If you're sitting comfortably...
I was born in Lennoxtown, Stirlingshire, by the Campsie Fells (seemingly all the maternity beds in Glasgow were occupied that night). My forebears hail from Dunoon in Argyllshire (father's side) and Eaglesham in Renfrewshire (mother's side). I grew up in Glasgow and lived there for over 40 years before moving to England. Down south I was a member of the Surrey Pipe Band for five years, in which time I played on numerous band engagements, including the Surrey County Show, Hendon Police College passing out parade and the Star & Garter Military Tattoo at Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson.
There's a saying that it takes seven years and seven generations to make a piper. I'm not aware of any ancestors who played the pipes but I had a grandfather played the fiddle, so perhaps that's where the love of traditional music comes from.
My piping mentor is Mr Grierson (’Greg’) Smith. A son of Annan in Dumfrieshire, Greg is a highly respected piper with six decades experience. He has served with distinction in various pipe bands, including Annan Ex-Service Club, The City of London Blue Bonnets and The Surrey. In the 1960’s he was tutored in piobaireachd by The Queen’s Piper, PM Alex MacDonald of the Scots Guards. Greg has coached many pipers over the years, although few could hope to match his meticulous execution of the range of piping embellishments. I am indebted to Greg for his guidance and the many hours he has put in to advance my playing. In our Friday night one-to-one sessions it has been a privilege to watch and listen to his accomplished playing at close quarters, not to mention the excellent 'craic' (about piping, Scotia, football, etc) shared over many a glass of single malt.
As you've probably already discovered in finding your way to this website, a Google search reveals lots of pipers out there offering similar services. So why choose LondonPiper? Here are a few of my 'selling points':
Most important of all, I offer competent playing on a nicely-tuned, well-maintained, quality instrument. These things can't be taken for granted when booking a piper 'off the internet'. Even with digital tuning devices available today, getting a set of bagpipes sweetly in tune and keeping them so over the course of an engagement can be something of a 'dark art'. Please read my testimonials and listen to my audio clips. You will want to be confident that as your big moment approaches, with no time for second takes, you can depend on your piper.
Experience. I've been doing this for years and have played many gigs, so that I tend to know what to expect and where the pitfalls are. I can offer advice on tune selection, how to use the pipes to best effect in different situations, and where accidents are waiting to happen.
I will be sympathetic to your needs, allowing for the fact that you might not have employed a piper before and might have lots of questions you need answered. I will invite you to keep the questions coming until everything is clear to your satisfaction. On the day, I realise that things won't always go to plan and that it's important for me to be patient and flexible. While there are limits, obviously, I won't be 'watching the clock', and if the wedding breakfast starts an hour later than planned, well, that's life.
I care about the quality and condition of my piping attire and I will make every effort to ensure I 'look the part' for your special occasion. You can be confident I won't turn up in a moth-eaten kilt with a half-bottle of whisky sticking out my sporran! My kilts, tunics and accessories are bespoke, best quality from Scotland, as opposed to cheap, imported kit bought from an on-line auction site.
I prepare thoroughly for every job to ensure I'm there on time with all my kit present and correct and my pipes in good working order. My rule of thumb is to be on site at least one hour in advance of when I'm first due to play.
Erm...I'm Scottish, born and bred!