One of the most prestigious piping competitions in the world, the Pipe Major Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition, has been secured in its home town of Stornoway for the next few years thanks to a sponsorship agreement.
Point and Sandwick Trust has pledged £5,000 to the competition every year for five years.
It means the annual competition, which is organised by the Lewis and Harris Piping Society, can continue to be held in Stornoway, instead of having to be relocated to somewhere like Glasgow to reduce costs.
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.
Increasing financial pressure could have meant the Piping Society moving the competition to the mainland to cut the size of its travel and accommodation bill. With many of the usual competitors living in the Glasgow area, moving the competition to Glasgow would have been the obvious choice.
Point and Sandwick Trust chairman Angus McCormack said they were delighted to help keep it at home. “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.”
This year’s competition takes place in the Caladh Hotel on Friday, April 6 and will be followed by a ceilidh at night and a workshop for pipers the next day.
The competition – taking place for the 25th year – celebrates the musical legacy of P/M Donald MacLeod, one of Stornoway’s most famous sons.
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.
Donald MacLeod was one of the most famous pipers of the last century. He was an outstanding player and 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.
The Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition was created to honour his memory and celebrate his music. The competition is split into two sections – the ‘Cèol Mòr’ (piobaireachd) and the Cèol Beag (march, strathspey and reel) – but most of the tunes to be played will be Donald MacLeod ones.
The pipers who will be taking part this year are Finlay Johnston, Ben Duncan, Niall Stewart, Roderick MacLeod, Craig Sutherland, Iain Speirs, Glenn Brown and Angus MacColl.
The judges will be Dr Angus MacDonald, Iain MacFadyen and William Morrison. Fear an Tighe is 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.
Pipe Major Iain Murdo Morrison, who was once a pupil of P/M MacLeod, is the main organiser of the competition and said everyone in the Piping Society felt “very fortunate” to have secured the help of Point and Sandwick Trust for the next four years, to continue to have the competition “where it should be rightly held”, in Donald MacLeod’s place of birth.
He said: “Once more we will be able to guarantee the very finest piping at the Donald MacLeod and I hope the piping community both on the island and from elsewhere will join us to celebrate what is always a great day. Everyone will be made most welcome.”
John Kennedy, chairman of the Piping Society, said: “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.”
Mr Kennedy pointed out that, as well as the social benefits for the pipers and the audience of having the competition in Stornoway, he enjoyed being able to take the competitors on a tour of Donald MacLeod landmarks during their time on the island.
These include visiting sites such as 4 South Beach Street, where Donald MacLeod lived as a boy; Assynt House on the corner of Garden Road and Lewis Street, where Donald MacLeod’s mentor Johnny Morrison lived; and the River Creed, about which he had written a 6/8 March.
Mr Kennedy said it was “most important” to be able to have the competition in Stornoway and added: “I can hardly wait for it. I’m champing at the bit.”
To celebrate the sponsorship, piper Finlay Macleod, himself a member of the Lewis and Harris Piping Society committee, came down to the Point and Sandwick Trust offices in Knock, along with John Kennedy, and played a tune.
He chose to play one of Donald MacLeod’s 6/8 compositions, Mrs Macdonald of Uig. Everyone there thoroughly enjoyed it and, afterwards, John Kennedy remarked on Finlay’s musicality and that of the tune itself. “That tune was played as it should be played – with feeling.”
Piper Finlay Macleod also explained the significance of Donald MacLeod compositions. “Donald MacLeod’s music is a very important collection for any piper of any standard anywhere in the world. He’s written some of the most attractive melodies that I personally know of and I myself enjoy playing his music.”
There will be a piping workshop for local pipers held the day after the competition, as part of this year’s 25th anniversary celebrations. It will be taken by one of the competitors, Roddy MacLeod MBE, who is Principal of the National Piping Centre.
The P/M Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition begins at 10.15am. Admission is £15. Tickets for the ceilidh are £5.
- Pictured at the top are Point and Sandwick Trust chairman Angus McCormack, left, with representatives from the Lewis and Harris Piping Society – committee member and piper Finlay Macleod and chairman John Kennedy.
- Pictured above are Finlay Macleod and John Kennedy in the Point and Sandwick Trust offices in Knock, as Finlay gets ready for a tune.
- Photographs by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos Photography.