Nov 30th to Dec 2nd, 2018


The teaching weekend, ably organised by Anne Duncan, was held at Hospitalfield House, Arbroath. Hospitalfield is a large, rambling, historic building, now used as an arts centre. Cool. A good place to chill out. Scott Byrne, the General Manager, took us on a guided tour of the communal rooms (or ‘spaces’, as he called them). We used two rooms for teaching and meeting up: the Warm Room (with surreal figures painted on the walls) for socialising and for Neil Clark’s classes; and the Green Dining Space (with green and gold wallpaper and a very long table covered by a green cloth) for Ian Kinnear’s classes. There were 12 of us attending as tutees, going to a mixture of classes.

the group

The weekend began on Friday with an excellent St Andrew’s Night supper of haggis, whisky and cranachan. This was followed by a playing session, and an opportunity to check our pipes with Ian and Neil. On Saturday there was a teaching session in the morning, with Ian offering ‘Robert Miller Tunes’ and Neil a session on ‘The Unknown Warrior’. Ian produced copies of some hand-written tunes by Robert Miller (a local man) from 1822, which were rather like pibroch in their ornamentation, with some unusual gracenotes; someone asked what was the tune and what the gracenote! Neil taught the slow air ‘The Unknown Warrior’ by G.S. McLennan, mainly teaching by ear. The tune was commissioned by the Government in 1921-23, to commemorate an unknown body exhumed from the Great War – the tune was to be played at the body’s reburial. The tune looks rather like a pibroch, and was perhaps meant for a lone piper. We paid special attention to cadences (EDC with a very short D). In the afternoon sessions Neil offered ‘The Unknown Warrior’ again, and Ian ‘Making the Music Your Own’. We then had another tasty evening meal, with a talk by Ian on ‘The Davidson Pipes’ – an early set of bellows blown smallpipes. This was followed by a congenial session in the Warm Room, where a large amount of wine and whisky was consumed, and some people attempted to sing.
On Sunday morning there was another teaching session, with Neil offering ‘Manx Tunes’ and Ian ‘Tuning Tone’. For the Manx tunes we played ‘Irree ny Greiney’ (The Rising of the Sun). After another lunch with delicious soup and home-made bread, there was a final concert and session in the Mortuary Chapel.
It was a very enjoyable weekend, and I hope we return to Hospitalfield – but preferably in the summer.
Helen Ross

Editor’s note: Helen’s report sent me looking for background information on Neil and Ian’s talks. The tune that Neil Clark introduced, ‘The Unknown Warrior’ comes from the 1923 publication The Piobaireachd by Ian M'Lennan. It can be found at
However, in researching this tune, I encountered a rather different setting, from the National Library of Scotland NLS Mus.D.s.19 set into abc notation by Jack Campin.. I hope to have more information on this tune in our next issue.

The Unknown Warrior1