• Music,  My Tunes

    Duncan’s Boots

    This reel was written in the summer of 1997 after a memorable time at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye during the fiddle and step dance week.

  • My Tunes

    Captain Service’s Trip to Whitehead

    Here’s a wee march that I wrote in 1997 and dedicated to Campbell Service, or Paddy as he was known around Oban. Originally from Ballycarry in County Antrim, Paddy was a skipper of large cargo vessels and spent much of his time at sea. He loved guitars and had a fair collection of them at one point. He didn’t hoard them however, preferring to leave them in the care of local guitar players. He left a limited edition Martin D35 with me for a number of years, a guitar I eventually purchased from him.

  • My Tunes

    The Tempting Seamstress

    This tune was written back in 1996 when I had nimble fingers due to all the busking. Playing for hours a day, most days, does wonders for your dexterity and I can’t play it now with the same fluidity. The pipes I play here were made by Jon Swayne and have a right hand thumb hole, allowing you to play the minor third without cross fingering. The title is self explanatory and the tune was written for a friend.

  • Music,  My Tunes

    Fitas de António

    This tune has been floating about my head for a month or two. I wasn’t sure if it was a Portuguese tune that I had heard somewhere or a figment of my fevered imagination. I asked my friend António Freire, a well known piper from Coimbra in Portugal, if he recognised it and he said he didn’t. So… I’ve claimed it as my own and named it Fitas De António, Antonio’s Ribbons, after the colourful ribbons hanging from the cover of Antonio’s gaita de foles (see pic below).

  • My Tunes

    The Woodside Reel

    The session scene in Oban has used a number of different venues throughout my time as a participant. For a while in the mid 1990s the main weekly session was in The Woodside on Tweedale Street. This was before the pub was extended and the rear was converted into a night club of sorts. A small, narrow pub, it didn’t have much space for musicians or punters but this did make for a good atmosphere as it didn’t take many folk to make it feel busy. I was making my living as a busker at the time so was playing a lot, often many hours per day. New tunes would…

  • My Tunes

    Lisa Cronin’s Jig

    Another tune from 1995. This jig was written for my girlfriend at the time, Lisa Cronin of Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland. Like many young traditional musicians I had discovered syncopation and started to incorporate it into some of my own tunes. I thought I was being modern and contemporary at the time but syncopation actually has a long history in border piping. As Matt Seattle points out in the introduction to his great book of tunes ‘The Border Bagpipe Book’ (Dragonfly Music, 1993), “Syncopation, which is now being introduced as a kind of modernism into Highland piping, was almost certainly present in Border piping three hundred years ago.” I play…

  • My Tunes

    Mike Campbell’s Reel

    I wrote this tune back in 1995 and named it for one of Oban’s characters, the late Mike Campbell. I first met Mike when I was still in school as he worked as a clam diver with the father of one of my friends. Later, when I was old enough to drink in the pubs, he would regularly be found in The Oban Inn, telling stories and sinking a fair few drams. He loved the music and always had a request for a tune or two from me.

  • My Tunes

    Willie Hoffleman’s Unbelievable Reel

    In 1995 I spent a month or so in Munich with some Irish friends. At that time the Deutsche Mark exchange rate was very favourable to those using the pound and the punt and a fair few Irish students would head to Bavaria for the summer to work in the car factories and the beer festivals. I tagged along and managed to get some work at the world famous Oktoberfest, feeding Maßkrüge (litre beer glasses) into a glass cleaning machine in the kitchen of one of the smaller ‘tents’, the exclusive Käfer’s Wies’n-Schänke.

  • My Tunes

    Jeannie Oban

    Here is another of my earliest tunes, written around 1994, which I named after my maternal grandmother Jane Prosser. Jane was born in Oban in 1925 and was more commonly known as Jean. Twice married, her first husband was Edward Ritz from Alberta in Canada with whom she had six children.