Pandemic puts paid to piping competition again

Finlay Johnston (left) and Stuart Liddell – overall 1st and 2nd respectively – at the 2019 Donald MacLeod competition.

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This year’s Pipe Major Donald MacLeod Memorial Piping Competition, held annually in Stornoway, has been cancelled.

A virtual, all-star piping recital is being organised in place of the illustrious event.

For nearly three decades, Lewis and Harris Piping Society has staged the Donald MacLeod competition during the first weekend of April in the legendary piper’s home town. The event’s current main sponsor is the multi-award winning Point and Sandwick Trust.

The competition is held to commemorate Pipe Major Donald MacLeod who was born in Stornoway in 1916 and became one of the most famous pipers in the world in the 20th Century.

Each year, eight of the best pipers in the world – based on competition success over the year – are invited to Stornoway to play a selection of Donald MacLeod tunes, together with some of their own choice, in front of a panel of expert judges and a discerning audience.

Dr John Smith, chairman of the Piping Society, said: ‘The first lockdown was imposed last year just a few weeks before the due date and although the more optimistic forecasters were predicting, back at the start of the vaccination programme, the country would open up by Easter, it now looks as if that will not happen until summer.

‘So the next time Donald MacLeod tunes, played by some of the best pipers in the world, will enthral a live audience in the Caladh Hotel in Stornoway is likely to be April 1 2022.’

The Piping Society is planning a virtual Pipe Major Donald MacLeod tribute concert and have invited a selection of pipers from the list of those who would ordinarily be considered for invitation to the competition to submit a short video of themselves playing a selection of tunes, including some Donald MacLeod compositions.

The recordings will be collated by Reefnet and posted on the society’s Facebook page on April 2 at 7pm.

‘It will be something to try and lighten the long dark tunnel we are currently in,’ added Dr Smith.

‘The society usually holds its annual general meeting (AGM) at this time of year and we hope to do that by Zoom on Thursday April 15. It is important we keep our customs and traditions going as we emerge from the restrictions of the pandemic.’

Anyone wishing to attend the AGM should contact the society at or contact Ashley MacDonald, who will be hosting the meeting, on 07919 101011.