In the Beginning

In the early 1960s, at the age of 13 or 14, my best friend Billy Henderson suggested that I should join the Boys Brigade pipe band.  At the time, I was very keen on listening to music (primarily Elvis Presley and the popular classics from the Ride of the Valkyries to Beethoven's Fifth) so the idea of learning an instrument certainly had its appeal.  And my life and that of all my school-friends revolved around the BB, as you can see from my collection of badges.  So one evening I went along to Hillington School (opposite St Nicholas' Church, where the 167th Glasgow Company was based) and met Hugh MacPherson, the band's Pipe Major.  "Shuggie" as we somewhat disrespectfully referred to him, never struck me as an outstanding piper.  He lived just round the corner from me and I used to hear him play as I walked past his house on the way to the field - where I spent most of my childhood.  But he was a kind and patient teacher and for the first few years of my bagpiping history, he taught me all I knew about the pipes and piping - which was not much.