Pipers and their Music

by untangledwebl

Kerr Cowan MBE

At the Supper of 1928 a piper, “Piper Ross”, appeared on the programme for the evening for the first time. He wasn’t referred to by his first name; just ‘Piper’ for several years. Eventually, Club records revealed his full name as David Ross and even said he was from Edinburgh. He piped the Haggis into the Suppers through to the 1934 event and is in Club records as being a Member, so it seems reasonable to consider him as Let it Blaw’s first Club Piper.

From 1955 through to the Supper of 1962, Records show that piping duties were carried out by Willie Shand.

Willie Shand

Bobby Peat took over as Club Piper for the Supper of 1963, and he piped at all the Suppers through to the 1975 Gathering. That Supper was the first one to be held in the Village Hall, and its recorded that Bobby piped the Company from “Brows” across Main Street to the Hall at the start of the evening.

John Horne of the Colinton & Currie Pipe Band provided piping duties at the 1976 Supper, but there is nothing in Club records to suggest he was ever a member of ‘Let it Blaw.’

Alan Shiels, better known as Piper to the Marchbank Burns Club for many years, took over as Let it Blaw’s Piper and carried out piping duties for three years between late1976 and the 1978 Supper. However, at the 1977 and 1978 events, piping duties appear to have been shared between Alan and a new member of ‘Let it Blaw’ Kerr Cowan.

Late in 1978, Kerr Cowan was appointed as ‘Let it Blaw’s’ Club Piper and he remained in post for 42 years. A rather modest man, Kerr would play down the part he contributed to our annual Suppers but, without him, something would surely have been missing.

Apart from piping the haggis in at the beginning of our suppers Kerr, in keeping with tradition at Burns Suppers all over the country, pipes a lament following the Toast to the ‘Immortal Memory’ of Burns. He also gives us his own selection of tunes later in the evening and, as if that’s not enough, following breaks during proceedings, everyone is under strict instructions to rush back to their seats at the sound of Kerr and his pipes.

Kerr composed “Lament for the Bard” in memory of Willie Shanks, our Club Bard for many years. He played it for the first time when Willie’s memorial stone was unveiled in Balerno. Kerr was also influenced in writing the tune by the feeling he had that the usual laments played at the close of the Immortal Memory, had no direct link to Burns – tunes like “Flowers o’ the Forrest”, “Sleep Dearie Sleep” etc; Beautiful tunes, but no direct connection to the Bard, and so the seed was planted for “Lament for the Bard.”

Kerr has given permission for the music to be included on our website for the use of the future pipers of ‘Let it Blaw.’

Kerr also composed the 6/8 March “The Hundredth Blaw” which he played at Let it Blaw’s 100th supper in 2003.

Kerr has also given permission that the music for “The Hundredth Blaw” to be included on our website.

Kerr Cowan held the post of Honorary Pipe Major of the “Royal Scottish Piper’s Society” for two years, and was awarded the MBE late in 1998 for his services as a Trustee of Harmeny School in Balerno. However, and we quote Kerr, “I am far more proud of the fact that a tune named after me, “Kerr Cowan MBE,” is included in the Scots Guards book of pipe tunes – Volume 3. To say that I’m chuffed about this is an understatement.”

For his long ongoing service to ‘Let it Blaw’, the least we can do is include ‘his’ tune on the Club website.


At our 2023 Supper, we were joined by Martin Duncan of the Stockbridge Pipe Band. His work was to take him elsewhere so, for our 2024 Supper, another local piper, Ruairi Bruce, piped for us.

Ruairi, attended Dean Park School where he participated in the annual Burns competitions reciting poetry and playing the pipes and he later attended Balerno High School. He is currently a piper in the Pentland Caledonia Pipe Band and the Balerno & District Schools Pipe Band.

Ruairi Bruce