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      Stornoway, Broadbay & Lochs news

The Pipe Major Donald MacLeod MBE Memorial Competition – the highlight of the Lewis and Harris Piping Societys annual calendar and one of the most prestigious piping competitions in the world – will take place in Stornoway on Friday, 5 April, with the junior competition taking aplace the day before. As usual, the competitions will take place in the Caladh Inn on James Street.

The Junior Pipe Major Donald MacLeod Competition will commence at 1.30pm on Thursday, 4 April. Eight of the most promising young pipers in the Western Isles have been invited to play a selection of tunes before a panel of two prominent pipers, Ian Duncan and Iain McCrimmon. Those invited to take part have been selected on the basis of their performances at the Junior Competition last October. The youngsters performing will be Isabel Beaton, Innes Begg, Mairead Gailbraith, Eilidh MacDonald, Ruairidh MacDonald, Seamus Mackay, Micheal MacLellan and Charlie Shirkie. 

The Junior Competition was introduced last year to give the youngsters the opportunity to experience playing in similar conditions to their adult counterparts, and is in line with the Societys aims and objectives, and Donald MacLeods philosophy of encouraging youngsters to learn to play the pipes.

All the competitors will receive a practice chanter courtesy of McCallum Bagpipes, and the overall winner will be awarded the Norman S Morrison trophy to be retained for a year. 

The Senior Competition will commence at 9.30am on the Friday. The eight pipers invited to take part this year are Callum Beaumont, Alasdair Henderson, Finlay Johnston, Stuart Liddell, Angus MacColl, James Duncan MacKenzie, Roddy MacLeod and Innes Smith. All have taken part in previous competitions in Stornoway with the exception of Innes Smith, who earned his invitation by winning the Gold Medal in Inverness last year. Innes is from Bridge of Allan but currently lives in Sherriffmuir and is a Consultant Orthopaedic Paediatric Surgeon in Glasgow. Both his parents and his wife are from Lewis.

The panel of judges for the competition are Rhona Lightfoot, Murray Henderson and Ian Duncan, and the Fear an Taigh is John Wilson, who is an authority on all aspects of Donald MacLeods music and teaching, and can be relied upon to educate and entertain the assembled audience.

This year, the programme will include a look at a historic set of bagpipes with a special connection to Stornoway and Pipe Major Donald MacLeod – and the pipes will be played during a break in the competition proceedings.

These are pipes that were owned by John Morrison of Assynt House in Stornoway, having been made in 1843, and John Morrison himself was one of the most important influences on Donald MacLeods early piping career. John Morrison of Assynt House was immortalised in a tune composed for him by another well-known piper from Lewis, Peter R MacLeod Senior originally from Uig in Lewis, but who lived most of his life in Partick, Glasgow.

John Morrisons pipes from 1843 had been made by Donald MacKay who was piper to the Duke of Sussex at Kensington Palace 1834-1843. He was the brother of Angus MacKay, the first piper to Queen Victoria. 

Amazingly this set of pipes is still in playing order, with a pipe chanter made by John Ban MacKenzie (1796-1864), and they are now owned by Mrs Tabby Angier who will kindly be bringing them to Stornoway for the Pipe Major Donald MacLeod competition - which she regularly attends – and Stuart Liddell will give a demonstration on the set later in the afternoon.

Copies of an article detailing the provenance of the pipes, by Jeannie Campbell MBE, Retired Curator, Museum of Piping, Glasgow, and another article from the Stornoway Historical Society about John Morrison will be available at the during the competition for anyone who wishes to find out more.

Caberfeidh Supplies, Inverness, hope to have a stand in the hall, where all manner of piping accessories will be available.

The traditional post-event Ceilidh will commence at 9pm with music provided by the Graham MacLennan Band for those inclined to dance, interspersed with some piping.

Piping Society chairman Dr John Smith said: The Society are extremely grateful to their main sponsor, Point and Sandwick Trust, who have supported the Donald MacLeod competition for the past five years, and also the Gordon Duncan Trust, who make regular significant contributions to the cost of the competition, and all other supporters of the Society. We are also very grateful to David Wood of Woodys Express who has sponsored the junior competition for the second year running, and McCallum pipes who have provided practice chanters for all the juniors taking part in the competition.”

Main sponsor Point and Sandwick Trust sent their good wishes to the Society. Norman Mackenzie, chairman of the community wind farm, said: We are delighted to once again be sponsoring the Donald MacLeod competition, an event of major importance in terms of our culture and heritage.

A lot of year-round preparation goes into staging the competition, and it is particularly heartwarming that there is now a junior event, training and nurturing the next generation of Western Isles pipers. We wish our friends at the Piping Society all the best for another excellent event.”