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Welcome to Begg Bagpipes
------Est. 1980 Glasgow city centre's oldest bagpipe shop------
click on the banner for our home page

Dear Piping Enthusiast,
Well, we finish off our most enjoyable Any Questions series with my own responses below. I hope you have found them both entertaining and informative and I would like to thank all the contributors for giving us the inside track on their piping views and thoughts - it is quite unique to get such a personal input from these global piping icons and if you missed any of them, you can catch up in the newsletter archive on the website.
There were a number of common themes throughout, namely:
1. Books - those of Willie Ross, Donald MacLeod and the Scots Guards were almost always selected as being the best.
2. Angus MacDonald probably just pipped the others in being the favourite player.
3. Pet hates were clearly a poorly maintained/prepared pipe and issues around tuning.
4. Most prized possession not surprisingly was the instrument itself.
5. Piping wasn't taking up all their time, and everyone had wide and varied interests outside of piping.
We still have a few months to go, but planning is already well advanced for Piping Live! 2014, 11th-17th August. I'm glad to say we will be supporting this amazing event again in the marquee outside the National Piping Centre on the Wednesday from 11.00. The Vale of Atholl under the direction of the affable Adrian Cramb will be headlining at 2 o'clock, followed by Edward Seaman and his guitar accompaniment - I will keep you posted on updates as we get nearer the date.
Yours aye,
James C. Begg
Piping Perfection

News. - 3D Printed Bagpipes
Donald Lindsay popped into the shop recently and he had a very interesting set of small plastic pipes made from a 3D printer. Items in 3D are generally used as prototypes in architecture and in the art world, so it's very interesting to see Donald experimenting in this field. Whilst I supported him with a bag, I did suggest we could manufacture the set in wood from the 3D set. 3D can be expensive to use but it may send shivers down the cnc bagpipe makers as the technology continues to evolve and progress - we are all hand-made and somewhat unique, so it won't really impact directly on us. I've met Donald a few times and on one occasion, he was playing the pipes along with an Indian band on sitars and drums. So Donald likes the unusual and combines intelligence with an original approach - an extremely interesting character, and you should check out his website.
Photo courtesy of David Palmar

 Any Questions? - for James C. Begg
James, Jim or Jimmy as he is sometimes called, is best known for being the proprietor of the oldest bagpipe shop in Glasgow City Centre and for making the world's finest sheepskin and hide bags. He learned his piping skills at the school of hard knocks in Glasgow - the College of Piping. This solid foundation took him onto competing in the major solo competitions and in the pipe band world with Glasgow Schools, Rolls Royce, Seagrams, Red Hackle and Babcocks. From lowly beginnings in the front room of his mother's house, he has gone onto establishing a successful shop and online business supplying pipers and bands in all corners of the globe.
Q. At what age did you start playing and who were/are your tutors?
A. I started at age 11 with the 167th Glasgow Company of the Boys Brigade in Hillington. In early 1972, I then progressed to the College of Piping for many years, mainly under the tutelage of Duncan Johnstone, and complemented with sessions by Duncan MacFadyen. Many happy years followed under the guidance of the outstanding light music player, Eddie McLellan. Eddie, who also taught the late, great Hugh MacInnes, had a unique style in terms of speed and one which I have never heard again to this day. I subsequently went back again to Duncan Johnstone.
Q. What is the best piping advice you’ve had and who gave it to you?
A. Play slowly and don't go onto the next tune until you master the one you are on. This approach is a core element in the College of Piping's teaching methodology.
Q. What would you say has been your biggest piping difficulty?
A. I found practising somewhat boring and as a result, I did not practise enough. I also could not easily relax when playing in public and the resultant stress adversely affected the outcome, particularly in a competitive solo environment.
Q. Which is the best piping book?
A. Angus MacKay's piobaireachd book is excellent, not just for content but also for the quality of the printing and layout. Piobaireachd Society books are also a great font of knowledge and of immense input. For light music, I would go for the Scots Guards, along with the classics from Donald MacLeod and Willie Ross. John MacFadyen's books are up there as well, along with David Glen's Edinburgh collections.
Q. Who is your favourite player and why - past or present?
A. Without doubt, Angus MacDonald stands out. Even before he started playing, his sheer presence created amazing expectation as to what was to follow. Donald MacPherson of course for piobaireachd is peerless and his consummate playing absolutely effortless. Both of course were also great composers. I'd also have to add my main tutor Duncan Johnstone to this list, for his unique style of playing and his compositions. Amongst the players of today, Gordon Walker has it all and Roddy MacLeod has complete mastery and control. I enjoy a variety of players but I have to take this opportunity to mention a band that really did have the wow factor - Strathclyde Police under Ian McLellan. It was awesome and I can honestly say I enjoyed them every time I heard them, which was a lot -it was also of added interest to me that I knew them all individually. Ian perhaps could be compared to Alex Ferguson, the ex-Manchester United manager - cool, calm, collected but with the odd hair dryer treatment when needed!
Q. Is there something in piping you wish you could have done but haven’t as yet?
A. Turn my hand to composing. I think it was the late Angus MacLellan of the Glasgow Police/College of Piping that said to me you either have it in you or not. I'm not sure about that. Some have it more than others but I'd like to think there may be one lurking at some point. The difficulty is the limited octave/range of pipes as it's so easy to merge into a tune already composed. 6/8 marches are a case in point, with so many good ones around already. It's interesting to note that composing took off in the 90s with new books being published every week, although things seemed to have slowed a bit since then.
Q. What is your pet hate within piping?
A. Tuning too long is a thing I don't like - it's rude to the audience and in many cases not needed. I'm sure it could be cut to half the time, and quite often the pipes end up worse off than when the player first started. I'm not saying we should go back in time but when competitions were on in the late 1700s, the piper stopped periodically, re-tuned and kept going. I suppose they may have repeated the grounds in between variations then too but hopefully you'll see the point I'm trying to make with this comparison.
Q. What has been your happiest piping moment?
A. As a young player, I was thrilled when I learned how to tune 3 drones simultaneously i.e. without stopping any one.  It took me some time but it was a "eureka" moment when I could do it. Nowadays, I also get great pleasure in helping customers to improve their bagpipes and piping enjoyment.
Q. What is your most prized piping possession?
A. My fingers and lungs, without which piping would be somewhat tricky.
Q. What do you do outwith piping that might surprise us?
A.I have lots of other interests that I do at varying  levels of competency - swimming, outdoor bowls, cycling, fishing, camping, gardening, driving range and good male and female company.
James - thank you so much!

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If you would like to report on any aspect of the Piping World from wherever you live, or if you would like to comment on any articles or issues, we'd be pleased to hear from you. Email to

Piping Perfection
Begg Bagpipes
202A Bath Street
Glasgow, Strathclyde G2 4HW
United Kingdom
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