There was a great turnout once again for the Donald Macleod Memorial Competition, held in the Caladh Inn in Stornoway last Friday evening.
The competition, held to celebrate the music of Pipe Major Donald Macleod of Lewis, was being held for the 23rd year and people came from near and far to enjoy the event, which is considered to be one of the most prestigious in the piping calendar.
Eight of the current best pipers, as judged by their success in other competitions over the previous year, are invited to take part and this year it was won by Stuart Liddell.
The piping was first class and there was good craic later at the dinner and ceilidh. However, the event did come to a very sad close with the sudden death of the father of one of the pipers, Willie McCallum. He was 87.
Willie McCallum Senior, or Old Willie as he was known, had proudly watched his son win the trophy for the March, Strathspey and Reel competition.
He was also the overall runner-up and, poignantly, the trophy for the runner-up is a quaich that had been donated to the competition by his father in memory of his mother.
Mr McCallum collapsed after the ceilidh had finished and passed away shortly afterwards. He had suffered a massive heart attack. Hearts go out to Willie and his family on the loss of his father, who told him on Friday night: “That was the best day of my life.”
His father, who lived in Campbeltown, travelled to almost every competition Willie McCallum ever played in.
“He was a great supporter,” said Willie, “but he was a great supporter with all the guys. He knew everybody in the piping world.”
Along with Stuart and Willie, the pipers who took part this year were Roddy Macleod MBE, Finlay Johnstone, Angus MacCall, Callum Beaumont, Gordon McCready and John Angus Smith. The judges were John Wilson, Iain MacFadyen and Alan Forbes.
The competition is in three parts: Piobaireachd, then March, Strathspey and Reel, and finally Hornpipe and Jig. The standard of the playing throughout was superb.
Willie, who opened the competition by playing the first piobaireachd — a beautiful rendition of Roderick MacDonald’s Salute, remembered looking for his father after he had finished playing his tunes in the March, Strathspey and Reel section.
“It was just a thing I did when I finished,” he said. “I was quite happy myself with it and I looked because we always had a wee connection when I finished. I looked at his face and he was really chuffed and I thought ‘well, he’s happy with that’.”
Willie McCallum Snr was an honorary member of the Lewis and Harris Piping Society and an honorary member of the Kintyre Piping Society .
He was awarded the Balvenie Medal in 2003. Presented to him at the Glenfiddich championship, this is for the person deemed to have made a significant contribution to the piping world, either through teaching or the organisation of competitions.
Dr John Smith, who was Fear an Tighe, said: “It’s very sad. Willie McCallum Senior was an absolute gentleman and much loved and respected by the piping fraternity. He will be missed by his family but also by the many friends he had in the piping world. It was almost surreal.”
Ceol Mor: 1st Stuart Liddell, 2nd Callum Beaumont, 3rd Willie McCallum, 4th Angus MacColl.
March, Strathspey and Reel: 1st Willie McCallum, 2nd Stuart Liddell, 3rd Angus MacColl, 4th Finlay Johnston
Jig Competition: 1st Angus MacColl, 2nd Stuart Liddell, 3rd Finlay Johnston, 4th Gordon McCready
Pictured is this year’s winner Stuart Liddell, receiving his trophy from the daughter of the late Donald MacLeod, Fiona MacLeod.