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

It’s that time of the year when anyone visiting Primrose Knowe can’t fail to see how it got  that name. Though no-one here brings in the summer as they used to, we did get our usual visit from my grandson, Blind Wullie, on his wanderings. What a treat it was to hear him, and wasn’t the man right who called him ‘the best fiddler that ever kittled thairm wi’ horse-hair’. It made this old man proud to hear his preluding, to hear him take to that fine old tune, Galashiells for his theme and grace it with so many wild and beautiful variations; wonderful, too, to see how his sightless face lit up with pride and delight in the exercise of his own powers.
Now I’ve heard it said that the Duke of Buccleugh’s piper has mastered that tune on the pipes by using the ‘art’ of pinching the back hole, which some consider a great improvement. Well, there’s gey few with as fine a thumb for shivering the back lill as me, I can tell you, but pinching is an art I’ll leave alone, thankyou very much. I’m whole-heartedly on the side, though it’s something I never thought I’d say, with the mountaineer MacDonald. What was it he said exactly? (Ed; I supplied the quote as best as I could) Thankyou. Sometimes my memory is not what it used to be.
“They have enlarged the compass of their pipes by adding pinching notes, for the better imitation of other music. By this their chanter has the most of the flute compass. They have also taken away all that loudness and strength of tone that distinguishes this instrument
With this they imitate Scots tunes, Minuets and some Italian music. A  passage of Corelli, Festing or Handel played with pipe cuttings and a drone… what a wretched jargon this must be for a judicious ear is obvious. This insipid imitation of other musick is what gives such a contemptible notion of a pipe’.
Ed. At this point, I began to regret prompting Steenie’s memory. It’s a passage whose significance I have often contemplated. I pointed out to him that  there were many others who saw things rather differently in today’s piping world, whose bounds stretch far beyond the little enclave of Primrose Knowe. The pipes, I suggested, have now become the entitlement of anyone in the wide world, and those who took it up would make their own choices of appropriate repertoire. I’ll not attempt to describe his response except to say that he threatened to withdraw his column entirely and write no more. Since I rely on his contribution to fill up this last page I agreed to allow it so far, making clear to him that I would add this comment. Offers to replace him will be welcomed.