Mark Stewart.
Mark Stewart.

Mark Stewart has been appointed Pipe Major of the Vale of Atholl. Stewart is something of a Vale veteran, having learned first of all as a nine-year-old with Andy Renwick and then Ian Duncan, two previous Pipe Majors of the Perthshire-based organisation.

He progressed to the Vale’s Juvenile band then its Grade 4 band that won the Worlds in the early 1980s. Age 15, he joined the Grade 1 band, a championship-winning band that won at least two ‘majors’ (as well as third at the Worlds) and numerous top six places. He also played at many memorable concerts with the band, including those in concerts in Ballymena and the one in Motherwell that was recorded (at the Live ’n’ Well).

Crieff-born Stewart moved to Canada in the mid-1990s to become a full-time piping instructor at the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts in Cape Breton. Whilst there, he was appointed Pipe Major of its Grade 3 band and was placed in the top six consistently at competitions in Atlantic Canada including the North American Championships at Maxville, Ontario. He also became a qualified pipe band adjudicator and remains a member of the Judging Panel of the Atlantic Canada Pipe Band Association, accredited to judge all levels of pipe band and solo piping competition.

Mark Stewart at the 2013 Atholl Highlanders' Parade.
Mark Stewart at the 2013 Atholl Highlanders’ Parade.

In 1998, the multi-instrumentalist (he also plays uilleann pipes and whistles) published a collection of his compositions, The Crieff Collection. Over the years, many leading bands have played his tunes in their medleys, including the Vale, Fife Police and the 78th Highlanders Halifax Citadel.

Returning to Scotland in 2001, Stewart played in Ian Duncan’s Drambuie Kirkliston band, winning the 2005 Grade 2 Worlds. The following year he was recruited into the pipes and drums of the Atholl Highlanders, Europe’s only private army.

In recent years, he played in Dougie Murray’s Fife Police Scotland band.

Vale legend, long-term friend and mentor of Stewart’s, Ian Duncan will also return in the specially created role of Musical Consultant. Duncan, who retired from competing in 2018, is a previous winner of the Scottish Music Teacher of the Year.

Mark said: “It’s an honour to take on the role of Pipe Major of the Vale of Atholl. My son, Cameron joined the Vale this year and it will make it extra special to play alongside him. I’m also looking forward to working with two very good friends, Leading Drummer Bongo McNab and Ian Duncan to continue to produce innovative and exciting music in the Vale tradition and to work towards establishing a band that can be a potential contender on the competition circuit once again.”

A spokesman for the Vale organisation said: “We’re delighted to welcome back one of our award-winning players to the fold, Mark will lead the Grade 3 band and will also have the responsibility of lead musician for the Vale. Many people in Scotland will know Mark as a member of the Vale since his teenage years and also latterly a member of the Fife Police band but he is also known and respected beyond Scotland.”