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The Lewis and Harris Piping Society would ordinarily be gearing up for the most important date in their calendar this week. the PM Donald MacLeod MBE Memorial Competition.
But the Covid-19 restrictions have forced the cancellation of the event for a second time, depriving piping enthusiasts of their annual day of world class piping in Stornoway.
However, the Piping Society have instead planned a Tribute Recital to be broadcast on social media at 7pm on Friday, April 2 – the date the competition had been scheduled for.
The eight pipers who were invited to last year’s competition have been asked to submit short home recordings of a selection of tunes, mostly but not exclusively, Donald MacLeod compositions.
The recordings will be compiled by Reefnet, and the programme will be hosted by the multi-talented Anna Murray. Anna was a pupil of the late PM Iain Murdo Morrison, who sadly died last December. He was for many years the guiding light for the Society in organising the Donald MacLeod Competition.
Donald MacLeod composed many tunes of all kinds, leaving a tremendous legacy: slow airs, marches of various tempos, strathspeys, hornpipes, jigs, and twenty-seven piobaireachds.
One of the best known was composed for his daughter Susan MacLeod. This tune was played by Lorne Cousins from Campbeltown on his world tour with Madonna a few years ago. It is also very popular with Grade One bands at the Worlds Championship in Glasgow – another event that will be welcomed when the world returns to some kind of normality.
Donald MacLeod dedicated his tunes to individuals, to events, to some aspect of nature, and in the case of Drumlithie when he asked Mrs Macleod to suggest a name for a new tune, by sticking a pin in the Ordinance Survey map of Aberdeenshire.
The story behind the jig The Seagull is interesting as well. Although Donald MacLeod would have been familiar with seagulls from growing up in Stornoway’s South Beach Street in the 20s and 30s, this tune was named for was a bird with a broken wing found outside the kitchens in Fort George. It was found by Jock Flett who served in the Seaforth Highlanders with Donald MacLeod and was immortalised by the tune Flett from Flotta. A kind-hearted individual, he took the seagull into the kitchen and nursed it back to health.
The programme for the recital will include one of the best know Ceol Mor compositions, Cabar Feidh gu Brath. This tune was composed when the Seaforth Highlanders were amalgamated with the Cameron Highlanders to form the Queen’s Own Highlanders. Cabar Feidh was the battle cry for Clan MacKenzie, who formed the backbone of the original Seaforths.
Pipe Major Donald MacLeod was a Seaforths man to his core and was not best pleased when the new regiment chose the Cameron kilt for formal wear. So much so that when he had to wear the Cameron tartan he wore a greatcoat over it if possible, so as not to be seen in it.
Cabar Feidh gu Brath will be played by Iain Speirs from Edinburgh, an extremely accomplished player of piobaireachd and a regular competitor at the competition in Stornoway over the past 20 years.
This Tribute Recital will be aired at 7pm on Friday, April 2 on the Lewis and Harris Piping Society Facebook page and the Society’s You Tube channel.