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

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 September 2021


Dear Piping Enthusiast,


I trust you are all well and enjoying life which is slowly returning to normal. I don’t think my life was ever normal to start with so possibly erratic, diverse and unusual may be more accurate! I had a great trip to York and as I hoped for in last month’s newsletter, my old jalopy held up well - straight down the M74 from Glasgow, cut across the Pennines A66, then down the A1 and bang you’re there. There’s plenty to do and see in York including the splendid minster. My highlight was York races with a Rick Astley concert on the course thereafter. Champagne flowed and all that was missing was a pipe band. I made it back home with my young filly Margaret in a canter and with a length to spare (but unbeknown to us at the time, York gave us a parting gift with a dose of the Covid).

Rick’s famous hit applies as a suitable remit for my customers - never gonna give you up - never gonna let you down – I’ll stop at that lol. Less of this banter and let’s see what we have for current news but it may not take very long. It's all still a bit quiet on the piping front.


Yours aye,

James C. Begg

Piping Perfection



Piping Live! was on in a much smaller way but it was a great effort to keep things ticking over. I took a trip in to the marquee for an enjoyable afternoon which actually was rather quiet with no bands and no overseas visitors both of whom ultimately gives it sparkle and verve. Who can forget the boys from Zimbabwe, the Omanis and the Pakistanis? When I was based in the centre of Glasgow in Bath Street, I always remember shaking hands with every single person in the Pakistani Band - pre covid. I could not move for the crowds but their delight at being in Glasgow was palpable.


A much reduced Argyllshire Gathering recently celebrated its 150th year. How things  must have changed since its inception going back to the reign of Queen Victoria. It was her love of Scotland that I suspect made the highland culture de rigour and promoted piping and highland society. It was all well presented in the movie Mrs Brown, with Billy Connolly as the swash buckling highlander John Brown. The Atholl Highlanders, Blue Bonnets over the Border and Cock of the North were heard during the movie. If you haven't seen it, do check it out - a great watch.

Well done to the organisers for running the Gathering against all the odds and in particular to my customer and the Piping Steward Torquil Telfer. Torquil is a charming man and great organiser and has now retired after being at the helm for 6 years – we thank him for his efforts and wish him all the best for the future.

It was nice to see the former head of Piping at the National Piping Centre and now of Eeezedrones/Pipe Dreams, Finlay Johnston, raising in the region of £5k with a cycle run from Glasgow to Oban - for cancer research and in memory of his dad Tommy. Finlay has been in to see me to get his bag sorted for the up and coming Glenfiddich solo championship at Blair Atholl. Another star of the Glenfiddich this year is Connor Sinclair and he too is visiting me to gear up accordingly. Best wishes to both of them and of course to my friends Roddy Macleod and Stuart Liddell as well - gosh, I had better get a move on as I write.

Special Offer - Drone Reeds

10% discount on all drone reeds - just order online and James will apply the discount at his end. Such reeds don't last forever and its good to refresh them every 2 or 3 years. Their brightness dissipates when your back is turned!


Book Review - The Bagpipe- a history of a musical instrument.

                       - by Francis Collinson, published in 1975


I first thought was that the title and sub title were somewhat uninspiring as is the front cover with its simple picture of a piper. However, as I looked at it in a famous Glasgow west end book shop, I didn’t then think it would have me saying “let’s get this book” since it could be a really good read. It’s the sub-title which does in fact sum the book up with a comprehensive look at bagpipes around the world, encompassing of course the great highland bagpipe along with the origins of many other bagpipes.

I have to admit that I found this rare book a bit of a hard read at times as it seemed a bit disjointed and brought in some rather banal comments about bags and reeds that did not seem to marry well into the text. The beauty I suspect of this very good historical book comes with its lovely illustrations and plates. A huge amount of research must have occurred and you can see this from the references at the end. According to my good friend Iain Macdonald  at Reel Pipes in Regina, Canada, the bold Seamus McNeill often referred to this book and perhaps this is why some of it looks familiar to me. You may recall from previous newsletters that I studied under Seamus and his influence remains with me to this day in my playing and memory. Like a lot of these types of books, hear-say and dare I say plagiarism might creep in which I find a bit unsettling. It’s “possible/might have been/alleged and so on”  and it leaves you with the thought of a thread of truth but not the whole truth as they say at the cop shops and courts (and I hasten to add that I have no first hand experience of what is said or not said in our legal system!) However, it is a very good book and well worth adding to my collection. No doubt it will gather some dust with the rest but it’s nice to add another quality and rare book to my reference library.

The front cover is P/M Robert Burns Royal Scots and the back is Der Dudelsackpfeifer engraved by Albrecht Duerer in 1314. You may be able to find a copy online - probably used.

Field Report - from Begg Bagpipes' Premises in Kirkintilloch


As restrictions ease, bands are now coming out of enforced hibernation and gearing up for a full resumption of what we all know and love. I have got 274 sheepskins on the go and loads of cows, so it’s going to be hard work for me. They are flying off the shelf to New Zealand, Germany, the States and to all points inhabited by pipers. I am actually relieved that I managed to anticipate the surge in demand and to have sourced the raw skins in the first place. As they say, it looks like just in time supply but a bit of a close call - skin of the teeth comes to mind but all’s well in the end. My daughter Lisa, whose day job is as a civil engineer, will shortly be back with me to assist so that’s great.


 In Passing.............................


The Scottish Government has just passed a law requiring covid vaccine passports for entry to certain venues. The first image has now emerged of the passport which is being accepted by Glasgow nightclub bouncers.





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