Pipers and their Music

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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.

Alan Shiels, better known as Piper to the Marchbank Burns Club for many years, took over from Bobby Peat and carried out the piping duties for three years between the 1976 and 1978 Suppers.

Then, late in 1978, Kerr Cowan was appointed as ‘Let it Blaw’s’ Club Piper and he remains in post to this day, some 40+ years later. A rather modest man, Kerr would play down the part he plays in our annual Suppers but, without him, something would surely be 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.

Today we have a new Piper as a member of ‘Let it Blaw.’ At the 2016 Supper Kerr Cowan Jnr. attended as a Guest and gave a selection of tunes on the Small Pipes. Now a member of ‘Let it Blaw’, we hope to enjoy Kerr’s company for at least as long as his Grandfather.