Novel gives a new voice to Angus MacKay

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Angus MacKay.
Angus MacKay.

One of the most eagerly awaited piping books in many years will be published this spring. I Piped, That She Might Dance is a novel based on the life of Angus MacKay, the man who became the most famous piper of his own lifetime and whose legacy continues to this day.

Pre-orders are being taken now by Blackwater Press.

The publication of the book was first announced in the spring 2020 issue (101) of Piping Today. A short excerpt was also included. I Piped, That She Might Dance is an historical novel about the celebrated piper who lived from (1812/13-1843). From his humble origins on the small Hebridean island of Raasay, thanks to the input of his highly musical family, Angus had a meteoric piping career. In 1843, by the age of 30, he was appointed Piper to the Sovereign by Queen Victoria. He was the first figure to occupy this position, which exists to this day.

Angus was a troubled mind and soul, who spent the final years of his life in and out of mental institutions. In Iain MacDonald’s debut novel, Angus writes a memoir from his cell at Bedlam Hospital, London in which he reminisces about his life. He leads us through his childhood: a time when living conditions were simple, and music was part of Highland society’s daily life. His father and brothers were all pipers, and Angus’s musical talent was nurtured from an early age.

The chronicle follows Angus’s escalation in society, as he became piper to Lady Gwydir at Drummond Castle, then to the Laird of Islay, and all the way to Her Majesty the Queen.

Elizabeth Ford of the Blackwater Press said: “Like a pìobaireachd, the theme of Angus’s life developed into increasingly complex and extravagant variations, his dexterity and talent showing at every new step. This is in fact how Iain MacDonald has structured his novel: from the preliminary, indefinite tuning phase when Angus’s potential was still finding its shape, to the pyrotechnic virtuoso of the crunluath a mach,when his genius reached its climax.

“Rich in historical and biographical detail, I Piped, That She Might Dance provides a window onto 19th century Scottish life and culture: from the Hebridean wilderness and simplicity, to the sophistication and finery of castle life; from the technicalities of the Highland Society’s piping contests, to the family dynamics at play in a society undergoing significant changes.”

A Canadian of Scottish descent, Iain MacDonald [pictured] is a bagpipe teacher at Saskatchewan’s University of Regina’s Conservatory of Performing Arts.

* Pre-order a copy of I Piped, That She Might Dance here.

• The book will be reviewed on Bagpipe.News in due course.