Evan MacRae book / Lochaber Gathering (Dr Hugh Hepburn) / Fred Oudney photos

Argyllshire Gathering, 1981: Left to right: Fred Morrison Snr, Ed Clarke, Evan MacRae and Pipe Major Iain Morrison.
Argyllshire Gathering, 1981: Left to right: Fred Morrison Snr, Ed Clarke, Evan MacRae and Pipe Major Iain Morrison.

We hear that the life of Evan MacRae (1922-1991), who is mentioned briefly in the Lochaber Gathering report from 1996 (below), will be the subject of a new book.

Evan is remembered by many in Lochaber today from his time there working as a piping instructor in the schools. Born on the Black Isle and brought up on Skye (Sleat), Evan was a member of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders at the same time as Captain John MacLellan, Mickey MacKay, Evan MacRae, Malcolm MacPherson and Jimmy McIntosh. He was awarded the BEM in 1987.

Argyllshire Gathering, 1981: Left to right: Fred Morrison Snr, Ed Clarke, Evan MacRae and Pipe Major Iain Morrison.
Argyllshire Gathering, 1981: Left to right: Fred Morrison Snr, Ed Clarke, Evan MacRae and Pipe Major Iain Morrison.

Evan, the winner of the Gold Medal in 1982 at the Argyllshire Gathering, which on first reading, sounds remarkably late in life but Evan only started competing in the 1970s after retiring from a long army career.

Now, Evan’s son, Duncan, who lives in Lancashire is to pubish his dad’s memoirs. Duncan tells us that Evan wrote down his memories of life growing up in Skye, through his army career and subsequently ending up in Fort William, teaching youngsters the pipes. He says it’s an interesting read and hopes to have it available soon. The book may be called Over the Chindwin to Lochaber.

Our report yesterday on the death of Dr Hugh Hepburn mentioned the competition he sponsored at the Lochaber Gathering in the late 1990s. This was a competition for retired professional pipers and Dr Hepburn competed it in himself.

We had forgotten about this competition and can find no reference to it in the 2000s so clearly it ran only for a few years. Perhaps readers could tell us more? However, we found a report on the 1996 Lochaber Gathering published in the September 1996 Piping Times. We reproduce it below for readers’ interest (Roddy MacLeod is listed as “Pipe Major …” because at the time he was the Pipe Major of ScottishPower Pipe Band).

Lochaber Piping Gathering – The revived Lochaber Piping Gathering took place at the end of July in Fort William. On the Thursday, 10 local youngsters got the opportunity of some excellent individual tuition from Pipe Major John D. Burgess and Iain MacFadyen.

The main events started on Friday when the Lochaber Piping Gathering kicked off with the world’s top pipers invited to Marco’s to compete for the ‘Tuagh Oir’ (the Golden [Lochaber] Axe). The new ‘Masters’ competition for the over 50’s, sponsored by Dr Hugh Hepburn’s company, Glencare, was a first for many of those who have now retired from the piping circuit. The premier event, the piobaireachd, for the ‘Tuagh Oir, judged by Lt. Col. David Murray and Pipe Major Angus MacDonald, was won by Iain MacFadyen (Kyle of Lochalsh), playing ‘The Blind Piper’s Obstinacy’. In second place was Hugh MacCallum (Bridge of Allan), playing ‘In Praise of Morag’ and third place went to Arthur Gillies (Oban) playing ‘MacLeod of Raasay’s Salute’. The light music winners were Pipe Major John D. Burgess from Alness in the March and the Strathspey & Reel, and Iain MacFadyen in the Hornpipe & Jig with Pipe Major Burgess winning the overall Masters’ competition.

On the Friday evening, the top Senior pipers played for their ‘Tuagh Oir’, sponsored by The MacIntosh Foundation. Pipe Major Roddy MacLeod (Cumbernauld) successfully retained his title from last year, playing ‘The Earl of Ross’s March’, with Pipe Major Brian Donaldson (Scots Guards) in second place playing ‘The Old Men of the Shells’, and Willie McCallum (Clydebank) playing ‘I Got a Kiss of the King’s Hand’ in third place. The judges were Pipe Major John D. Burgess, Iain MacFadyen, and John MacDougall.

Mrs Molly MacRae, widow of the late Evan MacRae, presented the prizes at the end of a unique day, when some of the finest players in the world congregated in the Fort, reminiscent of the Gathering days in the past.

The open competition at the Games on Saturday, was ofa similar high standard. In the March, Rory Grossart (Glasgow) triumphed, Allan MacDonald (Edinburgh) won the Strathspey & Reel, and Angus MacColl (Oban) won the Hornpipe & Jig.

The Junior Piping Competitions on Saturday, sponsored by Lochaber Area Committee, were also of the usual high standard with, in the 15 and under, Alan Clark (Alness) winning the March, and John Mulhearn (Troon) winning the Jig and the Piobaireachd. In the 18 and under, Andrew Wright (Dundee) won both the March, Strathspey & Reel and the Jig, and Fiona MacKay (Alness) won the Piobaireachd.

The results were:

Piobaireachd – 1. Iain MacFadyen (‘The Blind Piper’s Obstinacy’), 2. Hugh MacCallum (‘In Praise of Morag’), 3. Arthur Gillies (‘MacLeod of Raasay’s Salute’), 4. P/M John D. Burgess (‘Ronald MacDonald of Morar’).
March – 1. P/M J. D. Burgess, 2. Rona MacDonald, 3. H. MacCallum, 4. J. MacDougall.
Strathspey and Reel – 1. P/M J.D. Burgess, 2. H. MacCallum, 3. I. MacFadyen, 4. A. Gillies.
Hornpipe and Jig – 1. I. MacFadyen, 2. A. Gillies, 3. J. D. Burgess, 4. J. MacDougall.
‘Tuagh Oir na Maighstirean’ for Piobaireachd – lain MacFadyen.
‘Bonn Oir na Maighstirean’ for Overall – John D. Burgess.
Piobaireachd – 1. Pipe Major Roderick J. MacLeod (‘The Earl of Ross’s March’), 2. Pipe Major Brian Donaldson (‘The Old Men of the Shells’), 3. William McCallum (‘I Got a Kiss of the King’s Hand’), 4. Angus MacColl (‘Patrick Òg’).
An Tuagh Oir Winner – Pipe Major R. J. MacLeod.

Dr Hepburn can be seen in this photograph sent to us by Jeannie Campbell, a former President of the Scottish Pipers’ Association (SPA). The photograph was taken at the SPA’s competition in 2006 and shows the C Grade winners. Held at the College of Piping, they are, from left to right: Tom Dingwall, Alastair Tripney, Calum MacLean, Iain MacIntyre, Gary Carruthers and Hugh Hepburn.

We received a good response already to our plea yesterday for information on the photographs taken by Fred Oudney of Blairgowrie, Scotland.

A fair number of you, including Roddy MacLeod MBE and Jim McGillivray, Ontario, Canada, suggested that the photograph of the piper is a young Iain MacFadyen. It certainly does resemble the legendary master piper but we wonder where and when it was taken.

Meanwhile, Michael McLetchie of Alberta, Canada, suggests the photo of the band on the right hand side of the photo of the bands marching up the hill could be the pipes and drums of Queen Victoria School, Dunblane. Michael writes: “When I saw the first photograph, I immediately thought, ‘Queen Victoria School’. For comparison, see the photograph on page 8 of The Collection Volume Two by Piper Major Angus MacDonald MBE.”

The photograph of Queen Victoria School, Dunblane-1952 that appears in volume two of Pipe Majors Angus MacDonald’s ‘Collection’.

Thanks to all who have responded so far. We have passed your comments to Mr Donaldson. Please keep the suggestions and information coming.