really could not apply myself. I had major band commitments, yet if I had started when I was younger I might have been a bit more into it. I felt as though I was listening to someone playing and I was repeating it parrot fashion. I wasn’t into that.Though we did learn the piobaireachd move- ments in the BB, that was about it. I think, too, that because we weren’t using these movements often enough they became rather difficult to play naturally once you got into your 20s. I wouldn’t say I had great difficulty with them but they wouldn’t always be there the way I wanted them to be. That was one of the other things that put me off. I knew that if I wanted to be any good at piobaireachd I had to get every crunluath in; it had to be spot on. It had to be like someone tearing linoleum as big Ronnie used to say. It has to ripple and if it is not 100% every time to my mind that wasn’t good enough.
What do you think of the playing today? There are so many good players today, a lot more than way back.There were
good players in my day but you could probably count them on two hands. Having said that there are a lot of good technicians now but they are not all musical.They just don’t know how to construct the tune. Tunes don’t seem to flow. You don’t notice it so much in reels. I always remember Alex MacIvor [Ian’s Pipe major in the 214th Glasgow BB] talking about how to play a reel and him saying that it should describe a figure eight.That always stuck in my mind. So most times I find the reels are pretty good. Where pipers come unstuck are in the marches and strathspeys.You get some pipers coming to a strong beat and they forget to go off it; over emphasis and the tune halts. As far as strathspeys go, some decide they are going to play fast and others slow.The format is strong,weak, medium,weak but tunes often don’t always work out that way. The rhythm sometimes depends on the melody, how the tune is constructed.
You now do a lot of solo judging. Yes, I really enjoy it. I like being able to discuss performances, talk the tunes over, with fellow judges, a luxury we don’t get in the bands. You are on your own for that moment in time. Sometime later you reflect that per- haps you were wrong in where you placed a band and you rue not having had the opportunity of discussing how they played with one of your collea- gues. It is not so bad in the minor gra- des but when you get up into Grade 1 the bands are massive.A bomb could be going off round one side and if you are on the other you won’t hear it.