Details of the first Pipe Major Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition to be held since the Covid pandemic struck have been released by the Lewis and Harris Piping Society. The prestigious day-long event, which sees eight of the best pipers in the world invited to Stornoway for the competition honouring the musical legacy of PM Donald MacLeod, was last held in 2019 – but returns to the Caladh Inn on Friday, April 7 this year.
The Lewis and Harris Piping Society is delighted to announce the competition is restarting and has released the names of the eight pipers invited to take part. The Society is also delighted to announce the launch this year of a Junior Donald MacLeod Competition, and named the six youngsters from throughout the Outer Hebrides who will be taking part. The eight pipers invited to take part in this year’s PM Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition are: William McCallum, Angus D MacColl, Callum Beaumont, Finlay Johnston, Connor Sinclair, Fred Morrison, Glenn Brown and James Duncan Mackenzie.
The six youngsters who will be taking part in the junior competition are: brother and sister Eosaph and Mairead Gailbraith from Barra and Padruig MacMillan from South Uist – pupils of Dòmhnall Ban MacDonald – and Innes Begg from South Lochs, Eilidh MacDonald from Tarbert and Ruairidh MacDonald from Lochs – pupils of Ashley MacDonald. The six pipers were selected as they were the top winners in the Under 18 category at the Annual Lewis and Harris Piping Society Competition held at Sir E Scott in Harris, in October 2022. There was another piper invited, however they had other commitments.
The junior competition takes place on Thursday, April 6, at the Caladh Inn at 1pm. The senior competition starts the next day at the new time of 9.30am. Main sponsors are Point and Sandwick Trust, The Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust and Woody’s Express. The senior competition, which was inaugurated in 1994 by the late Pipe Major Iain M Morrison and the late Angus ‘Dodo’ Stewart, is in three sections: piobareachd; March, Strathspey and Reel; and Hornpipe and Jig.
For the morning’s section, each piper has been allocated one of the 27 piobareachds composed by Donald Macleod during his lifetime. For the MSR section, the pipers are asked to play two Marches, two Strathspeys and two Reels, and one of each has to be a Donald Macleod composition. To round off the day, the pipers are asked to play a Hornpipe and Jig of their own choice.
The performers will be assessed by a panel of three: Iain MacFadyen, Murray Henderson and Willie Morrison – all well-known and respected pipers.
The overall winner is the highest aggregate scorer in the first two sections. The proceedings will be kept in order by Fear an Taighe John Wilson, who was a pupil of Donald Macleod and is a recognised authority on all aspects of his life and work.
Dr John Smith, Chairman of The Lewis and Harris Piping Society, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be able to promote this competition, bringing world-class pipers to Stornoway to commemorate Pipe Major Donald MacLeod’s musical legacy, and we are absolutely delighted to introduce a junior version of the competition, so that aspiring young pipers will have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills in a similar format to their adult compatriots.
“This is absolutely in line with the ethos of The Lewis and Harris Piping Society and with Donald MacLeod’s own supportive approach to teaching youngsters.”
The format for the junior competition is broadly similar to the main Donald MacLeod event, with the young pipers invited to play a piobareachd and an MSR selection in front of two judges: Ian Duncan from the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust and Iain MacCrimmon from the MacCrimmon Foundation. The winner will be awarded a new trophy: the Norman S Morrison Cup, to be retained for a year, and a silver-plated long practice chanter, donated by McCallum Bagpipes. The cup has been donated to the Society by Mrs Marie Morrison in memory of her late husband, Stornoway businessman Norman S Morrison, who was a founder member of The Lewis and Harris Piping Society.
Ashley MacDonald, Lewis and Harris Piping Society Piping Secretary and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Piping Instructor, will also be making sure the young pipers have the opportunity to see how the senior event runs by having them on hand as stewards on the Friday.
Ashley said: “We are very fortunate that all the pipers are keen and willing to learn the ropes. An insight to events like these may be useful for them in the future and help them build their own successful events.
“I am delighted that the society is back in action, bringing the world’s best pipers to the islands for our prestigious competition. We are fortunate and grateful to our sponsors, committee members and the wider community for their support. We have had numerous messages asking us about details so that some can book flights etc from as far away as Germany to come and listen. The pipers themselves are delighted to be taking part and are very much looking forward to coming to Stornoway to play PM Donald MacLeod tunes.”
The traditional competition ceilidh takes place on the Friday night, at the Caladh Inn, from 9pm to late, with tickets £10 on the door. The Graham MacLennan Trio will be playing, with performances from the pipers too.
Pipe Major Donald MacLeod, MBE (August 14, 1916-June 29, 1982) was a Scottish bagpiper, British Army Pipe major, composer and bagpipe instructor. He was born in on the island of Lewis and mentored and tutored by John Morrison, who took him to his first Northern Meeting. He was also tutored by Willie Ross, and every week for 27 years by John MacDonald of Inverness.
Donald joined the British Army in 1937 and went to France in 1940 with the 2nd Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders in the British Expeditionary Force. Captured as a prisoner of war during the surrender at St. Valery-en-Caux, he escaped during the march to Germany and returned to France in 1944 as Pipe Major of the 7th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders.
After the war, he competed in solo competitions, and won the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in Inverness in 1947 and at the Argyllshire Gathering in Oban in 1954.
After leaving the British Army in 1963, MacLeod became a partner in Grainger and Campbell, a Glasgow bagpipe-manufacturing firm. Donald published six volumes of light music and one of ceòl mòr, and after his death a further volume was compiled.
He was made Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1978. With his wife Winnie he had two daughters, Susan and Fiona.
The invitational competition held in his name was started by the Lewis & Harris Piping Society in 1993.