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

The nights are drawing in on Primrose Knowe, six or seven hours of day only, even here. In my youth, though, that would have meant long evenings of folk gathering, swapping tales, playing tunes, even a bit dancing, maybe. The Rocking, I recall, was a particular way to see off a long night, with the songs and stories going to the sound of a wheel spinning; work and play to the same tune. And sooner or later there’d come in the Galoshans, trying to piece the old play back together year after year - “Reed up rocks, reed up reels, here comes in a pack of fools” - why, I do believe I could recall it all, given time, and a little refreshment. Turkey Snipe, I could do him, and Beelzebub, -‘an’ o’er my shoulder I carries a club’ - but not the Doctor, I never did do that part, though you couldn’t help picking up some of the patter.
Now what started me off on that? Ah yes, the long nights. And a tune I heard a piper play not a week back, a tune I’d not heard since those young days. He didn’t have a title for it, and strange to say, I could’nt recall it either, which is odd for me; I’d not expect to forget a tune’s title. But not this one. What I do recall is a visit, from some kind of scholar, riding across the Eildons in search of pipers and their tunes; why I might even have given him that one. I never heard more of him; maybe he published them somewhere, and if I looked I could reclaim that forgotten title.
It’s an odd thing, this searching for new tunes - not just newly made ones, but long-forgotten ones. In my youth we played the tunes everyone knew, and everyone knew all the tunes you played. Not that it wasn’t a wee bit excitement, when someone turned up at the Fair with something you’d not heard, something that caught your ear. Then you’d have to work hard to get it from him before the day was gone and him and his tune with it.
But mostly, as a bairn, you learned what you learned by hearing it over and again during those evenings, till you knew it as well as any. Then you’d need to sneak off somewhere and gie it a try, on an oat straw, most likely, till you got it. So by the time you got your hands round a stand o’ pipes you had most of the tunes you needed.
 My young friend with the untitled tune, now, he’d learned it in what he called a ‘workshop’…