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George Greig reports on the Society’s 24th annual competition, held once again in Bruntsfield Primary School, Edinburgh last April



Judges George Greig and Julian Goodacre feeling the responsibility of judging...or is it simply thoughts of lunch?

THANKS TO the hard work and splendid organisation of Anita and Richard Evans and Jim Buchanan, this


year's competition, held again in Bruntsfield Primary School in Edinburgh, was a great success. There was a good sized and appreciative audience and most of the competition classes were well subscribed. The hall had good acoustics and there were plenty of side rooms for tuning up and last-minute practice. Perhaps the only disappointment was that there were no entries in the novice class.

In previous years, there has been criticism that perhaps too many contestants relied on a “Highland” repertoire, forgetting that this is a Society formed to promote Border music as well as bellows pipes. There could have been no such complaints this year since Border tunes were well represented in a varied programme.

The full listing of the prize winners follows this article and I will highlight just some of the performances which I enjoyed from the time-keeper's desk - and as time-keeper, I would note how well prepared people were on this occasion with only one contestant being penalised for a programme which was too short: thankfully, no one went on too long. How things have changed!

The Intermediate Solo class attracted only players of smallpipes - perhaps not surprising since Border pipes can be a bit more challenging - and the standard of play was commenda- bly high. In many cases, they would not have been out of place in the Open class. This class was won by Chris Cooke who had the good sense to follow the Duncan Johnston tune Farewell to Nigg with Cuckold Come out of the Amrey. Officially, there are no extra points for playing the Border repertoire but clearly it did Chris no harm.

There were only two entrants in the Pipe and Song class, with Judy Barker emerging as the deserved winner. Judy also scooped 3rd place for her duet with Mike (on box) with a set of Northumbrian tunes. However that latter class was won by Tristan Legovic and Jean Luc Lefaucher (both from Brittany) who gave a fine performance on harp and border pipes respectively. It was a lovely combination.


The audience ponders as a competitor leaves the platform.


As always, there was a large entry for the new composition class. This year it was won jointly by Pete Stewart and Dan Houghton, Pete's piece being written to honour one of his ancestors who came from Deeside. I was pleased to pick up third with a jig (Jim Buchan- an's Halibut), written to thank Jim for his contribution to the Melrose teaching weekend. I almost suspect that some of the audience believed me when, in introducing the tune, I remarked that a “halibut was, of course, a 17th century courtly dance” - the true allusion being to Jim's involvement in fish farming.

This leads me to the observation that, year by year, the introductions seem to get more and more fanciful. It is remarkable how many people seem to have tunes come to them in a dream; or in Matt Seattle's case, the notes forming themselves in the pattern on the wall of an Indian restaurant.

As for the Seasoned Pipers, it was David Hannay's turn to come out on top. He played, in true border style, Because He was a Bonny Lad; just one tune but with lots of variations. I found it interesting to compare this performance with that of Iain MacInnes who plays it more as a Highland quickstep. Both equally valid and enjoyable.

It was good to see Steven Blake, one of our younger members, win the Open Solo for Smallpipes with a set of jigs and reels. It is only a year ago that I recall helping him with his tuning before he went on to win the Intermediate class; clearly he is progressing rapidly. Rona (under her married name of Dawson) and I came 2nd and 3rd respectively ; and I have no complaints since Rona gave a delightfully phrased performance.

Matt Seattle, Border pipes, and John Bewes, fiddle, go through their paces


For me, one of the highlights was the winning performance in the duet for pipes class.

Holly Taylor and Dan Houghton, playing well matched sets of Border pipes, gave a lovely performance of The March of the King of Laoise - involving proper harmony, not just the mindless playing in thirds that we hear all too often. I don't think that anyone would make “Border” claims for the tune, but whether it is of Scots or Irish origin is less than clear. There is a CD (which I would recommend) on which Allan MacDonald plays this tune back-to-back with the piobaireachd Duncan MacRae of Kintail's Lament to demon- strate the common origin of the two. Both favourites of mine.

Dan also came out, deservedly, on top in the Open Solo for Border Pipes class. The return to the Border repertoire was carried off splendidly by Matt Seattle who described the various origins of the tune, Holy Halfpenny, and how it appears elsewhere in a variety of guises including The Herring Wife. Matt's version included all manner of variations, some including fiendish runs which would tax any player.

All in all, a good day of friendly competition and meeting up with friends old and new.


Competition results

Intermediate - The Julian Goodacre Trophy (5 entries - judge: Gary West)

  • Chris Cooke - Farewell to Nigg, Cuckold Come Out The Amrey;
  • Guy Hall - Seonaidh's Tune, Lads of Duns',
  • Jeannie Campbell - Lochaber Gathering.

Pipe and song - The Jimmy Wilson Memorial Cup (2 entries - judge: Gary West)

  • Judy Barker - Mingulay Boat Song,
  • David Hannay - Tesco Song.

New composition - The London Trophy (8 entries - judge: Julian Goodacre)

1. (Joint Winners), Pete Stewart - John Stewart of Balnacroft and Dan Houghton - Fear nan

Meur Sleamhna (The Man with the Slippery Fingers),

3. George Greig - Jim Buchanan's Halibut.

Duet for pipes and other instrument - Dunfermline Tassies (6 entries - judge: Julian Goodacre)

  • Tristan Legovic and Jean Luc Lefaucher - Drummond Castle, Scarce O' Tatties, Ward's Jig;
  • Richard Femande and Donald McKay - Brose and Butter, Highland Jig, An Drochaid Cluteach, Skyeman's Jig,
  • Judy and Mike Barker - Horses Brawl, Bordy Terror, Throwing the Ball Downstairs, The

Bear Dance.

Seasoned pipers - The Nigel Richard Trophy (4 entries - judge: Hamish Moore)

  • David Hannay - Because He Was A Bonny Lad;
  • Alex Barty - Tom Tully's Air, The Banks of Allan Water;
  • Jim Buchanan - Noble Squire Dacre, Brave Willy Foster, Sunderland Lasses, Go To Berwick

Novice - The Heriot and Allan Quaich (0 entries)

Open solo for Scottish small pipes - Colin Ross Trophy (4 entries - judge: Hamish Moore)

  • Steven Blake - Jigs and Reels;
  • Rona Dawson - 79th's Farewell to Aberdeen, Greenside, Struan Robertson, Aspen Bank, Brolum, Kalabash, Untitled;
  • George Greig - Melrose Tunes

Duet for pipes - Mains Castle Medals (3 entries - judge: Iain MacInnes)

  • Dan Houghton and Holly Taylor - The Ass in the Graveyard, Sonny's Mazurka;
  • Eric Joncour and Jean Luc Lefaucher - Bells of Dunblane, Steam Train to Mallaig;
  • Jock Agnew and David Hannay - Kenmure's Up an' Awa', Dockside Reel.


Open solo for Lowland/Border pipes - Hamish Moore Cup (7 entries - judge: Iain MacInnes)

  • Dan Houghton - Untitled,
  • Matt Seattle - Holy Halfpenny;
  • Euan Whitmore - The Maids of Colmore, Bannockburn Road, The Kitchen Piper.