James Duncan Mackenzie and Callum Beaumont with Susan Millar and Fiona MacLeod, daughters of P/M Donald MacLeod.James Duncan Mackenzie and Callum Beaumont with Susan Millar and Fiona MacLeod, daughters of P/M Donald MacLeod.
James Duncan Mackenzie and Callum Beaumont with Susan Millar and Fiona MacLeod, daughters of P/M Donald MacLeod.

Delight as piping competition returns in all its glory

​One of the most prestigious piping competitions in the world has returned to Stornoway in all its former glory. Top honours in the Pipe Major Donald MacLeod MBE Memorial Competition, held in the Caladh Inn on Friday, were taken by Dollar piping instructor Callum Beaumont, who was first overall and won the Ceol Mòr and March, Strathspey and Reel.

​James Duncan Mackenzie, a piping instructor in Lewis and Harris schools, was second overall and second in both categories, and had already made history by being the first Lewis piper to ‘qualify’ for the invitational competition since its inception in 1994.

Barra teen Eosaph Gailbraith was the third major winner, coming first in the Pipe Major Donald MacLeod MBE Junior Competition for youngsters from the Western Isles – held for the first time this year.

The event commemorates the music of one of Stornoway’s most famous sons, Pipe Major Donald MacLeod, who was one of the most prolific composers of the last century and wrote 27 piobareachds.

Lewis and Harris Piping Society Chairman Dr John Smith said it had been “a very successful revival of the Donald MacLeod memorial Piping Competition after three years in abeyance due to Covid”, adding: “I was delighted that we were able to organise this competition again, to commemorate the music of one of the best pipers of the last century in his home town.”

Overall winner Callum Beaumont was a previous winner, having taken the title in 2013, while it was a very successful debut for James Duncan Mackenzie.

The other pipers who took part in the competition were Angus MacColl, Connor Sinclair, Willie McCallum, Glenn Brown and Finlay Johnston.

James Duncan Mackenzie said it had been “a great weekend”. He said: “It was an honour to be invited to such a prestigious solo piping competition and celebration of Donald MacLeod’s music. I grew up learning Donald’s music through the teaching of the late Pipe Major Iain Murdo Morrison and he was obviously a pupil of Donald MacLeod’s so it’s nice to carry on with that tradition.

“I first attended the competition as an audience member when I was about eight years old and back then I was really inspired by the likes of Angus MacColl and Willie McCallum and it’s just a huge honour to be competing now at that level amongst these guys. They’ve been at the top level of solo piping for the best part of 25 years or more. I was just really delighted to even feature in the prize list.”

In terms of the new junior competition, Dr Smith said: “We have been talking about staging a junior version of the Donald MacLeod competition for some time and we are delighted that it finally came to fruition.

"It reflects the aims and objectives of the Piping Society, to promote piping in all its aspects, and we have always encouraged the teaching of piping amongst the young. And that is also in line with Donald MacLeod’s philosophy with encouraging, motivating and supporting youngsters to play the pipes.”

The competitions were also attended by P/M Donald MacLeod’s daughters, Susan Millar and Fiona MacLeod.