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------Est. 1980 Piping Perfection------

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July 2021 Newsletter


Dear Piping Enthusiast,


I trust you're all well and our readership continues to grow - 1,300 at the last count. You have all been customers so thank you for your business and support. 

It's good to see a few of the big bands gearing up to get back into action and so all very encouraging. I'm sure 2022 will be a bumper year with us all keen to hear top music again in the piping world, although we do seem to be rather at the tail end of the field in terms of getting back to normal - 66,000 people at Wembley Stadium and a massive crowd expected for the F1 at Silverstone. Check out my Field Report gripe below.

I trust all the Staycations going well. I had a nice trip to Cornwall and enjoyed a few pasties at Lands End and visited the Eden Project. Next up in the near future is York which should be most cultured - not sure of any piping connections to view but please advise if you have any info.

I hope you enjoyed the 3 videos on bag fitting and I am contemplating another series - any suggestions would be welcome.

Remember that if you need any advice or guidance on how to make your pipes sound and play better, please e mail or phone me - all part of the service and completely unbiased and gratis. It's always a pleasure and never a chore to help.


Happy camping 

Yours aye,

James C. Begg

Piping Perfection

The Dark and Mystical Art of Bag Tying - part 3


This is the third part of a three part series - created and narrated by James, and recorded by his daughter Lisa in his recording studio (i.e. workshop) in Kirkintilloch, the Canal Capital of Scotland and often referred to in some quarters as the Venice of the North.

After the first two parts and if you dare, click on the photo of this sinister looking person to enter his dark world.......                                                                                                                                                     

Field Report 1 - on the Road to York

As I’m taking my rather mature 23 year old XK8 Jag to York, I decided to look out my old collection of cassettes. The car has all the modern gadgets apart from those on the entertainment side of things – no super duper touch screens, Usb ports, DAB et al. So it’s cassettes of Hot Chocolate, Queen and others but sadly I can’t find the excellent Marc Bolan and T Rex with Ride a White Swan. I digress and go off at a tangent as usual but I discovered a cassette I played on in 1979/80 with Babcock Renfrew Pipe Band under the legendary P/M Iain Macleod, formerly of the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band. One of the highlights was winning the Princes St Gardens contest at that time in grade 1. What a great venue. You walked from the George Hotel end up to the amphitheatre, played and then walked straight out to the Balmoral Hotel at the other end. What a sight. It was spectacular with the Castle in the background. I think the venue has made a slight comeback recently but you could not get a better place for a piping contest and I can’t overstate how good it was.

The cassette was never released commercially and I think it was more as a promo for the company. It has a fairly standard set of tunes but I always dreaded Mrs Macdonald of Tiree and its continuous triple high A many times in all parts. Would you get all 3 every time? I can do it but to get them time after time is the hard bit. There is also a pregnant pause on the E which makes you think even more as to whether or not you are going make the movement each and every time. It was always a toe curler. I remember loads of great times in the band and I’ll not say who it was - but on one post match scrum as to how we performed,  there was a suggestion of an error at some point to which someone said – well, it wasn't me since I wasn't playing! What a great line.

I was somewhat in awe of and full of respect for Iain. He had a dominant presence to say the least and was a true leader. I’m proud to say I played next to him but I think that was so he could hear all my faux pas and cover them up! My position in the Band didn’t help me settle either since I was young and inexperienced but with hindsight, it was nice to have someone of that quality directing and taking you under his command. I certainly learned a lot. His ability to tune drones as the band played was amazing. We could sound rough and next minute as if by magic and with a few touches of the drones it all changed.

Coming back to the cassette in question, what struck me was that the pitch then was little different to what it is today but what has changed is the complexity of arrangements and the style of tunes. I’m glad I am not playing competitively today as such complexity doesn’t really float my boat. Call me old fashioned if you must but I liked the straight down the middle type of medley. 


I’m not sure if it’s going to be Power Piping all the way on the trip from Glasgow to York – I suspect Margaret might have something to say about that!

Special Offer - 20% off wooden practice chanters.


All James Begg wooden practice chanters are 20% off for this coming month only. These are all hand made with a beautiful tone and we are one of the few makers that have a lovely blackwood wooden top. They all come with a reed so why not make your playing more enjoyable with a new chanter. You’ll be amazed with the outcome after binning that old beaten up chanter you have had for ages.


A joy for life. Order online and James will deduct the 20% at his end.


Field Report 2 - Double Standards!


There we have it - check out the pic which is of Wembley Way on Wednesday. There were 66,000 football fans huddled together in Wembley Stadium which is 26k more than the last game. WHY?  There should not even have been 40k. Why do we all keep to 2m, wear masks etc and suddenly we find that it’s all change for some - presumably because it’s England and football. There are definitely double standards at play - not a mask in site with people cuddling and standing right next to each other. I like football as much as piping and my gripe has nothing to do with the result although we always like to wish the English team all the best !!!!!


The point I'm driving at is why can we not have Highland games with a fraction of the crowds?  Even the Worlds at times hardly get to 30k although some imply higher figures. We have a great Open space at Glasgow Green with lots of possible spacing. We are hardly even allowed to walk about with a beer as opposed to the tv watching fan zones. Surely it’s totally wrong.

 I’m sure some smaller games will disappear next year. Even if they had a small reduced event it would have kept things ticking over. A little support from the so called Scottish supporting government would have been enough. We are talking a miniscule amount of support really.

 Whilst of course travel by bands and solo pipers on an international basis is badly curtailed, we could and should have done something on the domestic front rather than taking the easy way out and cancelling everything out of sight. Check out the forthcoming F1 at Silverstone – 140,000 expected – and we can’t even manage a few hundred here and there in the great Scottish outdoors. It’s a disgraceful outcome for piping and pipe bands.

Before we go.......a Covid update with a new Variant


Another fine example to add to the long list of great Scottish inventions



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