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It was at lunch on the last day when Jock suggested that someone might like to write an account of the week’s activities for inclusion in the next issue of COMMON STOCK. All I did was nod my head in assent but with the speed of light Jock, who must surely have been an auctioneer in a previous life, had knocked down the ‘Lot’ to me! [Ilike to strike while the iron is lukewarm - Ed],

We were eleven students whose ages and piping ability spanned the scale, no pun intended, from relative novice to accomplished player, and we were divided accordingly into two groups. The more experienced with Gary West, and the less able (of which I am one) with Jock Agnew. I can’t speak for Gary’s group, but some pretty fancy playing was heard from their classroom and the singing wasn’t too bad either! I think everyone in my group will agree that Jock’s infinite patience and excellent method of instruction sent us all home better players than we were on arrival. I know that to be a certain truth in my case because my dear wife told me so.

Throughout the week group tuition and individual practice sessions were interspersed with lecture/discussions on a wide variety of piping subjects including the music of William Dixon and ‘Where are we going in the world of bellows pipes’. Richard Evans gave a most interesting talk on pipe making and Anita demonstrated the skill and patience required to make a chanter reed. I shall never again complain, at least not too loudly, about the cost of a reed.

The social calendar was ‘wall to wall’. Monday evening found us at Bank of Fleet Hotel (Gatehouse) for dinner followed by an impromptu session, each doing his bit collectively or individually.

On Tuesday we joined a local Folk Group at the Fprdbank Arms (Bladnoch) where we were made most welcome and treated to some good music and singing.

David and Janet Hannay very kindly hosted a Celeidh at Kirkdale House on Wednesday evening. There, in addition to the excellent music - solo or group -

All photographs courtesy of John Roy

Gary sang a Com Kista from the Northeast; Jock and Bob attempted a ‘Veteran’s' exhibition of highland dancing, one struggling to remember the steps, the other the notes - an ex Gordon Highlander dancing the Ghillie Callum in a borrowed Fraser kilt over two golf umbrellas accompanied by a master Mariner playing Border pipes was just one of the week’s oddities! Another was the Tardis-like boot of Jim Buchanan’s car. No one ever found out quite what it contained but two of the items therein which were revealed are worth a mention: The Cornish pipes; bag the size of a full-grown goat; blow stick; double chanter resembling the barrels of a 12 bore shotgun fingered with the left hand on the left and the right hand on the right chanter; no drones. Most people had a go with little or no success but in Jim’s expert hands a serious - well almost serious - instrument with a pleasant basso profundo sound going well with smallpipes in ‘D’ played by Gary. Then there were the smallpipes made from the keel of the wreck of HMS Conway, a wooden “Ship of the Line” and one time training ship on which Jock had served part of his early service life. And although Jock verified their provenance 1 think some of us still regarded it as a salty tale from two old tars!

A small group entertained at an Old Folks home in Castle Douglas on the Thursday evening, and on that occasion styled themselves “The Smoking Chanters”. Later that night the group took part in the Creetown Festival under the name “Pumping Bellows” - I don’t know what you are thinking but don’t ask me! Gary played a fine selection of Jigs and in true professional style didn’t bat an eyelid when a little girl stood immediately in front of him with hands over her ears. Jock solo’d on the Border pipes, Gary and Jim dueted on smallpipes and the whole group played two selections of evergreens from the Highland repertoire. Top billing was shared with a highly professional, not to mention highly attractive, group of lady Highland dancers from Canada.

By Friday evening the numbers had thinned to six. Jock went off to play at Langholm, while the remainder dined at the Murray Arms (Gatehouse), with some ending the evening with a visit to yet another Folk Club in Castle Douglas.

It was a rewarding week, well run and well organised by the admin and tutorial team of David and Janet, Gary and Jock. A special commentation must go to Janet for her excellent lunches eagerly looked forward to. It has to be said that for some they proved a bit too good, especially when the first period of the afternoon happened to be a talk in the drawing room - I guess we have all suffered from leaden eyelid syndrome! 1 think everyone fell in love with Sunshine, David and Janet’s beguiling and gentle Golden Retriever. She didn’t seem to care much for our piping, but being a well bred lady didn’t make it too obvious.

There can be no finer setting for Lowland piping than a magnificent house in beautiful Lowland Scotland. Long live the Kirkdale Summer School.