NOTES FROM PIPEY'S CORNER
WE ARE DEEPLY SADDENED, yet in many ways ultimately relieved for the family, to be the first to record and report the death at age 71 of Angus, Fifteenth Duke of Hamilton; a great friend, retired RAF, and QANTAS pilot, engineer, and historian. Angus was a Knight Grand Cross and Grand Prior of the Order of St. John (Knights of Malta); Keeper of the Honours of Scotland; a mechanical engineering genius, and keeper of his family's heritage and gravitas. He died from complications of Alzheimer's disease on Saturday, June 5. It seems I've scooped the newspapers. Whoopee for me, but I really wish it weren't so, as this is one of the sadder columns I've had to write lately.
Angus was my good and dear friend for almost fifteen years. I first met him at a St. Andrew's Society meeting in 1996; we kept in touch, and when Karen and I travelled to Scotland in 2001 we had the privelege of staying at Archerfield, all of which has been cheerfully and extensively recorded in earlier issues of this column from April, May, and June of 2001.
Angus had a rough time in some respects in his younger days, yet he had marvellous adventures; drink took its toll until he became clean and sober in the 1980s; for quite a time he wasn't taken seriously in politics until he announced publicly his opposition to hereditary Lords in Parliament over fifteen years ago; then even his brother and cousins were against him. He was much ahead of his time in many ways. There is a lot about his personal history that I have been troubled over during the last three years, most because I felt that the family had the right to privicy over this delicate and unfortunate situation. Yet his wife and former nurse had the guts to announce it publicly last year in The Scotsman and see it bandied about in the British Press with numerous references to the 'Dementia Duke'. Though disgusting at best, the coverage did a lot to make people in Britain aware of this horrid disease that afflicts so many now and will afflict more and more of my generation and those that follow until a cure or (more likely) a vaccine is found. What the Fourth Estate had to say about him wasn't pretty, and I will not drag up that garbage here, yet Kay's courage in announcing his deterioration has to be admired. Sadly he spent his last months confined in a private cottage away from his beloved Archerfield, his library at Lennoxlove, and all the things he cherished from his family's past. Archerfield is now a ritzy golf resort that even The Donald envies.
A wonderfiul, gentle, and erudite man, Angus literally lost his mind, beginning about four years ago. I was on the sidelines witnessing his degeneration from afar, wondering why he would just stop in the middle of a conversation and then taper off, ending in an embarassing silence that was difficult to break.. I n time it wasn't pretty, and I hope it doesn't happen again soon to anyone; but, as I grow older, it happens more and more often....I first knew about it when I spoke to him about three years ago, and his attention wandered whe we were conversing about a combat vehicle project over the phone. Last fall when I rang up his wife Kay, she told me that Angus had broken his hip, and that his mind was lost to us; the last, cruellest blow of all.
My heart goes out to his family; his wife Kay, who has dealt with this from the beginning with great fortitude, practicality, and perseverence; his sons Alex and John, and his daughters Evie and Ann, who have gone through a sad and difficult time that is, unfortunayely but mercifully, over. ALEXANDER DOUGLAS HAMILTON is now the Sixteenth Duke and Chief of the Name.
Angus had many hard breaks in life, yet he conquered all but the last - the passage of Time which conquers all.. He was one of my dearest, yet 6000 miles distant friends, and I will miss him dearly. AN excellent wit, , a keen historian who wrote candidly about his ancestor Mary Queen of Scots, he was one who would and did recount his own experiences with humour, deprecation, and appreciation, I have no more words to say except, 'Farewell my friend. Tir -nan - Og awaits, youth and awareness returns.
Let us all meet together and in joy one day. and listen to the music forever..Slan leat, mo chara, agus buaidh gu brath.
I will have a new tune for Angus up on the TUNES page in the near future.
Still can't say enough about the JWM bagpipe. Dear though it may be, therre is nothing else that can compare, and this it the THIRD MONTH I've gone on about this pipe.
Many great comments on the tone, which is virtually identical to the original, and we'll be happy to send these out for anyone to try as a demonstrator - with a suitable deposit, of course!
This month's column is late for a number of reasons, primarily due to some health problems in my family. Our big family reunion next month has been cancelled due to the severe back problems my mother is having; looks like she'll be having another back surgery in a few weeks, and I'll be out of town for that. The prospect of major surgery on a ninety-year-old woman is daunting at best; we'll be crossing fingers for this one....
We'll hear from the Auld Pirate after Costa Mesa....and here he is!
Ol' Black Part was at the recent Executive Committee Meeting for the WUSPBA held just before the Costa Mesa Games. At this meeting the subject of band transfers came up and was discussed at length. The Contest Rules state that members of any competing bands must have a list of all band members sent in reflecting any transfers not later than 30 days before the upcoming contest(s). The lists are sent into the Band Registrar for verification. For this last contest we are informed that there were almost 60 transfers! Mostly between two Southern California pipe bands. Well, looking at the two bands in question, there are barely 60 members in between the two. So, what's going on? The transfers are for musicians transferring from one band to the other, taking advantage of the rules for Dual Musicians, and Instructor Rules. The rules are clear, but are intended to allow transfers for special circumstances. Bands, and in particular the two Southern California bands though have found ways to exploit these rules. There will be changes at the upcoming AGM to end this unfair exploitation. Ye Bands; Ye be Warned! Ye are bein' watched!
The Costa Mesa Band contests came off without any major problems. Thanks to the United Scottish Societies of Southern California, and to Jennifer Reoch for a job well done. However, one complaint from several bands was heard by this Ol' Pirate. It seems that one of the Drumming Judges made remarks concerning the number of snare drummers in some of the bands, and writing on the sheets that 3 snares were not enough for the number of pipers present in some of the bands. From an Ensemble point of view, this may, of may not be correct.
The problem here is we had a Drumming Judge acting like an Ensemble Judge. The bands that were penalized by this Drumming Judge all had the correct number, or more of snares per the Contest Rules. The Drumming Judge was there to acess the technical merits of the Drum Sections involved, not if in his opinion there were enough for the number of pipers. This Drumming Judge's comments then are in serious question, and the matter should be investigated by the Music Committee of the WUSPBA. This Drumming Judge should SUSPENDED until this matt6er is resolved! In short....This Drumming Judge voluntered tae Walk the Plank. and we should oblige him. So.....in the words of the late Jimmy Yardley, "Off Ya Go, Ya Bugger!"
O'l Black P
(The management of Cuillinn Craft takes NO responsibility for any editorial statements made by John Eric Partanen PhD. Any and all comments should be directed to BLACK PART)