Dr Kenneth MacKay tribute planned this weekend

St Andrew's Night 1970, the College of Piping's Silver Jubilee dinner. L-R: Seumas MacNeill, Tommy Pearston, Baillie John Fraser, Dr-Kenneth MacKay and Captain Charles Hepburn.
St Andrew’s Night 1970, the College of Piping’s Silver Jubilee dinner. L-R: Seumas MacNeill, Tommy Pearston, Baillie John Fraser, Dr Kenneth MacKay and Captain Charles Hepburn.

A tribute to Dr Kenneth MacKay will be held this Saturday (21st) in the highland village where he lived and worked for many years.

Dr Kenneth MacKay was an important piping figure during the post-War years. Born in Ross-shire at the turn of the 20th century he lived and worked as a GP as a doctor in Glasgow.

In 1938, he began to take his piping seriously and went to Hugh Kennedy for many years. MacKay became an active member of the Glasgow Highland Club and the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society but his biggest contribution to piping was his attempt to establish a system of certification which would be acceptable not only in Scotland but throughout the world. In his capacity as Chairman of the College of Piping, he invited representatives of all piping societies and organisations to a meeting in Glasgow. It was a measure of his popularity that every organisation sent a representative and great enthusiasm was evinced for the scheme.

The Scottish Pipe Band Association decided against coming on board so the College continued to carry out the scheme until, with the support of the Piobaireachd Society and the Army School of Piping, the Institute of Piping was set up. This organisation continues to this day as the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board (PDQB) and comprises The National Piping Centre, The Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming, The Piobaireachd Society and The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association.

In 1952, MacKay moved from Glasgow to Laggan in Inverness-shire where he continued in practice and where he he set up a school of piping, to which many local children attended. He also held summer camps in his home, Craig a’Bhile.

During this time he was responsible for getting some of the best recordings we have of Robert U. Brown’s teaching. He had many pupils including Ian Duncan (from 1965-1970), Niall Matheson and Martyn Bennett – who composed the wonderful MacKay’s Memoirs in 1999 in tribute to him.

Dr MacKay with pupil.
Dr MacKay with pupil.

In 1966, MacKay retired a few miles along the road at Newtonmore. He died in 1988 at the age of 88 and is still remembered fondly by the local community

After his death his family set up a fund to establish a substantial money prize, administered by the College of Piping and now the National Piping Centre, to provide bursary support to a pupil studying the pipes in the Scottish Education Department’s Higher Music examination.

The tribute concert will be held in Laggan Community Hall and feature many of MacKay’s former pupils, the Badenoch Waulking Group and Niall Matheson who will play Lament for Mary MacLeod, a great favourite of MacKay’s. An animated film, Dr MacKay’s Memoirs, will also be shown, with commentary by MacKay’s son, Eric. Singer, Margaret Bennett – mother of Martyn – who lived in the community for a time – will sing Gaelic songs.

The concert commences at 7.30pm and tickets, priced £10.00, are available at the door on the night or in advance from Laggan Heritage at info@lagganheritage.com.*