The overall Winner of the Donald Macleod Memorial Competition held in Stornoway on Friday was Roddy Macleod, current Director of the National Piping Centre in Glasgow.
There was a sizeable audience in the Caladh Hotel when Dr John Smith welcomed the assembled company to this year’s Donald Macleod Competition. He expressed a particular welcome to Donald MacLeod’s daughters, Fiona and Susan, who are always invited to the competition to represent the family by organisers the Lewis and Harris Piping Society.
Dr Smith then welcomed the judges for the day, Ian MacFadyen from Kyle, William Morrison from Glasgow but originally from South Uist, and Allan Forbes who holds the eminent position of Convenor of the Northern Meetings in Inverness. He also mentioned that Commander John Wilson from Glasgow was unable to be present this year, as he is currently indisposed, and expressed the Society’s best wishes to John for a speedy recovery.
For the first section of the competition the judges had chosen one of Donald MacLeod’s piobaireachds, from the more than 20 he composed, for each piper to play. All of these tunes are very melodic and pleasing to listen to. The pipers were obviously well prepared with their instruments finely tuned. The audience, including a dog from Hertfordshire, seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed all the tunes. The remarkable dog lay placidly at the owner’s feet all day.
After lunch the pipers again played several of Donald MacLeod’s compositions. In the MSR section they played two of each genre, with one of each being a MacLeod tune. The competition is rounded off with a Hornpipe and Jig section, for which the pipers are allowed to play their own choice. And among the tunes heard was one composed for Donald MacLeod himself by his good friend Duncan Johnstone.
To the amateur listener in the audience, all the tunes were of a very high standard, with very little to choose between them. The judges undoubtedly had a difficult task, but came to the conclusion that the overall winner this year was Roddy MacLeod, with Stuart Liddell a very close runner-up. Roddy MacLeod, the current Director of the National Piping Centre in Glasgow, has strong Hebridean connections and played one of the most poignant tunes that Donald MacLeod ever composed, Lament for the Iolaire, for which he was placed first in the Piobaireachd section.
The prizes were presented this year by Susan, and then the MacLeod sisters were presented with gifts from the Society by a debonair young lady, Alice MacMillan, granddaughter of Shonnie Beag. The proceedings were then interrupted by Pipe Major Morrison to present the Fear an Taighe with a duff (homemade dumpling to the uninitiated) for his services on the day, after which a comprehensive vote of thanks was offered to all those who helped to make the day such a success. Thanks are also due to Caladh Hotel and their staff, who always look after the pipers and guests very well.
A well-attended ceilidh was held in the evening, with music provided by Anna Fraser and her band and traditional songs from Iain MacKay, Anna Murray and Murdigan MacDonald. In the course of the evening, winner Roddy MacLeod played a short selection and later led all the pipers together in playing a further selection of MacLeod tunes.
The Lewis and Harris Piping Society are to be congratulated on pulling off another very successful competition and it is to be hoped that they can continue to do so in the future. The competition has quite a substantial following now, with people regularly travelling a considerable distance to attend. Indeed, one lady in the audience had travelled all the way from New South Wales in Australia where she has lived for the past five decades. She is currently holidaying with family on the Westside, and it was a delight to see her after such a long time.
The event was recorded by the BBC and selections will be heard on the regular piping programmes on Radio Scotland over the next few weeks.
Full results and pictures in this week’s Stornoway Gazette.