I just returned from another great trip to Scotland. As you might already know, I make the big trip every August to travel around the Highlands and compete at as many competitions as possible. There were some great highlights this year and here are a few...
I competed at the World Pipe Band Championships held at Glasgow Green on August 11, and we placed Second. We were second last year. It rained constantly through the whole day, and everyone was totally soaked. Full results here.
The BBC filmed the whole event and you can watch some clips at the BBC site. Like everything these days, you can find video clips of the worlds at YouTube, just search for the right keywords.
The day after the Worlds, I was headed for the Perth Games to defend my trophy of Piper of the Day from 2006. I received a text message on my phone that the games field was flooded and the games were cancelled. It was the first time I'd ever ben enroute to a games that was cancelled. Everything else in Scotland is rain or shine (more on that later). I learned a few days later that the entire field and car park were a complete mud bog.
Then it was up to the Highlands for a few days of practice, rest, scenery, and music at the pub. Kintail and Loch Alsh is really one of most beautiful places anywhere. Eilean Donan Castle is perhaps the most photographed castle in the world. Plockton is a cute village with a great pub and palm trees outside.
Friday August 17, I competed at the Glenisla Games -- a small games that has been held on the same spot on the banks of the Isla River for over 200 years. After the piper for the Highland dancers failed to show up, I was drafted for the job. What fun! I ended up with a first and second place in the open piping, and won the Piper of the Day trophy for the second time. Full results.
The following day was Glenfinnan -- the world's most scenic location for a piping competition. The boards are literally on the banks of Loch Shiel, in the shadow of the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument with the filming location of Harry Potter's Hogwarts Express in the background. Last year the weather was spectacular, this year is was spectacularly torrentially raining. I ended up with a second and two thirds and second place overall. Full results.
The following day were the Crieff Highland Games, a large event with a typically large entry of pipers. I played the MacNeill of Barra's march for the Piobaireachd and won the event. The judges told me they were very impressed with my tune and thought I was in great shape for the Gold Medal at Oban later in the week. Equally thrilling were positive comments from my fellow competitors, including one piper who said "THAT'S the way piobaireachd should be played." Full results.
Then it was off to Oban. I played Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay in the Gold Medal. I couldn't have been happier with my tune -- expression, execution, and tone were all exactly as I had intended. I wasn't in the final prize list, though. Next year!
The following day was the Cowal Highland Gathering, the biggest highland games in the world. A few years back, I won the prize at Cowal for Best Dressed Piper. Not this year though, maybe I should have heavy starched my flashes.
After Cowal, I headed up to Invergordon which is north of Inverness. The games field is surrounded by giant rusting old tanks, from the oil days. I ended up with two firsts and a second. The winner of the Piobaireachd event wins the Chieftain's Silver Medal, which was presented to me by Sir Patrick Grant of Dalvey. The trophy is the Kincraig Cup, one of the great trophies in piping. It has the names of most of the great pipers of the past 100 years. Now, my name will be on there twice in a row, for 2006 and 2007. Full results.
It was a great trip and I'll definitely be back next year. But for now it's great to be back home and getting back to lessons and everything else.