CLASP profile: Dugald Macleod

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The latest member of the Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers (CLASP) to be profiled is Dugald Macleod.

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Where are you from and how did you get into piping?
I live near Dumfries, Scotland but always have difficulty with the question, “Where are you from?” I was born in Valparaiso, Chile to a father from Lewis and a mother from London. The family moved to the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides when I was nine years old. It was in Barra that I first heard the pipes, played by Calum Johnston, and it was love at first hearing!

Calum gave lessons at my primary school and then Roddy Campbell at my secondary school. Then there was a pipe band at Gordonstoun [a co-educational independent boarding school near Inverness, Scotland – Editor]. After that I lapsed for a few years until I joined Edinburgh University Officers’ Training Corps Pipe Band. When I qualified as a Chartered Accountant I started travelling the world for work and piping took a back seat. It is only now, in my semi-retirement, that I’m starting to take it seriously again.

How has the pandemic affected your piping personally?
The pandemic coincided with a heart operation, which meant some time off piping. After the time off, I started learning some new tunes, which, at my advanced age, takes longer than it used to. Now, ten months after my operation, I have picked up my pipes again.

Dugald competing via Skype in CLASP’s March 2020 competition.

Do you have a set practice routine you could share with readers?
I pick up my practice chanter at any time during the day but I have routine for the pipes: I practice every evening at 5.30 for about 45 minutes. Tuning is a weak spot for me, and I start with a few lines of a piobaireachd.

What’s your most memorable performance you’ve heard – band or soloist
When I was a student in Edinburgh I used to go to the Eagle Pipers’ competition in Queen Street. The piper with whom I was most taken was Pipe Corporal (as he was then) Iain Morrison. The lilt in his playing lives with me still.

Who has been the biggest influence on your piping?  
These days, Willie Morrison. I started going to him at the College of Piping and have continued lessons by Skype during the pandemic.

Do you have a go at the local language when abroad?
I do enjoy languages. I think it’s only respectful to try to speak the local language when abroad. I do find though, that like piping, you need to practice a language or else you become less fluent.

Favourite piece of music – any music?
I love singing, probably because I’m no good at it myself. It’s difficult to pick a favourite; there are so many singers I like. A Welsh choir singing Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, Emily Smith singing The Silver Tassie, Paul Simon singing Graceland … it goes on and on.

St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris. Mary MacLeod was buried here in c1707.

Favourite piobaireachd?
Lament for Mary MacLeod. I was very moved when I visited Rodel church in Harris, where Mary is buried face down.

Any humorous piping anecdote you can relate to the readers (keep it clean!)?
Jock was a confirmed batchelor and one day his friend, Jimmy said to him, “I hear you’re getting married Jock”.

“Married?” exclaimed Jock. “I have enough trouble with my reeds!”

If memory serves me well, I heard that one from Captain D. R. MacLennan.

* Thank you, Dugald!

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