Steenie Steenson, well-kent grumpy old piper, sends us his ramblings and rattlings

I am a Border piper, as many-a-one knows. I live upon the border, could I be anything else? But when I strike up the pipes, what do I play? The tunes that come into my head now, where did they come from? Fiddlers and pipers have been wandering past Primrose Knowe for generations, bringing their music with them. A pedlar comes through- he’s got with him the latest chapbooks, and broadsheets, he’s got stuff from Falkirk, from Edinburgh, why some of it from Aberdeen I’ll warrant. And he can sing it all, whatever the tune, and he will, as soon as a few folk gather round.
 Some of his folderols are going to stick, as long as they’re merry enough [what you would call ‘bawdy’] and after he’s gone, who’s got to play them? Your border piper of course. And then there’d be the fair, and what kind of piper is going to miss that? You’d get in some booth or other and set to playing away with whoever was there; you’d think you’d had a poor day if you didn’t come home at night, or early next morning, with at least a few tunes you’d not heard before. And most of these pipers, these fiddlers, they’d be down from Scotland like as not, or up from Jedburgh maybe, or from Gallawa’ out of Ireland, and with them they’d be bringing music they’d picked up from who knows where?
So now, when I turn up at a border wedding and the folk want their favourites, the old folk the old ones, the one’s my grandsire learnt me, and the young folk the latest ones, is it border music I’m playing? It could be a tune from old John Cowan from Dumfries, it could be one from that Maclaughlin fellow, up in Edinburgh town. Why, it could be a mountain air from Gillan, driving his black beasts before him. Could you tell which was which? Well, the mountain stuff, perhaps you could – the strangest airs that ever I heard, but powerful too, I’ll own. But of the Lowland music, whether it had started up in Banff or down in Hawick, you’d be hard pressed to tell, if I played it to you.
Then the young pipers all went for the fancy Italian stuff, even young Willie. Dowf and dowie indeed. Not that I didn’t go for a wee bit extemporizing (my, my!) myself, among friends.  But it wouldn’t have done for the wedding, unless the memory began to fail, as it does, as the night wears on. Though I hear there were gentlemen in my young days who would play nothing but, passing round amongst themselves written music – whoever heard of such a thing? Och, but I’m rambling again…