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A Piper's Tale

stories from some of the world's top pipers


Who said the pipes aren’t versatile?

No prizes for this one, because the book is now out, but which of the pipers told of his first experience playing jazz on the pipes?

“The hardest thing I ever did was a radio play written by Don Paterson based on the idea that jazz was invented in Scotland rather than America and the iconic instrument of jazz rather than being the tenor saxophone was actually the accordion. Don put a band together for the play with a guy playing accordion sounds on a Synclavier, which was one of the early sampling keyboards. He called me up, asking what notes the pipes could play, so I told him about ‘C natural’ and the rest and that although it was difficult we could do it. He wrote tunes that were absolutely littered with these notes, and he sent me bits of it. Not a lot, eight or sixteen bars at most. I then went into the studio with three of the best jazz musicians in Europe, put the pipes up, played the eight bars, and stopped thinking that was the end of it. I asked why they were carrying on after we had played the tune and they said ‘That’s just the head. We just play it again and again and we each get a chance to improvise’. Well I’d never done anything like that before.”

Worse was to come when the piper found out about his character. “We were getting to the end of the session and Don came on the talkback and said ‘Right, your character is a drug dealer and in this section he is on stage playing the pipes and his mobile phone goes and he has to answer it so you need to play this bit with one hand’. I had to take one hand off the chanter and play, still doing chromatic improvisations. Talk about a handicap.”

Who Said That No 6

Highlight would be either the Gold Medal or the fourth place at The Glenfiddich. In fact even just playing at The Glenfiddich was great. I came off the stage on a real high. Just being on the stage, walking out there and seeing the audience, knowing that you are playing to a really switched on audience, probably the biggest I have played in front of in a competition, was just great.

Who Said That No 5


“I have always been taught by Mum and Dad, I never felt the need to go anywhere else and it has all worked out nicely. When I have a lesson they are my teachers and all of the rest of the time they are Mum and Dad. It’s easy to switch that on and off and they are not too different as teachers than as parents. It’s still about giving advice and taking things on board.”

Who said that No 4

Which one of the pipers to be featured in A Piper’s Tale said:

I suppose I’ve always been a bit of an entertainer. From the age of five or six I could recite Burns poems, tell wee stories and sing songs. I would go to my Gran’s most Sunday and she would ask me to sing a song or tell a joke. There were always people visiting my Gran’s house so you never knew who was going to be there on a Sunday afternoon to perform to. I think I was better at poems than songs; unfortunately I’ve never really been much of a singer…..”


Answers below and the first three correct answers will win tickets to the book launch on the 15th August at the National Piping Centre.

Who said that No 3

Which one of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers said that in the unlikely event that they won the talent show When Will I Be Famous he would “donate my left testicle to the band. Well, not only did we get though, but we eventually won the competition. So my left testicle belongs to the Chilli Pipers.”

Who said that No 2


Which one of the pipers featured in a Piper’s Tale said:

“It’s funny, you speak to the guys here, and they’ll tell everyone that I’m the crabbit bastard on the teaching staff. To a degree it’s true because I don’t take any nonsense. An example would be some of the kids you get on the summer school. Some of the teachers will say that they are having a nightmare with a particular student and I just can’t see it because I’ve obviously made it clear that there will be no room for nonsense in my class.

Leave your answer below. The first three correct answers will win tickets to the launch of A Piper’s Tale on Thursday 15th August at 5pm in the National Piping Centre.

Who said that No 1.

Which one of the pipers featured in a Piper’s Tale said:

“When I think of Hugh McCallum and Duncan and Iain MacFadyen and Angus MacDonald and John McDougall, all these guys got on well with each other and I think it’s a great thing for piping that that works, it’s not win at all costs. And they were all friendly to me when I started. They were very encouraging and when I started to get into the bigger competitions it was really quite hard to grasp that I was actually playing against my heroes. It took me while to get the hang of that.”


Leave your answer below. The first three correct answers will win tickets to the launch of A Piper’s Tale on Thursday 15th August at 5pm in the National Piping Centre.

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