Plaidneck

Tag: Piping

Just Suppose

As a Plaidneck, I mess around in offbeat Highland stuff. One question that comes to mind is “Is there a Saint connected with the Highlands”. I am a very amateur piper and if there is a truly Highland Saint, what pipe tunes would suit.

Here in the great white north, we seem to pipe a lot for non-highland celebrations: Robbie Burns (a Lowlander) Day in January; St. Patrick’s Day ( and the Irish have their own quite different pipes) in March; Tartan Day (on the day of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath) in early April, and St. Andrew’s Day (both Scotland but not specifically highland) in November. We play the GHB (Great Highland Bagpipe) an outdoor instrument that we play bare fingered wearing glens (I’ve had frost bight on at least 6 fingers and both ears from such foolishness). Hopefully any Highland Saint would have his/her “day” in more suitable piping weather

A while ago, someone suggested St. Maelrubha (Mellroova ??) as a suitable individual.

Maelrubha was an early Christian working in the Highlands. He founded his settlement in what is now Applecross (Aber Crossan or Aporcrossan). The peninsula where Applecross sits was known by its Gaelic name, ‘A’ Chomraich’ (or Comaraich), “the sanctuary”. His ministry also extended into the inner Hebrides.
See http://www.applecrossheritage.org.uk/christian.html .

St. Maelrubha’s Day has been set as August 27th. In my part of the world, late August is a great time for piping. The dog days of summer are past, flies and mosquitos are long gone but it hasn’t yet started to get cold.

So, a Highland Saint whose day falls at a time of year with decent piping weather (at least here). What’s not to like?

Are there any suitable tunes? Apparently the Great Highland Bagpipe came into being in the 1700s. Although there have been bagpipes since ancient times, the one most known it a fairly recent development. At first it was a solo instrument playing a theme and variation type of music we now call Piobearachd (Pibrock comes close to how that is pronounced) and dance music. Pipe bands came into being in the mid 1800s with the English army. Civilian bands are from the 1900s. The piping most of us hear is heavily influenced by (British) army band playing and the demands of competition shaped by lowland organizations. There is a movement to revive a dance driven style among some solo pipers – but I digress.

So what tunes to play on St. Maelrubha’s Day. There probably isn’t original pipe music from that time. However, there are some tunes associated with the area he chose to make his mission.

I’ve done a very quick search and found a few “Applecross” tunes. Three were written by a D. McNair (“Applecross Hills”; “Mrs Platt’s Farewell to Applecross” – both listed as quicksteps; “the Applecross Highlanders” – a march) plus a “Dr. Ronald MacLean of Applecross” (probably a march) by Neil A MacDonald. There is a piobearachd (“Failte Tighearna na Comaraich) by Angus Mackay and a geographic connection between Maelrubha and “Loch Maree” (a 3/4 march).

Come August, I think I’ll just play a few of these. The Highlands deserve to be recognized as not just Scotland

The Plaidneck

How to encourage volunteers

Many militia bands rely heavily on civilian volunteers. You’d think they would encourage these dedicated people. The Canadian Forces; however, seem to go out of their way to discourage its volunteers.

At a recent event, an eastern Ontario pipe band who support and represent our local militia was asked to pipe the final leg of a re-enactors’ commemoration of the historic 104th Regiment of Foot’s 1813 march from Fredericton to Kingston. The event was on a Friday. Six pipes and three drums volunteered and made the trip; many taking a vacation do to attend.

Before the volunteers could board the bus (a school bus hired by the unit) we had to sign that we would not hold the country, military, its personnel nor agents responsible for anything that may happen during the trip. In other words the volunteers would become responsible (just for showing up) for any harm no-matter how nor by whom it was caused.

We gathered at the local Armour at 11 A.M; we boarded the bus at approximately 11:30 and arrived at CFB Kingston a little after 14:00. After tuning and instructions, the parade marched off from CFB Kingston at 15:00 and was 2 km long. At the end of the parade there was a 45 minute formal ceremony, inspection and speeches.

Although we were invited to a post event reception we were rushed back onto the bus to start the trip back to Cornwall. We reached Cornwall at about 19:30.

Accompanying the band was a militia honour guard. They did not have to sign a waiver, were on a paid assignment and as the event ran over two regular meal times, qualified for meal allowances. The volunteers; however, were out of pocket for our any meals purchased.

How does the military encourage its musician volunteers?

• First by making them responsible for any harm no-matter how caused just because they volunteered, and on top of that
• by requiring them to supply their own nourishment on an eight and a half hour event.

Makes you wonder about volunteering for the Canadian armed forces doesn’t it

The Plaidneck
Piper

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