or violence, and are apt to rely heavily upon magic for their skills. Highland pipers, on the other, are quick to anger, bold and bloody minded, eager to prove their supremacy over all and especially other pipers, and heavily armed.

Most of the book makes no pretensions toward scholarship or simple fact. McHardy recasts many familiar and some not so familiar stories, legends and, most probably, lies in contem- porary language in a very entertaining way. Most of the stories do not originate with McHardy, however, and he makes no attempt to identify his sources. The primary sources would probably be J.F. Campbell’s collections of POPULAR WEST HIGHLAND TALES, James Logan’s books, the introduction to Angus MacKay’s collection of pibroch tunes (which was probably written by Logan), and the notes by Fionn published by David Glen with his pibroch tunes. Complete references, or even just a bibliography , would have made this book more creditable and of more use to the serious reader.

Still, for all that, this book is full of good entertainment. It puts the majority of piper tales in one handy volume. It makes excellent bedtime reading. It also makes an excellent gill for anyone with a cursory interest in piping, especially the tartan baggage of Scottish piping. Wrap it up in tartan ribbon and give it instead of shortbread next Christmas.

John Dally









Nigel Richard with a visitor to the stand           “Big Rory” cuddles Hamish Moore



Julian Goodacre and Hamish Moore display their products

Jeannie Campbell writes: “A successful day at the World’s ... 3 pipe-makers exhibited ... several members played individually or in pairs throughout the day..