Over the last few months, the writer has been preparing an index of tunes for the Highland Bagpipe, the Uillean Bagpipe, the Irish War Pipe and the Northumbrian Bagpipe. Over the last thirty-five years there have been three indices published that the writer knows of, but they all have their limitations.
The Bagpipe Music Index was published by The Bagpipe Music Index, New Jersey, USA in 1966 and includes 2430 listings from 35 books. The title page states that the index is an ‘alphabetical tune listing of tunes from books currently available’.
Seventeen years later in 1983, a second index appeared on the market. This is Bain’s Directory of Bag-pipe Tunes, compiled by Harry Bain and published by Albyn Press Ltd, Edinburgh.
This is a far more substantial index with 114 books listed and over 5000 tune titles; most of the books published from the beginning of the 20th century up to the early 1980’s are included and a few from the 19th century. At the rear of the book is a small section that gives some historical notes on 48 tunes.
The one drawback of this index is that the tunes are listed alphabetically under their time signature. If someone is looking for a tune and does not know its time signature, they may have to look in a number of different sections of the book before they find it.
Nevertheless, this is the index used by many people until the early 1990s when a new index appeared. It is called Pekaar’s Encyclopaedia of Highland Bagpipe Tunes, compiled by Dr Robert Pekaar and published by Scott’s Highland Services Limited, Ontario, Canada.
This publication has 19675 listings from 286 books and has been through 4 editions. It lists the tunes alphabetically and providing the correct name of a tune is known it can be easily found. The latest revision of this book has an addendum of a number of books recently published. This does add a little confusion when looking for tunes.
The reason for the writer getting involved in his venture is to make it easier to search for a tune even if only one word of the title is known. For this reason, an XL spreadsheet format has been used. The Highland Bagpipe tunes alone exceed 20, 000 and the number is growing monthly as new books come on the market.
As the reader may imagine, this is a job of gargantuan proportions, but it does have rewards other than those mentioned above. When all the data is present in such a format it is possible to see different patterns emerge, particularly in relation to the composers of the tunes.
Firstly, a huge number have no known composer; these are often heaped together under the convenient label of ‘traditional’. Many of these tunes have been around for centuries prior to the written record and it is not surprising that the composer’s name has long since been forgotten.
Secondly, it is noticeable that the majority of the great modern tunes have been composed by a relatively small number of people. There are a few composers who have composed one or two commendable tunes and whose tunes are and will continue to be played but the majority of the modern classics come from pens of a small number of prominent composers. A vast number of new tunes have been composed over the last forty years, but it is a surprise that only a very small percentage are considered ‘great’ by the piping community.
Perhaps the most surprising fact of all is the disproportionately small number of women composers. The last forty years has seen a huge increase in the number of books that have been published. As far as the writer is aware, there is only one collection of bagpipe music compiled by a female; in 2000 Ann Gray of Canada published Ann Gray’s Collection: Music for the Great Highland Bagpipe. It contains a number of new tunes composed by her. Coinciding with this increase in pipe music books has been a rapid increase in the number of women playing the bagpipes worldwide; many of them have become outstanding players in the pipe band movement and in the solo piping field.
The index shows that the number of tunes composed by women could be as low as 1% of the total. However, this apparent phenomenon is not peculiar to bagpipes; musicians from other fields have remarked on the rarity of quality compositions from the females within their ranks.
Throughout the world over the last 50 years, we have seen women reach the top of almost any field of endeavour that they choose to put their minds to; perhaps these attitudes will see an increase in new tunes coming from their ranks.
The subject of this article is certainly no shrinking violet as far as composing is concerned. Bruce Clark has been playing the bagpipes for sixty years and composing tunes for over 50 years. In 2001 he took the bold step of publishing a book of his own compositions called Once In A Lifetime. Bruce was born in Invercargill on 9 February 1931 and his father, William George Clark, started teaching him the pipes at the age of 12. He also had lessons from the late Jim MacArthur and the late John Allan MacGee. John Allan was a Scot who migrated to New Zealand in the late 1940s and settled in Invercargill and later in Wanganui. Bruce took the opportunity to get tuition from the great man for a couple of years.
As a 16-year-old Bruce joined the New Zealand Railways as a Locomotive Fireman Trainee and this job saw him transfer to a number of small towns over the next twenty years.
However, it would be some years before his first move and in 1949 joined the Caledonian Pipe Band of Invercargill under P/M John Allan MacGee. He remained with the band for the next 4 years except for a 3-month break for Compulsory Military Training with the Army at Burnham near Christchurch. The first of his transfers saw Bruce on the move to Gore in 1953 and immediately joined the Gore Pipe Band under P/M Reg Graham; Bruce was quickly made Pipe Sergeant of the band.
Two years later in 1955 the Railways transferred him to Oamaru and Ray Snell was his next pipe major in the North Otago Highland Pipe Band. By this time, he was playing for highland dancing as well as tutoring many beginners. In 1960, it was back to Gore and this time the local pipe band was being led by the late Lawrie Whyte. Lawrie was a delightful man and was still competing in A Grade competitions in his mid-80s until a few years ago. From 1966 to 1968, Bruce was pipe major of the band.
In late 1968 and for the next 4 years Bruce made a major career change and went into the grocery business; he had limited time for bands but was still able to teach. 1972 saw him move back to his hometown of Invercargill, still in the grocery business, and was able involve himself more in the pipe band movement; he re-joined the local band which was now called the City of Invercargill Pipe Band. The band was at that time led by Pipe Major Lang Morton and that doyen of Drum Majors, Gordon Steele.
In 1973 the band sought a new direction and invited Lewis Turrell to become pipe major; it is now history that in 6 years he was able to take an underachieving band to become the New Zealand champions for two years in a row in 1979 and 1980.
In 1976 a No 2 band was started with the purpose of feeding new pipers into the number one band. Initially the tutors were Tom Heslop and Gordon Elder, but Bruce took over after a year; in 1979 the band went to their first dominion contest at Dunedin where they were 2nd in the Aggregate in Grade 4. The following year at Hamilton they won the Grade 4 and in1983 won the Grade 3 at Invercargill.
In the early 1980s Bruce decided to have a rest from bands but was soon cajoled into forming a new band; thus, the Southland Farmers Nissan Pipe Band was formed in 1984. This band is now known as the Southern City Pipe Band.
They competed for the first time at national level in 1986 and won the Grade 4 at Wellington; 2 years later in Rotorua they won the Grade 3. Bruce has continued his involvement with pipe bands and in 2001, at the age of 70, was asked to take over as Musical Director of the Timaru Highland Pipe Band.
Bruce’s children have also been involved in pipe bands. His son, Dane, from his first marriage was a piper and briefly pipe major of the Gore Pipe Band. His present partner Linda is also a piper and along with their eldest son, Cameron aged 8, is involved with his Timaru venture. His 5-year-old son Cullum is ‘bustin’ his gut’ to get into the band.
Bruce started composing tunes at the age of 20 in 1951. His first effort, Saxons Welcome to Invercargill is an attractive 4 parted 2/4 that was composed at a railway siding in Thornbury near Riverton, whilst waiting for a change of crews. Since then, there have been nearly two hundred others.
In 2001 he published 117 in his book Once In A Lifetime. The very first tune in the book is one composed by his father. Highland Lassies was composed in 1947 for the Invercargill Caledonian Ladies Pipe Band.
The rest of the tunes in the book are entirely Bruce’s own and represent all time signatures. However, although Bruce learned piobaireachd from Jim MacArthur, he has not composed any yet.
There are a number of tunes that were submitted to composing compositions and two were good enough to get into the prize list. Alex Duthart’s Visit To Invercargill is a jaunty 4 parted 2/4 that was placed 1st in the 1986 ‘Write a March’ composing competition in the New Zealand Pipebandsman. (See New Zealand Pipebandsman Vol 4 No 1 March 1986).
In 1989 New Zealand Pipebandsman had another ‘Write a March’ competition and once again Bruce won it with an excellent 6/8 The N.Z. Pipebandsman. (Refer New Zealand Pipebandsman Vol 7 No 2 June 1989).
There are a number of other delightful tunes in the book that will whet the piping appetites of many pipers for years to come. Bruce had 100 copies of the book printed and has almost sold out of them but if the demand is sufficient will do a second run.
He is currently working on a second volume which will have about one hundred tunes; so far, he has 67 tunes of these tunes ‘in the can’ and hopes to have book ready within the next year. Anyone wishing to obtain wither of these books can contact Bruce at 45 Kelvin Street, Timaru, Phone 03 6866009 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the tunes in this new book is a reel called Awesome. This is a delightful tune and is published here to give the reader an idea of what is to come. Bruce has proven himself to be one of New Zealand’s foremost composers in the modern era and his energy and zeal in publishing his own tunes is a commendable achievement.
I know there are a number of pipers in New Zealand who have composed a number of tunes and wish to publish them; Bruce’s endeavours should be the added incentive to motivate those people to take the next step toward publication.
Strictly speaking, Bill and Jim Barrie do not qualify as New Zealand Composers as they were not born here. However, they lived here for nigh on 30 years and during that time composed tunes that have become classics and their contribution cannot be ignored.
Bill hailed from Scotland having been born in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute in 1910. When he was young his family moved to Glasgow and at the age of 11 started learning the bagpipes. The late John Macdougall Gillies normally taught pipers who had a track record, but Bill has the distinction of being the first and only person whom he taught from scratch.
In 1925 Gillies died and Bill continued his studies, especially piobaireachd, under one of Gillies’ greatest pupils, Robert Reid. Macdougall Gillies is considered by many to be the greatest exponent from the Cameron school of piobaireachd.
New Zealand has another link with the Reid family; in 1965 Willie Reid (Robert’s younger brother) settled in Hastings where he lived until he died in the early 1970s. A number of pipers took advantage of Willie’s piping knowledge; perhaps the best known is Barry Brougham now of Auckland. Barry acquired most of Willie’s collection of pipe music and also a set of superb MacDougall bagpipes that once belonged to Robert.
Bill competed from an early age and in 1927 announced himself to the piping world in dramatic fashion. Playing in the Piobaireachd event at the Bridge of Allan Games Robert Reid and Willie Ross tied for first place. Bill was third and great names like Malcolm MacPherson of Invershin, J.B Robertson (Scots Guards) and John Wilson of Edinburgh (later Toronto) were 4th, 5th and 6threspectively. Not bad for a lad of 16.
In 1930 he moved to England where he continued his piping and later, in 1939 went to San Francisco where the World’s Fair was being held. He had been playing with the Clachan Troup (a group of Scottish Dancers) for some years and they were chosen to be part of the British Exhibition at the Fair.
Shortly after Bill settled in Vancouver, Canada where he met and married Elsie Allen in 1940. They had three children, Jim, Elaine and Jean. In 1941 he enlisted in the Canadian Army. After the War he remained in the Vancouver area until 1953 when he and his family moved New Zealand. They first lived in Oamaru and shortly after went to Wanganui. Bill and son Jim were frequently to be seen at highland games throughout New Zealand where they had a number of successes. In the late 1960s, his daughters went back to Canada for what was intended to be a holiday but eventually married and stayed. In 1974 Jim, wife Jan and their two boys moved to Canada to live and although Bill and Elsie loved New Zealand, they too went back in 1980.
Bill started composing early in life, but his most prolific years were whilst living in New Zealand. In 1975 he published a collection of 27 of his own tunes (including a piobaireachd) and three of his arrangements of traditional tunes.
This book is called Music for Bagpipes and although long since out of print has proven to be popular with a number of memorable tunes. The Auckland Police Pipe Band March, The City of Hastings Highland Pipe Band March, Blockhouse Bay March and the piobaireachd Message From Dunvegan Castle being four that stand out.
Bill, who has just turned 92, and Elsie live on Vancouver Island in Canada where he still maintains a keen interest in piping. He has produced three CDs singing, in canntaireachd, a number of piobaireachd tunes in accompaniment with son Jim: more on this later.
Jim Barrie was born in Canada in 1941 and had his first lesson at the age of 5. That he was a prodigy there appears to be no doubt. At the age of six he won a practice chanter competition and received pipe music books to the value of $5.
When he moved to New Zealand with his family he competed frequently and had immediate success. At the age of 13 he won the B Grade and A Grade on the same day. Winning the A Grade precluded him from ever playing in the lower grades again.
Jim is a multi-talented musician and plays several other instruments; there have been numerous occasions when he has added to the ceilidh atmosphere with his fine skills on the button accordion and guitar.
Jim also involved himself in the pipe band scene; in the early 1960s, be joined the New Zealand Police and was quickly made pipe major of the Auckland Police Pipe Band. He was also a member of the New Zealand Champions Innes Tartan Pipe Band (now Auckland and District) and was with them when they went on their famous tour to Scotland and North America in 1972.
Despite having lived in New Zealand for over 20 years, Jim had a hankering for his country of birth and so in 1974, along with his wife Jan and two young sons set off for a new life in Canada. Initially, they resided in Alberta and then in 1990 moved back to Jim’s birthplace, Vancouver. Jim has been actively involved in judging both solo and pipe band competitions and has also been in demand as a tutor in the many Summer Schools that are held on both sides of the Canadian/American border. One of his main areas of interest is satisfying the ever-increasing demand for those who wish to learn the Cameron style of playing piobaireachd. Jim is a devoted adherent of that style as he inherited it from his father and is probably one of the foremost authorities.
As if all this has not been enough, Jim has also found time to involve himself in recording sessions with other musicians. The piping world has seen the results of two of these ventures; Simon Fraser University Pipe Band’s albums, SFU 25th Anniversary and Do Mo Chara Maith have Jim providing the synthesizer/accordion backing on some of the tracks. He was also involved with the recording and mixing of both of these albums. One of these tracks, Kanon, was recorded in his own studio.
Bill and Jim have jointly been responsible for three of the most exciting and innovative CDs of bagpipe music ever produced. These feature Bill singing, in canntaireachd, a number of well-known piobaireachd in the Cameron style with Jim accompanying him on the button accordion and synthesizer.
Regardless of which style of piobaireachd playing one adheres to, it is immediately obvious that the sheer musical mastery of these two talented men have produced something that transcends these barriers. Three CDs have been produced thus far and it can only be hoped that there are more in the pipeline.
Jim, as a 13-year-old composed his first tune; it was a 2 parted strathspey called Friendly Bay. Friendly Bay is a delightful spot and is one of the natural features of Oamaru coastline. Most pipers when they begin composing will start with something simple, like a march, or perhaps a slow air. To start with a strathspey can only suggest that Jim had a musical maturity at the age of 13 years that was quite unique.
The next 20 years proved to be extremely fertile in both the number of tunes composed and the quality of the tunes. Many of Jim’s compositions have passed the test in that they have been immediately accepted by his piping contemporaries. Tunes like Donald MacLeod, John MacKenzie’s Fancy, Willie Barrie’s Favourite, Donald Bain’s Bairns, (all hornpipes) Barry Brougham’s Beard, (Jig) The York Reel, William Barrie’s Farewell to New Zealand, (March) and the delightful slow air Jack Terry are all tunes that have found their way into the repertoires of band and solo pipers throughout the world. They will forever stand alongside the great tunes that have been composed by pipers over the last 200 years.
A couple of years ago Bill and Jim decided to compile a collection of their tunes. Bill had published his own collection in 1975 and many of Jim’s have appeared in other notable publications over the last 35 years but it does seem to be a logical step to bring all together in one book.
In 2001 A Lifetime of Compositions by William and James Barrie was published. This is an upmarket publication with 76 tunes – forty-four are either composed or arranged by Bill and 32 are by Jim. All the tunes from Bill’s earlier book are in the new one.
There are numerous biographical notes and photographs. It has been presented in an excellent fashion with the pages being a beige colour; light artificial foxing around the edges gives a splendid appearance of antiquity. The type is brown in colour to contrast with the yellowish pages. It is a superb publication of pipe music.
One of the more impressive features as far as the writer is concerned is there are also four piobaireachd by Bill; Andrew MacNeill of Colonsay, Lament for Pipe Major Robert Reid, The Sounds of Mull and Message From Dunvegan Castle. These are all fine tunes, but the writer has for many years had a liking for The Sounds of Mull; it is a tune with a great melodic line in the ground and this melody flows all way through the variations.
Andrew MacNeill of Colonsay and Lament for Pipe Major Robert Reid have both been recorded on albums by Simon Fraser University Pipe Band. The former is from a recording of their Sydney Opera House concert a couple of years ago and the latter was played during their performance at the Carnegie Hall.
The writer never knew Bill or Jim whilst they were living in New Zealand but has spent many convivial hours in their company since first meeting in Canada 15 years ago. Much of what has been written here has been reproduced from memories of the many discussions over the years and any gaps in the memory from too much ‘conviviality’ have been repaired by reading the biographical notes in the book.
Throughout the years the writer has met many people in the New Zealand piping movement who know both Bill and Jim. They all speak highly of them as players, composers and above all, as delightful people. New Zealand piping is indeed fortunate to have been acquainted with Bill and Jim Barrie.
The writer would like to thank Barry Brougham for his assistance in preparing this article.
Ross Macdonald was born in New Plymouth in 1934 to parents of Scottish descent.
In fact, his forbears were amongst the first settlers in the Otago region. At the age of 4 his father, who worked for the New Zealand Railways, was transferred to Otiria Junction near Moerewa in Northland.
The NZR frequently moved their staff around the country during the 1940s, 50s and 60s; the writer can recall eight or ten Station Masters in his hometown in the 1950s and 60s. The MacDonald’s were no exception and over the next ten years moved to Ashurst in Manawatu, Waitara in Taranaki and Port Ahuriri in Hawkes Bay.
It was whilst living in Port Ahuriri that Ross’ father decided that Ross was going to learn to play the bagpipes. Today Ross is rather surprised by this as there had been no pipers in the immediate past generations of the family.
Ross can remember in 1948 being taken to the Port Ahuriri Pipe Band and being introduced to the Pipe Major, Bill Budge. Bill became his first teacher. In 1950 Ross played with the band in the B Grade at the Dominion Championships in Auckland.
By 1952 Ross decided to make school teaching his vocation and went to Teachers’ College in Wellington for two years. In 1954 he was in Christchurch furthering his studies and at the completion was a Nature Studies specialist.
Ross admits that during his training he dedicated all his time to his studies but when in Christchurch did enter into a few of the local solo competitions. He did not get involved with bands.
His first teaching job in 1955 took him back to the city of his birth and he quickly joined the City of New Plymouth Pipe Band under Pipe Major Ron Wallace. The New Zealand Education Department was like the NZR and regularly moved staff around the country. Over the next twenty years Ross had five moves around the North Island.
In 1957 he was off to Auckland where he joined the Auckland Districts Pipe Band under Pipe Major Bob Buchan. Then in 1961 he was transferred to Wanganui and joined the Wellington West Coast & Taranaki Regiment Pipes and Drums under Pipe Major John Allan Magee.
When John Allan retired, most of the playing members were absorbed into the City of Wanganui Pipe Band. The late Don Fitchet became their Pipe Major and Ross was Pipe Sergeant. In 1969 Ross became the Pipe Major and held this position until he moved to Wellsford in 1972.
Hunterville and the Rangitikei Scots was his next move in 1976 and the following year saw Ross in Inglewood and back with City of New Plymouth Pipe Band. This time Bill Cruikshank was the Pipe Major. Ross had eleven years in Inglewood and three of those were as Pipe Major of the band.
In 1986 his life changed when he was appointed as a School Inspector and transferred back to Wanganui and the local band. Don Fitchet was Pipe Major and very soon stepped aside and let Ross take over, a position he held until about ten years ago. He paraded with the band until about 3 years ago.
Ross has competed in solo competitions but his involvement with bands was a more consuming passion. He has been on the band judging panel and judged many provincial competitions and one New Zealand Championship. He has also judged many solo competitions.
Composing came early to Ross. He remembers his first attempts soon after he started on the chanter. He is not sure how many tunes he has composed but it could be as many as one hundred.
Ross is like many of the composers who have featured in this series, he finds tunes are more likely to come when he is in a relaxed mood. In fact, he admits that the majority of the tunes he has composed have come since he retired from work in 1996.
In 1993 the City of Wanganui Pipe Band published a Jubilee Souvenir celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Band’s formation and included are a collection of 14 tunes composed by band members; six are by Ross.
Since his retirement Ross has not been idle and in 2004, he published a book of his own tunes called 60 Tunes for the Highland Bagpipe. He obtained a music writing programme for his computer and set all the tunes himself.
The first part of this book comprises six 2/4 marches, eight 6/8s, three 4/4s and two 12/8 marches. These tunes, like all others throughout the book, have the date of composition and a composer’s comment. My favourite is Willie Macdonald which was composed when Ross was 17 years old.
Four slow airs make up the second part of the book; Serendipity is a very pleasant air in 9/8 time and has been ‘orchestrated’ and played by a musical group called The Highlanders. Waltz With the Highlanders is, as the name suggests, a waltz and was originally composed for the Northumbrian smallpipes but is certainly not out of place when played on our instrument.
Many have found the strathspey to be the most difficult tunes to compose for the Highland bagpipe. Ross has six such tunes in the third part of his book and one of the better ones is a top hand tune called Trout Lurk Below the Rapids. It tells of a very pleasant time spent on the Buller River on the West Coast. Much to the composer’s chagrin the trout still lurk there.
There are five reels in the fourth part of the book; Rippling Reflections is one that appeals and describes the light reflections on water as it tumbles down rapids and around boulders. Of course, these are never observed when the trout are biting!
The Hornpipe and Jig competition appears to have a direct effect on the New Zealand composing style and judging by the number of these it appears that Ross is equally influenced. There are nine jigs and six hornpipes.
A delightful two-parter called Hunterville’s Jig is very simply constructed; in fact, its simplicity and appealing melody could easily make it a popular medley tune for lower grade bands. After this comment was written, Ross advised that the Rangatikie Scots have been using it in one of their medley for some years.
Ross’ first composition as a 16-year-old is a jig, and with all the exuberance of youth it is a six parter called Whisky Galore. The title came from the 1949 movie of the same name.
It is in the hornpipe compositions that the composer excels. Some of the note timings are a little different (or unexpected) than those normally expressed in this genre. In many phrases the emphasis moves onto the upbeat and this adds a new dimension that may make them attractive to pipe majors looking for something different in their medleys.
In this, the sixth part of the book, there are six tunes and Jean’s Can o’ Worms is one that I am sure will meet with approval. We are not told who Jean is, but she has her own private worm farm. However, a word of warning – it will require a reasonably high degree of technical expertise to get the best out of this tune. The writer with his aging fingers found it turned into a ‘can o’ worms’.
Three hornpipes originally composed for the tin whistle (all with ‘whistle’ in the title) have come across beautifully for the bagpipe. Whistle Hornpipe and Whistle Too are relatively simple two parted tunes that could easily find their way into a lower grade band medley. The third of these tunes, Whistle Up a Rainbow is unusual in that all the endings are different in each part, but this does not detract from a tune with a catchy melody.
When the book was nearing publication, the composer and his wife Eunice, went on a holiday around the South Island. The relaxed atmosphere of this holiday was just perfect for a number of new tunes to effuse from his ‘piping pen’. The titles and anecdotal stories accompanying all these tunes tell of their meanderings through the South Island.
Nine of these later compositions make up the last part of the book; there are three 6/8 marches, one slow air, three hornpipes and two jigs. Once again, the hornpipes are good quality tunes well worthy of consideration as additions to the pipe band repertoire.
Frequently, Ross finds tunes come to him when he is most relaxed. Lying in bed trying to get to sleep it is not uncommon for them to emerge. He has been known to slip out of bed and record them before they are lost. The hornpipe Midnight Musings had its origins on one of these occasions.
The Amorous Seahorse is about the well-known fish found in New Zealand waters whilst a praying mantis seen wandering the walls of the men’s’ toilets in a motor camp in Cheviot was the inspiration for The Meandering Mantis. Both of these tunes continue the excellence of hornpipe compositions.
Ross in delighted that his tunes have been played by some pipers by choice. One of his pupils, Douglas McGregor has played them in competition and with frequent success. We all know that the judges in these competitions should judge the competitor’s playing but if the tune is of inferior quality it will detract from the overall performance and be taken into account by the judge. No doubt the tunes chosen by Douglas on those occasions were of sufficient quality to satisfy the adjudicator. One of these tunes, Cicada Jig Step is published alongside this article.
For many years the City of Wanganui Pipe Band have played about ten tunes composed by Ross.
Overall, this book has a number of other tunes that have some appeal, but space limits the amount of comment that can be made. It is highly recommended that pipers and pipe majors consider this book as a source of tunes.
The Composer and Compiler of The Sticking Pen Collection
Ross Lloyd has been involved in the Pipe Band scene in Christchurch for nearly 50 years. About 23 years ago he composed his first tunes and two of them had immediate international success.
Ross was taught the pipes as a 10-year-old in 1954. His tutor was the notable Joe Patterson who was Pipe Major of the City of Christchurch Pipe Band. The following year he played in the City of Christchurch B Grade Band and attended his first contest at Ashburton.
In 1959 at the age of 17 he became Pipe Major of the Band and later played in the senior band. 1962 saw a major split in the band and Ross and a number left to join the Scottish Society of NZ Pipe Band under Pipe Major Frank Annan.
He played and contested with that band until he and two other pipers, Graham Price and Ross Allison, left for UK in September 1965. They spent the first 9 months living and working in Bristol and were involved with the local Pipe Band. The local newspaper heard about these intrepid New Zealanders and ran an article about them. In the 1960s it was not a common occurrence for New Zealanders to make the lengthy sea trip over to UK.
Graham returned to New Zealand whilst the two Ross’s travelled throughout Europe and Scotland for 6 months before returning to New Zealand in late 1966. Ross Lloyd re-joined the Scottish Society and continued playing with them for the next ten years.
The highlight of his time with the band was the 1967 Invercargill contest when the Scottish Society won the Quickstep competition. Although the City of Wellington went on to win the Test Selection and the Aggregate, Ross believes it to be the best moment of his competing career.
In 1976 Ross retired from the Scottish Society Pipe Band and after a short break was coerced into becoming Pipe Tutor of the Canterbury Caledonian Ladies’ Pipe Band; a post he was to hold for 18 years. During his time with Caledonian Ladies’, they made trips to Santa Rosa, USA, Adelaide, Tasmania and Brisbane (twice). Some of the tunes in his Collection were inspired from incidents that occurred on these trips. In 1996 Ross was made a Life Member of the band.
In 1979 he composed two 4/4 marches, The Sticking Pen and Alister Miller’s (MBE) Week in Wick. A couple of years later he sent copies of these tunes to Ian MacLeod, Pipe Major of the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band in Scotland. The Strathclyde Police included the former in their medley in the 1982 and 1983 World Championships. The latter was played by Dysart and Dundonald in their Medley in 1983. I don’t know of any other New Zealand composer who has had two of their compositions played by top overseas bands at the same time. On arriving at the Tasmanian contest, the first tune they heard was The Sticking Pen.
The 1980s also saw other changes in Ross’ life. He met his wife Barbara, and they were married in 1984.
They both had an interest in Country music and bagpipe music and together formed the Barross Country Duo. The feature of their music is the way they use the bagpipes, banjo and guitars to accompany their voices. They have been successful in Country competitions gaining the top prize at Motueka in 1984. These days Ross and Barbara are two of the most popular performers in their field and receive invitations to perform throughout New Zealand and Australia. Barbara also learned the pipes and played in the band.
After the success of his first two compositions Ross, who had thirty more tunes he had composed, decided to take the then unusual step of publishing them in a book. In 1987 he consulted with two other Christchurch pipers in the printing trade, Trevor Young and John Hayward, and produced The Sticking Pen Collection. There is no doubt that the two tunes mentioned above are the best in the book but there are others that are eminently playable.
Ross states that composing tunes is relatively easy and that coming up with a name is sometimes more difficult.
The following summarises the 36 tunes in the collection and some of the stories behind them:
Over 20 years ago Ross acquired an old set of MacDougall bagpipes, and they are fondly remembered in the two parted 6/8 The McDougalls. This tune may have unwittingly brought the Country idiom across into the piping arena with very good effect. Mary’s Tune is a slow air named after his mother.
The delightful slow air, The Whiskey Rose has nothing to do with Ross’ favourite tipple; it is his way of expressing his delight for the garden rose of the same name. Another slow air has the name Scotch Mist. Apparently, there is a similar type of mist in North Canterbury.
At one of the Wellington contests, Ross’ band was staying at Romanos’ Hotel. One of the other bands got up to some noisy mischief on the Saturday night and the next morning were refused breakfast. The 6/8 The Romanos Breakfast tells the story.
The Sheriff of Santa Rosa recalls another incident from the band’s trip there in 1984. Ross was curious about the accoutrements attached to the local sheriff’s patrol car, one of which was a shotgun placed above the dashboard. Ross struck up a brief friendship with the sheriff that included several band members having their photos taken with the car and sheriff.
In 1980 a new public park was opened in the Port Hills near Christchurch; Mount Vernon Park is a 6/8 march named after this park. Piping the Haggis tells of the times when Ross piped the haggis. The delightful 9/8 rhythm makes it a perfect tune for such an occasion.
Noelene Keller was the Pipe Major of the Caledonian Ladies Pipe Band, and it is only natural that Ross should name a tune after her. Another delightful 9/8 march. Noelene was awarded the QSM in the last New Year’s Honours.
The ¾ march Away to Gore was composed after one of Barbara and Ross’ trips to the Country Music festival at Gore. Another ¾ The Garden City is Ross’ tribute to his home city and the 12/8 Queen Elizabeth II Park is named after the famous park built in that city for the 1974 Commonwealth Games.
For nearly 20 years Ashburton has been home to a pipe band festival and it seemed appropriate that a tune should be composed for it; hence the 12/8 march The Ashburton Band Festival.
An amusing incident occurred in the surf at Waikiki Beach in Hawaii on one of the band trips. Peter Keller lost his teeth whilst swimming. A frantic search and the use of a garden rake saw them eventually returned to their rightful place. Events like this just have to have a tune and the 2/4 Pete’s Teeth seems most appropriate.
All Pipe Majors will know of the problems associated with non-matching chanters. One of the pipers in the band Adelaide in 1986 used her solo chanter. It was not the same pitch as the band chanters and the resulting discord was the inspiration for the 2/4 march The Odd Chanter at Adelaide.
The Santa Rosa Reception is a 2/4 march that recalls the great reception the New Zealand bands received at the house of Cathy and Don Cameron in 1982. The Arthur’s Pass Staircase is one of two strathspeys in the collection and is named after the famous car drive from Canterbury to the West Coast. The Staircase no longer exists; the winding road having been straightened by a new viaduct.
N. Z’s K. Z’s is a 2/4 march commemorating New Zealand’s first America’s Cup campaign. The second strathspey is The Sign of the Kiwi and is named after one of the most famous landmark houses in the Port Hills of Christchurch.
Ross Wilson’s March is a 2/4 named after one of New Zealand’s better-known pipers who was president of the Royal New Zealand Pipe Band’s Association from 1982 to 94 and wrote the Foreword when the collection was published.
The Top of the South is a 4/4 composed for the occasion in1984 when Barbara and Ross won the top prize at the Country singing competitions. Those of us who know Barry Shaw will not be too surprised to know that Ross composed a 4/4 march and called it Barry Shaw’s Early Morning Dram!!
The late Alister Miller MBE was born in New Zealand, but his parents and siblings were born in Wick in Caithness. Alister spent a week in his ‘hometown’ and was delighted that Ross should compose such a great 4/4 march as Alister Miller’s (MBE) Week in Wick. This tune has been played at Word Championship level and is undoubtedly one of Ross’ best.
Ross’ forebears were part of the McLaren Clan; one day he was talking to two strangers in a café in Christchurch and the wife was a McLaren. This was all the inspiration he needed for the 4/4 march The Meeting of the McLarens.
Governor General Sir David and Lady Beattie made a formal visit to Christchurch and Ross was asked to write a tune for the occasion. An impressive 4/4 The Caledonian Welcome To Sir David and Lady Beattie was played by the band as it marched down the street as part of the reception.
The international success of the title tune in this collection, The Sticking Pen, has been described earlier but there is no doubt that it is a ‘cracker’. It is the sort of tune that we all wish we had composed; unfortunately, Ross got there first!!
On his trip to Scotland in 1966 Ross met up with members of the Invergordon Distillery Pipe Band. After the band had finished practice for the evening Ross was invited to sample some of the sponsor’s product. Years later when he composed a reel it seemed proper that its name should forever be The Invergordon Dram.
The last two tunes in the book are hornpipes; The Hailstorm was composed at the time of a violent hailstorm in 1987 with stones the size of golf balls. The damage to property was immense and unfortunately Ross’ car suffered. The name for The Sticker’s Hornpipe is taken from one of the tasks performed at the freezing works where Ross has been employed for the last 31 years.
The collection was published in 1987, not 1981 as I stated in one of my earlier articles in this series. 750 copies of the book were printed and there still plenty left for those who would like to purchase a copy. The cover photograph is of the composer and was originally included in a publication called Christchurch and its People by Philip Temple.
Ross has a further 25 tunes he has composed and has plans to compile another book with these extra tunes in the not-too-distant future. One of them, Blair’s Favourite is reproduced here. We look forward to this and give him every encouragement. Blair is Ross’s youngest son and plays the tenor drum in the Royal Stewart Pipe Band. Blair’s wife Barbara also plays in the band and Ross’ eldest son Kerry is the Drum Major.
When I interviewed Ross for this article, he cited one incident that unfortunately prevails in the piping scene. One piper was discussing the book with Ross and stated that he would not buy a copy but would wait until the band did and then photocopy it for his own use.
The temerity of anyone to not only carry out such and act, but to own up to it surprises me. Not only does it also makes the venture a financial risk but is illegal to photocopy tunes from a book without permission. We owe a lot to those who publish these collections and if people were to buy them rather than resort to photocopier they would be produced in greater numbers and therefore cheaper.
I intend to produce a few paragraphs in the near future outlining the meaning of copyright and when and how the copyright laws may be transgressed. I will also discuss when copyright on a book or individual tune runs out and thus the terms of the Copyright Act no longer apply.
The success of two of Ross’ tunes internationally gave him the courage to produce a collection of bagpipe music that few others in New Zealand had attempted. Alexander Taylor Cameron of Mataura was the only one and that was 55 years earlier. There have been others since then, but Ross can be credited with leading the way in the modern era.
We New Zealanders tend to underrate our own compositions. People like Ross Lloyd should be the encouragement others need to bring their own efforts to the piping world. It will be no surprise to me if some closet composer out there has a tune or tunes that will become top of the Piping Pops – if only we can get to hear them.
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