English pipes find a home in Lochaber Schools Band

John MacDonald presents the historical bagpipes to Margaret MacMaster of Lochaber Schools Pipe band. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

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A set of pipes that were bought more than 60 years ago in London have found a new home with the Lochaber Schools Pipe Band.

The pipes were donated to the students by John MacDonald who was given them by their previous owner, David Bentley from Warrington Pipe Band.

Mr Bentley and his brother have been keen pipers for most of their lives and the pipes were bought in the 1950s.

While not a piper himself, John MacDonald is a keen country dancer and involved in groups that promote it.

He said: ‘I met David through the Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society as we take trips overseas quite regularly. He gave the pipes to me so that I could donate them to the local pipe band.

‘Since everyone in the Lochaber Pipe Band has their own pipes, I thought it would be best to donate them to the school’s band as very few of them have access to a set.’

The box for the bagpipes is designed to be put on the back of a motorcycle with reflective triangles. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos
The pipes in their original box from the 1960s. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

Accepting the pipes on behalf of the band was local instructor Margaret MacMaster who told the Lochaber Times that the pipes can be used by a pupil for practice, performances, exams and competitions.

She said: ‘There are currently 40 pupils receiving piping tuition in Lochaber High School through the Music Tuition Service managed by High Life Highland.

‘A significant proportion are on bagpipes ranging from beginners right through to accomplished performers. In addition to Lochaber High, there are more than 30 pupils receiving tuition in the local primary schools.’

While the service provides equipment to pupils at reduced costs, donated equipment is always welcome and even instruments of such an advanced age.

Ms MacMaster continued: ‘The age of the pipes is often irrelevant, it is how they have been maintained that is important. A good quality set of pipes that have been forgotten about and left to dry out in someone’s attic for years will often develop cracks once someone starts to play them. In these cases they require a lot of work to bring them up to good playing standard.

‘Fortunately, the set of pipes that was donated has been well looked after and maintained over the years. They will, of course, require a new pipe bag and freshen up before they can be used. I look forward to hearing them being played once I have done this.’

The school band and is almost as old as the pipes themselves, celebrating their 50th anniversary this year they hope to mark the milestone with a special event.