This year’s Annual Collogue and AGM were held at the Army School of Piping at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh on Saturday, Nov. 6th.

Arriving at this year’s annual gathering of the Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society was a new experience for many attending, since it involved passing through an armed guard. No-one seems to have fallen foul of this novelty however, and after a brief space for greetings and coffee the gathering got underway on time at 9:30 with a presentation by Iain MacInnes.
Iain will be well-known to many pipers as a presenter of the BBC’s ‘Pipeline’ program, a venture he told me he had been involved in for some twenty years. He was thus well-placed to give a fascinating trawl through the BBC’s piping archive, with words and music from some distinguished figures of the piping world and some striking recordings. He opened with two tracks from Skiddleybrees, the smallpipe trio (Malcom Robertson, Derek Grahame, Dave McNally), recorded in 1995, playing two Bulgarian tunes and a Gavotte by Handel. He went on to offer a number of early recordings of Highland piping from Angus Campbell (playing ‘My King Has Landed in Moidart’ on Culloden pipes, recorded in April 1938), a description of Orkney Weddings from Mrs Sinclair in 1938 and two recordings of Northumbrian piping, Jackie Armstrong playing Border Fray (Stumpie) in  July 1950 and Bill Pigg playing his Keel Row variations in 1959.  
Memorable amongst this selection of recordings was that of the Allied troops crossing the Rhine (March 1945), with Scotland the Brave sounding clearly amongst the heavy artillery; Willie Ross also featured in a recording of the Pipes and Drums of the Army School of Piping (April 1944); in conversation with his mother (June 1944) and playing ‘Too Long in this Condition’ (May 1944); these recordings were especially poignant since Willie Ross’s practice chanter is on display in the room where Iain was speaking.
We were then brought more up to date with an item from the history of Scottish smallpiping, featuring Barnaby Brown playing Julian Goodacre’s reconstruction of the Montgomery smallpipes, accompanied by Bill Taylor on the wire-strung clarsach, playing tunes from  from the Patrick MacDonald Collection (1784) recorded in July 2006. Iain followed this with moments from the Irish past with a recording of Seumas Ennis ‘Tuning and Improvisation’, recorded in September, 1949, and a story from Frank McPeake on meeting John O’Reilly at the railway station in 1907 (recorded July, 1952.
Expanding horizons further, Iain played us an interview with Francis Baines (double bass player) and John Amis about the French cornemuse, recorded in July 1959, suggesting that the BBC was well ahead of its time in pursuing European piping traditions. We then returned to the border regions to hear W J Stafford playing ‘Noble Squire Dacre’ on the half-long pipes with their prominent baritone drone (recorded in Oct 1949).
Iain then gave us the first of two recordings from  Fred Morrison and Jamie McMenemie, this one the opening set of tunes from a 2004 Celtic Connections concert. This was followed by two interviews by Hamish Henderson preserved in the School of Celtic and Scottish Studies archive in which he talks to Dr James Hunter and to Geordie Robertson, both of Turriff (Banffshire) re ‘Francie Markis’, whose story as one of the few bellows pipers surviving into the 20th century has been told before in Common Stock, though these were recordings so far unprinted; we hope to have them transcribed in our next issue.
Continuing the bellows-piping theme, Iain played a recording of  Angus Macpherson ( recorded in 1971, age 94) talking  to Seumas MacNeill re bellows pipes and Quicksteps in the Highlands, including his use of the term ‘Piob Shionnich’ (‘the fox pipes’) to describe them; again, we hope to transcribe this important recording in our next issue. We then heard from across the pond with an unidentified MSR Piper in Sydney, Cape Breton recorded in 1952. The tradition of Cape Breton piping has been significant in the development of highland piping in recent years and it was fascinating to hear these recordings with their striking differences in tempo.
Iain then produced a recording of the group Seudan (Fin Moore, Calum MacCrimmon, Angus MacKenzie, Angus Nicolson) playing Hamish Moore’s arrangements of a set of quicksteps, recorded in February this year.
We were then back to the mid-20th century to hear the Brian Boru Pipes played by P/M John McLaverty and by the Crimson Arrow pipe band, recorded in 1951 and 1957 and these were followed by Bagad Cap Caval  playing at Celtic Connections in 2009.
Iain then offered two conversations with renowned highland pipers, one Neil Angus Macdonald recorded in 1972 talking with Duncan Johnstone and one with George Mclennan (son of GS) telling the Willie Ross story of ‘The Skook’, recorded in 1994.
He then finished off in fine style with  the second of the two sets from Fred Morrison and Jamie McMenemie; the final set of their 2004 Celtic Connections concert with Fred in his inimitable fashion playing a manic ‘Sandy Cameron’, an astonishing finish to a whirlwind tour through the piping archive.

After a mid-morning break the gathering reconvened to hear a report from retiring president Julian Goodacre about his work with the Society archive. In his inimitable style, Julian used a story from his experience with items from his own family archive (Queen Victoria was involved) to stress the importance and value of the records that a Society such as ours produces. We were, he reminded us, particularly fortunate that so much had been preserved from the very beginnings of the revival and he introduced us to a number of letters written by those who first came together to share their enthusiasm.
Julian then presented a certificate of Appreciation to Bill Sutherland who has donated to the Society archive his extensive collection of photographs from the earliest days [see page 6]. Bill was later seen busy recording the afternoons playing sessions.
Pete Stewart then gave two short presentations. An expanded version of the first is described on page 28/9. The second introduced the meeting to the upgrading of the Society website that he has been commissioned to produce. The intention was to design a website that would act as a hub for all those interested in Lowland and Border piping and particularly to be attractive to younger generations than those that currently keep the society afloat. The site he introduced us to contained the kind of interactive facilities found on community sites, with users able to access their own profiles and link to other community networks, to access their subscription accounts and to enter into discussions on a dedicated forum. The Society's online shop would now be self-contained, allowing members to access their account history and maintain delivery and account addresses. Authorized members would be able to edit and submit material direct from their web-browser and it would be possible for members to search the membership list. Pete then outlined the changes that were being discussed regarding subscription plans, proposing that members would pay a flat fee to include downloading Common Stock, with an optional for the posting of printed copies of Common Stock at rates which reflected the postage costs. It is hoped that a beta version of the site will be available in the New Year.
The Society’s Annual General Meeting was then convened. A brief report is available on page 35

The afternoon session began with a presentation on the Pastoral and Union pipes given by Ross Anderson. Ross should be well known to pipers for the wonderful resource of his web site (at which gives access to historical recordings and manuscript sources. He has also given a lot of time to exploring the history of the pastoral and union pipes, work which he described in his presentation.
The pastoral pipe and its general history are not unkwon now, thanks to both Ross’s work and the chapters in Hugh Cheape’s 2008 book ‘Bagpipes’. What Ross’s talk offered, in addition to the opportunity to actually see the instruments, [and two sets brought along by Hamish Moore] was to hear them played. For most, if not all of the audience, this was a first. Ross has restored to playing condition a set of pastoral pipes made around 1780 by Hugh Robertson of Edinburgh, and it was surprising to hear how the earliest pastoral pipes already had the basics of that sound which has become so characteristic of today’s Uilleann pipes.
By surveying the musical sources, starting with the Geoghegan ‘Tutor for the New or Pastoral Bagpipe’ and looking at successive manuscript sources from 1760, 1783, 1804 and 1830, Ross showed how the instrument developed its character from its first appearance up to the  emergence of today’s Uilleann pipes. The musical history begins with a combination of Scottish and Irish music with pieces for the oboe in the mid-18th century,  moves towards an emphasis on the Scots and Irish repertoire plus minuets in the late 18th century and then towards a more universal selection of popular music in the early 19th century.
Ross’s opening point, which he continued to develop throughout the talk, was that this was a bagpipe that spanned two traditions; it could be played ‘standing up’, that is, in the Scottish tradition, using essentially a Highland fingering system, or, by removing the separate foot-joint, could be played sitting down, using a fingering that today would be considered more Irish in character. Over time the fingering changed slightly: the 18th century sources all have a natural top leading note, as on the highland pipes, while by the early 19th century chanters have acquired a sharp top leading note as the uilleann pipes have today. Also, the foot joint passed out of use, with the seven-finger bell note being common in the mid-18th century sources but found in only three tunes in the Sutherland manuscript in the 1780s. The reason may be simple enough: playing “on the knee” allows more expressive performance.  
Ross went on to echo Hugh Cheape’s question: how did it come about that the pastoral/union pipe tradition, once common enough to leave dozens of instruments in museum collections, was replaced so completely by the Great Highland Bagpipe? The answer, he suggested, lay in the events of 1822 and Walter Scott’s ‘invention’ of the Highland Scots myth.
Ross’s experience of restoring these instruments to playing conditions led him to believe that some chanters were built to play mostly closed or mostly open from the way they were voiced: with some the closed scale is more in tune, and with others the open scale. Changing preferences seem to be reflected in the manuscript sources particularly in the upper octave. It was also possible, he suggested, to spot pastoral pipe music in the playing of some Irish pipers, and particularly players who received their musical tradition via travellers, since it was amongst the travelling pipers that the pastoral pipes seem to have survived longest. Ross recounted a conversation with Sam Grier of a Scots traveling family whose father and grandfather played a pastoral set between the wars.
Ross concluded his talk with suggestions for further research: get more sets going to get more data, or where whole sets can’t be restored, at least reed and play the surviving chanters; and – potentially a PhD topic – analyse the tunes in the manuscripts and books that survive, as well as in Irish sources such as the Goodman manuscript that clearly contain a lot of pastoral material. Finally, as music lives through performance, we can hope that pastoral and union pipe music will again become part of Scotland’s living tradition, as the smallpipes and border pipes have done.

Ross Anderson playing the pastoral pipes at the collogue

The final part of the Collogue afternoon saw pipers divide into three groups for playing sessions, one for border pipes, one for smallpipes and a ‘slow’ session for those who like to take things easy. After a leisurely meal, the survivors gathered for a joint session into the evening. Thanks are due to all those who helped organise such a successful day.

An extract from The Times newspaper for May 15th 1781; three days earlier it had carried an advert for a concert in which Denis Courtney was to play the Union Pipes, perhaps for the first time in London; it seems to bear out the point made by Ross Anderson at the Collogue that in some sense the Union pipes were seen as a combination of the Irish and Scottish pipes and were named accordingly; that certainly seems to have been the opinion of the leading player of the day.