David Hannay looks back at the LBPS teaching weeks held between 1998 and 2007

The idea of a Summer School for Lowland and Border pipers arose from going to a Summer School at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on Skye in the 1990s. There were only three of us on the course with David Taylor as the tutor.  It seemed that there was much more chance of progressing bellows pipes over a five day period rather than just for a weekend.  As Sabhar Mor Ostaig did not repeat this Summer School we decided to start one in Galloway at Kirkdale House with David Taylor and Jock Agnew as tutors. This was the start of organising LBPS summer schools for ten years between 1998 and 2007
Kirkdale House is an Adam mansion house overlooking the Solway Firth. Although divided into apartments, the central part had enough rooms for practising.  Over the next five years the Summer Schools continued at Kirkdale with Jock Agnew as a tutor, and David Taylor for the first two years followed by Gary West for three years.  Each year there were between ten and thirteen participants, over  half of whom had been to previous Summer Schools.  Lunch was provided at Kirkdale House by my wife Janet who had a tune composed for her by Jim Hurson from Northern Ireland.  It was up to participants to arrange accommodation in local hotels or B&Bs, and in one case a tent on the lawn.  An important aspect of the Summer School was playing with local ceilidh groups during the evenings, and in one instance giving  a performance at the local village gala.  


Participants at Kirkdale House, 2000

The group was divided into two with Jock Agnew taking the beginners, and David Taylor or Gary West the more advanced players.  Jock made a water manometer to train players to keep a steady pressure on the bag and bellows.  An important input to the Summer School was by Richard and Anita Evans who each year gave a session on pipe maintenance and reed making, as well as helping those who were having difficulties with their bellows pipes.  Once or twice Wendy Stewart came with her clarsach to play with the pipes, and she would emphasize the importance of playing with other instruments.
After five years the Summer School moved to the Crichton Campus in Dumfries with Iain MacInnes as the tutor with Jock Agnew.  At one stage Matt Seattle came to play the border pipes for a session in the Globe, Burns’ favourite hostelry in Dumfries. Although smallpipes in A were the usual instrument, on most courses there were one or two with border pipes. Unfortunately the Crichton Campus raised the rent for accommodation which would have made the Summer School unviable.
For the next three years, the LBPS Summer School moved to Ayr, in conjunction with the Common Ground Traditional Music and Arts Summer School. The first year was at  Auchencruive and the next two years at the University Campus.  Accommodation was on site and there was a wide variety of workshops and opportunities to play with other instruments.  At one stage we had master classes from Hamish Moore and Matt Seattle.  Iain MacInnes was the tutor for the first two years in Ayr, with Jock Agnew.  For the last Summer School at the University Campus in Ayr with Common Ground, the tutors were Neil Patterson from Common Ground and Chris Gibb from the RSAMD.
For a variety of reasons in 2007 the LPBS Summer School in conjunction with Common Ground moved from the University Campus in Ayr to Friars Carse Hotel outside Dumfries.  Additional accommodation was available in hotels in nearby Thornhill.  The tutors were again Chris Gibb and Neil Patterson with free places being given to four young competent  pipers who rapidly picked up the technique of playing the bellows pipes.  At one stage we gave a recital at the nearby Allanton Sanctuary for World Peace.  
After Friars Carse, the five day Summer Schools did not continue in conjunction with Common Ground, but there were a couple of subsequent Summer Schools in Dundee.  The ten years of five day Summer Schools starting at Kirkdale and continuing in conjunction with Common Ground, gave many players a chance to improve their bellows piping in the company of other pipers and especially with other musicians.  Most of the initial personal objectives were met and feedback was invariably positive.  Above all it was great fun.

The company assembled at Ayr, 2006