by Piping Press
Another great disappointment of this summer, particularly for tourists, is the cancellation of the Edinburgh Tattoo, largely because of the lack of insurance cover. It set me on a rake through the PP archive and I discovered an interesting cutting from the Scotsman newspaper from August 1970. It features P/M George Stoddart, the Tattoo’s first ‘Lone Piper’. It reads: ‘Back with the old crowd is George Stoddart, for many years the ‘lone piper’ high on the battlements of the Castle during the Edinburgh Tattoo. He has taken over as pipe major of the Edinburgh Corporation Transport pipe band. George, who has been in ‘civvy street’ for ten years now after spending 33 years in the Army, was a member of the transport band for two years before the Second World War. ‘I joined the Camerons in 1927, came out after ten years and spent two as a bus driver while with the Reserve before going back to the ‘colours’,’ he said. ‘The Corportion band were in Grade 1 in those days. Now they’re in Grade 2 and a bit short of pipers. We could do with a good half dozen recruits and I’d like to get them back in the top bracket again.’ When he went back into the Army for a second ‘tour’, Geroge was seconded on Pipe Major’s duties twice, to the Royal Scots Fusiliers and the 5th Scottish Airborne Division, where he helped to get a pipe band started.
P/M Michael Grey of the Queen’s Own Highlanders in an iconic shot from the Tattoo
He was the Tattoo’s first lone piper and appeared on the battlements off and on for 11 years. His 22 year old son Gavin, now a corporal piper serving with the 1st Battalion Scots Guards in the Persian Gulf succeeded him in the role two years ago. ‘I’ll never forget this nights on the battlements,’ George recalled. ‘I had to wear a safety harness to keep me from being blown off into a 100 foot drop. ‘There were always three men behind and just below me, two of them hanging on to nylon ropes attached to my waist. They still take this precaution.’ George (dark jacket) is pictured in the front rank of the group of pipers pictured above. I don’t know what the occasion is but I recognise P/M Angus MacDonald, Scots Guards, to George’s right. Is it a meeting of one of the Edinburgh based piping societies? Royal Scottish, Highland Pipers, Eagle Pipers? Any information and identification of the other pipers appreciated. One point I didn’t make forcefully enough in last week’s upbeat preview of forthcoming August events was that Piping Live! will have to sustain itself without the Worlds. Part of the festival’s success has been its juxtaposition to the run up to the championship. It brings in a ready made crowd in the days before the all important weekend. The upshot for this year is that it is vitally important that the UK audience gets behind the festival more than ever to make sure the gigs are packed. Surely everyone will be thirsting for live piping? Looking down the programme there is plenty for bandspeople and soloists alike. Accommodation in Glasgow will be no problem given the dearth of overseas visitors likely even two months from now. And you know you love the pubs, the patter and the fish suppers. Colin Horton in Australia has been in touch about his new product the ‘Chanter Mate’. Colin writes: ‘I have designed a Bagpipe Accessory tool that I’m currently selling in Australia. ‘It’s called a Chanter Mate, which helps prevent the chipping of reeds when removing the chanter from the bagpipe stock. It’s a great wee tool for beginners or piping schools.’ Watch the video:
A reminder that Aboyne results will be announced on August 7 and not August 1 as initially published. Entries close June 30. Click the ad. to enter. Well done to the winners in the Archie Kenneth Quaich contest. Amateur piping is blossoming. I listened to some of the tunes and, though he didn’t make the prize list, I was particularly impressed with Leslie Barratt’s interpretation of MacMhurich’s Salute by P/M Donald MacLeod. Recordings of the first two placed pipers, Gill Cairns and Colin MacKenzie, are on the Piobaireachd Society website News column.