Our recent pleas for contributions raised a number of responses; below is a letter from past-president, Andy Hunter

I picked up more than a note of melancholy and regret in the last issue of Common Stock regarding the lack of contributions to the review, but also the falling off of numbers in the competition. Both of these circumstances can be added to others stated recently such as the ageing membership. As a past president and as someone who remembers the heady days of the Society’s beginnings, I should like to share a few observations and memories with you.
 In the first instance, the small group of energised smallpipers which met alternatively in Edinburgh and Glasgow felt intensely involved in an adventure which seemed to herald new perspectives in Scottish music in general but in that music which was Scottish, but not Highland. Of course there were bridges between the two canons, but in the absence of in-depth research into the DNA of both traditions and in the presence of national ikons (the Highland pipe, highland garb etc.) it was difficult to make our case to a broader public. I accepted an opportunity to deliver a paper to the Piobaireachd Society in 1985 in which I somewhat opportunistically inserted a statement about our activities in the LBPS. The ensuing discussion contained advice to publish as much as we could in order to disseminate the repertoire.
The repertoire which was being laid before us, almost singlehandedly by Gordon Mooney laid bare the obvious links with the Northumbrian tradition, but also the treasures to be uncovered  in Scottish song, especially where two part tunes were used. Gordon’s publications and early recordings were sufficient to sustain our fervour…and I do not exaggerate. Our early meetings were full of atmosphere as people, usually seated in a circle were asked to introduce themselves and to state how they came into contact with the Lowland pipes. I couldn’t resist comparing this to a meeting of A.A. (although I have never attended one, not yet anyway). Tolerance was the name of the game, we did not want to introduce the elitism of the GHB fraternity, and the ceilidh principle of the importance of participation was supported. Even today the informality of our competitions is remarked upon. There was a tendency for pipers who had less than a grip (pardon the pun) on GHB technique to be more present in the Society than others with the noble exceptions of Rab Wallace and Gordon. Was the Society a place where bad Highland pipers went when they died? This may have been the perception from the GHB community. But we did not let that bother us.
 Repertoire was, and is, central to our existence. The early publications were more antiquarian than anything else although they provided roots. However, it was unrealistic to expect a repertoire from as far back as the 17th century (at least)  to set the heather on fire. We needed new tunes in the idiom and fast. Hamish Moore provided us with at least two masterpieces which should have lead to greater things, but Hamish was soon off on another track in his piping and we had to wait until Matt came up with his compositions but when you compare this presence to the star studded hall of fame of the GHB, we were struggling. Even in the GHB, new tunes are needed to keep interest alive as the older canon slips back into an archive existence. Take for example the 1000 plus tunes published by David Glen, how many of these are played now? So  relevant repertoire was,  and remains an issue. More and more I personally feel that our little white rose of Lowland tunes was an endangered species and I watched with great anxiety as external influences began to take over.
 Let us be quite clear, we were just as committed to promoting the pipes Border and small as the music, and here we were extraordinarily effective, perhaps the success in this department was highly injurious. We were inundated with Highland pipers, notably from the Vale of Atholl who simply dashed off stunning performances using their Highland fingering and drawing heavily on their pipe band repertoires. The seal was set and this was added to by a tendency of some members to introduce French and other pieces. Some of you may remember my more than lively contribution to the Galla Collogue in which I energetically tried to make the case for a return to a Scottish focus. I was accused of racism and from one South African member of displaying a Laager mentality,  etc but at least some members quietly but not too publicly let me know of their support. During my period of presidency I pursued the teaching policy and emphasised  the importance of the tutor. I felt, like Hamish, that the concerts should seek to underline authenticity  of artists from abroad engaged in a similar conservation and revival effort.
 We missed a golden opportunity when the then, RSAMD set up its traditional music degree. On several occasions, formal and informal, I pressed for Scottish bellow pipes to be recognised as a first instrument study ( students are required to present an first and a second instrument on the course). This was systematically rejected by the person then principal tutor in piping who claimed there was no repertoire to justify this innovation. The same person  went on to exploit the small pipes and even teach in courses organised by the Society. It became increasingly clear that the bellows pipes were now an adjunct of highland piping and eminently exploitable by folk groups. But what an opportunity missed as research would have taken place and repertoire developed not to mention the enhanced prestige of the instrument! It may still not be too late to attempt again if it has not already been done.
 We have to recognise that all revivals take place in reaction to the conditions of their times and time changes rapidly. Look at the folk revival in Scotland and its now-ageing stars. I was part of that and remember often looking over my shoulder and thinking where are the young people?  I suggest we are in a similar position and there is not much we can do about it.
 But it is not all doom and gloom. Surely the editors of Common Stock must be congratulated on sustaining such a high quality journal which goes all over the world. Professionalism and commitment have underlined this publication from the outset; it is a joy to read articles which have been so well researched and occasionally we offer a place for statements regarding the mythology of the GHB which could not comfortably be expressed elsewhere.
 I also have many happy memories of the collogues (Galla apart) and Burns suppers not to mention teaching weekends…long may these continue.
I should like to end by suggesting that there was one aspect of our revival when we attempted to link hands with the past and that is the association with dance. How many references, even paintings, show the bellows pipers playing for dancers. We did not do this as a society…perhaps we should.  In Brittany where I now reside,   I have created a little ceilidh band with two small pipes (Shepherd mouth blown) bodhran and shortly guitar. We play only  for Scottish country dancers….no gigs ,no concerts, and what a joy it is to see the feet flying to the music and the pleasure on the dancers’ faces; this really is an incentive to play and research appropriate combinations of tunes.
 I leave you on this positive note.

My kindest regards to the Society and my friends therein.
Andy Hunter