Tam Cowan: My favorite instrument in school was the dinner bell but I’ve always loved the bagpipe – Tam Cowan

Quiz time. What Sir Andy Murray described this week as ‘a shit show’?

Was it (a) the expulsion from Australia of his tennis buddy Novak Djokovic or (b) The Masked Singer?

The answer, of course, is (a) The big man probably likes the ITV program because another old pal – former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash – appeared on the latest series.

And, hands up, though I’d rather take a ride in Katie Price’s engine than watch that insane Saturday night guff, I couldn’t resist seeing the Aussie – with a nod to his strong Scottish ties – appearing as the Bagpipe character.

I hate show business, ladies and gentlemen, but I love bagpipes.

No prizes for guessing my favorite musical instrument in school – yes, it was the dinner bell, but the pipes will always have a place in my heart.

(“Are you sure you don’t mean stents?” – Ed.)

They are definitely a classic example of the Musical Marmite – either you love them or you hate them – and I think it’s fair to say my neighbor HATES bagpipes.

On a Thursday evening at the height of the pandemic – when we were all hanging out at the windows for Clap The Carers – a young boy down the street from us started playing the bagpipes.

My buddy next door shook his head and mumbled, “I wish they would hurry up with that fucking vaccine…”

Sure enough, I was shocked a week later when he said, “I want the bagpipes to play at my funeral.”

But only until he adds, “Yeah, so I don’t have to listen to them.”

Like I said, pipes aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. I always smile when I think of one of life’s great unanswered questions: how do you know when it’s time to tune your bagpipes? And I take off my tartan bun at the genie who pointed out that the bagpipes are the only musical instrument that, when you learn to play it properly, sounds exactly like when you started.

But you know what? There are only TWO pieces of music guaranteed to bring me to tears (three if you include Miranda’s theme) and they both involve bagpipes. I grab the tissues every time I hear a lone piper play

Highland Cathedral. (That’s a topic for another column, but why IS this dizzying piece of music NOT our national anthem?)

And I still got goosebumps the size of a golf ball when the Campbeltown Pipe Band started giving it halfway through the Paul McCartney & Wings 1977 No1 smash Mull Of Kintyre.



Paul McCartney founded Wings after moving to Mull of Kintyre

Tell you what else I love about bagpipes – quintessentially Scottish, they don’t mind being the butt of a lot of jokes.

What is the difference between bagpipes and an onion? No one cries when you chop bagpipes.

Why do pipers walk when they play? It is more difficult to hit a moving target.

What is the definition of a gentleman? Someone who can play bagpipes but doesn’t.

How is playing the bagpipes like throwing a javelin blindfolded? You don’t have to be very good to get people’s attention.

How do you get two pipers to play in unison? Shoot one of them. But I’ll sign off on this with an all-time favorite.

My next door neighbor knocked on my door at 2:30 a.m. last week.

Half past two in the morning!!! Luckily for him, I was still playing the bagpipes…

Crazy with praise for the tribute to Andy



Grant Stott as Batman in River City

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to have a name check in River City just before Christmas – check out my Instagram page if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

But it’s now number 2 on my list of favorite episodes after Monday’s brilliant – and very moving – tribute to the great and late Andy Gray.

It was magical seeing my old pals Grant Stott & Iain Robertson dressed as Batman & Robin (Andy was a HUGE Caped Crusader fan) but I have to admit, after timing the preview photos in the Daily Record – and as a big Only Fools and Horses buff – I texted Grant to liquidate him.




“Batman and Robin? ” I said. “And what are you doing next week – breaking a chandelier?” Fall through a trap door in the bar? Going for a Jolly Boy outing in Margate? »

Rascal Grant tried to get back on Off The Ball last Saturday (when one of our topics was “a slip”) by sending me the transcript of something he said live during his Radio days Forth.

After a sports bulletin featuring audio from former Rangers player Bert Konterman, he TRIED to say, “Let’s listen to that Konterman cut again.”

But it didn’t happen that way…

I’m delighted – and very relieved – to say that I didn’t make the same mistake!!!

PS. In other TV news, regular reader Bob McFarlane – Hamilton’s No1 punter – tells me that scientists have created a TV with “Smelly-vision” that gives off scents appropriate to the content on screen at the time.

And he assures me that it will be launched on channel n°5…

I need Kelp to know who supports BoJo

The Kelpies creator – Andy Scott – has tackled the copious version of the shrubbery in Dubai, but says he’s too busy to let it bother him as he’s just been tasked with working on a new equine sculpture – a horse at **e outside No10.

In the meantime, who REALLY supports Boris Johnson?

That’s the question we asked listeners on Off The Ball and I loved the email from a Rangers fan (too late for the show, unfortunately) who suggested he was a fan of Celtic.



Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lost Red Wall support
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lost Red Wall support

However, none of the Parkhead players showed up for any of the PM parties as they couldn’t make it to number 10…

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross’s call for BoJo to step down raised a few eyebrows, but I wasn’t the least bit surprised.

As far as I know, the PM threw about 14 parties… and poor old Dougie didn’t get invited to ONE of them!

No wonder he’s angry

Also on the political front, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the Tories plan to abolish BBC license fees by 2027.

Personally, I think that’s completely ridiculous.

I mean, come on, based on recent events, does she SERIOUSLY think the Conservatives will be in power for another five years…?!?

PS. On the back of last week’s column is a riddle from Kilmarnock reader Ian Arnott.

What is the difference between David Cameron and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Well, Ronaldo likes to hog the ball……

SPP. Liquor bottles hidden in suitcases reminded me of my favorite “fly bevvy” story.

During the Glasgow Pavilion pantomime a few years ago – about 15 minutes before the curtain went up – I couldn’t help but be a bit nosy at the text message typed by the woman sitting directly across from me .

He said, “Angie, they don’t check bags at the front door!”

Raise your hand if you think it was candy they were trying to sneak…?

Under the BINfluence

We’ve all heard of social influencers, but what about a BINsocial influencer?

I’m told it’s the person on your street who takes out their trash first on the right day and the rest of the neighbors follow suit. Spot on!



Tam and Off the Ball buddy Stuart Cosgrove

Stu’s Itchy Feat

Congratulations to Lionel Richie on receiving the Gershwin Award for Popular Song – and I know my radio sidekick Stuart Cosgrove will echo that sentiment.

It’s not the first time on our show that he’s admitted that, thanks to his love of soul music and the fact that he suffers from eczema, his nickname at school was Lionel Itchy…

Pants on fire

According to the latest poll, a third of us have lucky pants or panties for dates.

When I ran past my girlfriend Senga from Airdrie, she just laughed and said, “Briefs? On a date?”

My favorite funny pics of the week

Novak is now working from home.



Novak’s new game after his expulsion from Oz

When you get fired by Everton and they take over the company car.



Rafa Benitez derailed as Everton manager

Renovation is complete at No10.



The party-loving Tories’ new plans for No10

It took me a good five minutes to realize it wasn’t a gorilla walking on the beach.



No monkey – what do you see?

Family bedtime in Airdrie.



keep it in the family

Raise your hand if you see a group of women swimming…?



And another fishy eye twister

Text jokes of the week

● How many guys went out last weekend to get absolutely ‘swept’ before heading home to face a ‘Sue Gray investigation’ from the woman?

● I heard they are making a movie about Prince Andrew’s life but nobody knows what it’s called because it has no title.

● When it comes to tennis, Australians know how to make a Serbian…

● I just bought a Humpty Dumpty toy from Aldi. It’s brilliant. He comes with King Aldi’s horses and King Aldi’s men.

● When I was a baby, my parents bathed me in cheap Australian beer. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I realized I had been placed in foster care.

● After a night out at the pub last week, my buddy asked me if he
could crash on my couch. I had to explain to her that I’m married now and that’s when
I sleep.

● I picked up a hitchhiker last night who said, “Thank you, how
do you know i’m not a serial killer? I said, “Well, the odds of two serial killers being in the same car are astronomical…”

● I can only sleep at
night if I lie on a pile of old magazines. I think I must have back problems.

● I’m not suggesting anything but I just saw Sue Gray at B&Q buying a big jar of whitewash…

Recalling all the good rhymes..

I enjoyed a little run in Fife’s lovely East Neuk last week and outside the legendary Anstruther Fish Bar I ran into a guy called Alec who said ‘Hey Tam I bet you can you remember the two limericks you did on the radio about Crail…”

No, I couldn’t. And, to be honest, that was about 12 years ago! But, just for you, little man – especially since you promised me you would NEVER miss this column – I dug into the archives of Radio Scotland and can release BOTH pieces of verse today.

They were dedicated to our studio guest Archie Macpherson who told us he played golf in Fife Village and (CLEARS THROAT) here we go…

The panties of a tall Crail fae woman,

Blew the rope in a gust of wind.

Her husband said, “Hen,

“You won’t see them again.”

But she did it – on a yacht as a sail.

On the breasts of a Crail bartender,

All the beer prices were listed.

And on his behind,

For the sake of the blind,

Was the same – but only in Braille.

You owe me a fish supper, Alec!

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