The 25th Pipe Major Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition was held in Stornoway last Friday (April 6) and hailed a great success.

It was particularly successful for piper Angus MacColl, who was crowned the overall winner of the competition, having come first in two out of three sections: Piobaireachd and also March, Strathspey and Reel. Craig Sutherland won the Hornpipe and Jig category.

Pipe Major Iain Murdo Morrison, who organises the competition, said Angus MacColl “really was playing well” – and that it had been “an absolutely brilliant” day. 

He also expressed his joy at being able to enjoy this prestigious piping competition – set up to honour the memory of one of Stornoway’s most famous sons – in its home town, thanks to its lifeline funding from Point and Sandwick Trust.

We give £5,000 to the competition every year for five years. This was the second year.

The money means that organisers Lewis and Harris Piping Society can continue to stage the competition in Stornoway instead of having to move it to the mainland to save costs. If it was relocated, Glasgow would be the likeliest choice as many of the usual competitors live in the Glasgow area.

The competition costs a lot of money to stage – around £11,000 – because the Piping Society foots the bill for the air fares and accommodation for all the pipers taking part, as well as the judges.

Iain Murdo Morrison, who was once a pupil of P/M MacLeod, said everyone in the Piping Society felt “very fortunate” to have secured our help for the next four years, in order to keep the competition “where it should be rightly held”.

Describing this year’s event, he said: “It was absolutely brilliant. It was one of the best competitions we’ve had for a long, long time. All the pipers had done their homework.

“It was really a great day’s piping, absolutely wonderful and everybody says that.”

He said the atmosphere was “electric, as usual” but added that it was “very homely” too. 

“It’s not like going to the Northern Meetings. It’s like a family thing, really.”

There was a very good turnout, too, with several people commenting that there were more people there in the morning for the Piobaireachd competition “than you would see at the Gold Medal in Inverness”. The turnout in the afternoon, for the ‘light music’, was even better with the Caladh Hotel suite being pretty full. 

The competition, which was followed by a ceilidh at night and a piping workshop the next day, celebrates the musical legacy of one of the most famous pipers of the last century.

As a player, Donald MacLeod won all the major competitions, some of them several times over. He was also a tutor and a Seaforth Highlander but it was for his prolific compositions, including 26 piobaireachds, that he is best remembered. 

It is an invitational competition. Those taking part in the day-long competition are eight of the current best pipers in the world – their invitations are based on successes throughout the year at other events on the piping circuit.

All those taking part must play Donald MacLeod compositions. All the Piobaireachds must be Donald MacLeod tunes, as should half from the ‘March, Strathspey and Reel’ and ‘Hornpipe and Jig’ categories.

The judges this year were Dr Angus MacDonald, Iain MacFadyen and William Morrison. Fear an Tighe was John Wilson. 

As well as players and judges of the highest calibre, the competition is also known for attracting a knowledgeable audience from far and wide. 

One particularly distinguished guest at the competition this year was Rod Macleod, from Calgary. Rod – who is pictured with winner Angus MacColl and Kenny Dan Macdonald, one of the Point and Sandwick Trust directors – has donated ‘memorial medals’ to the competition. The medals are given to the winners of each category and Iain Murdo Morrison said they had enough medals now to last the competition until 2050. 

PST chairman Angus McCormack said we were delighted to support the P/M Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition. 

“We have a strong ethos of supporting arts and cultural activities on the island. Piping is an integral part of our culture and we are very pleased to be able to help the Piping Society in their efforts to continue this prestigious annual competition in Stornoway.”

John Kennedy, chairman of the Piping Society, added: “We’re delighted with the generosity of the Point and Sandwick Trust, enabling us to promote the music of the late Donald MacLeod on a world platform.”

  • Winner Angus MacColl is pictured above with Rod Macleod from Calgary (left) and PST director Kenny Dan Macdonald.
  • Picture by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos Photography.
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