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

Greetings once more from Primrose Knowe, where the primroses have already faded. When I heard from your editor that there was to be a piece about Penkethland (as it was in my youth) I couldn’t help recalling an acquaintance I had, when I was no but a callow lad. He was just beginning with the pipes then, just I myself was, but he was the son of a tenant of the Lord Pencaitland. (How I came to be acquainted with him is another story, which I might tell you about one day, if the occasion arises). In the days of the ‘15 his Lordship was out with the Pretender and so, of course, were his tenants, as if a tenant could have helped riding with the laird. That’s how it was in those days, you fought the laird’s battles, not yours, and you voted for your laird’s politics, if you wanted to keep your tenancy; couldn’t happen nowadays, of course.
So off went my young friend taking his pipes with him. And back they came some time later, though his Lordship was unavoidably detained in the Tower of London.
In those days of course, two pipers per regiment was the rule and many of them struggled to find that number. But it did mean that there was never any need for conformity - in the music, you understand. Not that there wasn’t ra ight way to play a piece, mind. I had an entire repertoire drummed into me. But once the Old Man wasn’t around, of course, somehow little variants would creep in, almost of their own accord, and the tunes you passed on could be subtly different, and even you yourself might not be aware of it.
My Pencaitland friend is long gone, of course, not having enjoyed the life-extending benefits of Sir Walter’s story-telling, otherwise he might well have had stories himself to tell about the Colonel and his family. Myself I never had much to do with the gentry, not if I could avoid it, and I could, mostly, excepting at Pace and Yule, and such high seasons, when there were pipes and fiddles, and as much dancing and deray in the Hall as would last a lifetime.
All of which is just a way to avoid the question you want an answer to; Is it true, you want to know, were your pipes really as high-pitched as that? Well formerly they may have been. There’s no way to count how long it is since I last played the pipes, maybe not since that business with the rent and the white-hot chanter - too long, either way, for me to be able to remember …