Hugh Archibald McCallum passed away last night. He was 76 and was recuperating after suffering a stroke late last year.
Hugh, a native of Campbeltown in Argyll, was born into a family of pipers. His brother, Ronald gave him his first lessons before Pipe Major John MacKenzie took him on. After a short period, his cousin Pipe Major Ronald MacCallum MBE, the Duke of Argyll’s piper, taught him for many years. In a 2012 interview for The National Piping Centre’s ‘Noting the Tradition’ series, Hugh recalled those lessons: “He was a very good teacher and very strict. There was no question of getting away with anything, everything had to be spot on, and I suppose that stood me in good stead as the years went on. He was a very kindly man, but he wouldn’t stand for any nonsense either.”
As a youngster, Hugh also played in the Ceannloch Pipe Band in Campbeltown, and in the 8th Argyll Territorial Army Band.
At the age of 18, he moved to Glasgow to study accountancy and then, in 1963, to Edinburgh. Piping had taken a brief hiatus at this point but Hugh would then travel to Inveraray for his lessons with Ronald, something he would continue to do into the 1970s.
Hugh’s first big win in piping came at the 1959 Inveraray Games but it was as an 18-year-old at the Argyllshire Gathering the following year that he burst onto the competitive solo piping scene by winning the Open Piobaireachd. His winning tune was In Praise of Morag.
In 1967 he won the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting (with Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay). His outstanding competitive success also includes the Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering (1972), Gold Clasp at the Northern Meeting (four times), Senior Piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering (six times), Silver Chanter (six times), Glenfiddich Championship (1978) and the Former Winners’ MSR at Oban and Inverness (five times).
In all the years he competed at the Glenfiddich he was never out of the prize lists. He retired from competition in 1988.
In the late 1970s, by now living in Stirlingshire with wife, Valerie and their two sons, Hugh became the principal piping instructor at Stirling University’s summer schools. In 1981 Hugh tracked down the site of the original 1781 Falkirk Tryst competition, the first recorded piping contest.
In 1995 Hugh was commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland to compose a piobaireachd to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the landing of Prince Charles Edward Stuart.
An obituary will appear in the July Piping Times. We pass on our sincere condolences to the Hugh’s wife, Emily and family.