Thanks to everyone who responded to our Whisky Galore article at the end of last week. Not possible to respond personally to everyone’s emails so a collective ‘thank you’ to you all. I asked for the name of the piper pictured and then posed a quiz question: ‘Who wrote the book and who was his piper?’ A few were caught out by that, assuming that the piper in the film was also the author’s personal piper.
The piper pictured was a young Neil Angus MacDonald, Inverness. The author was Sir Compton MacKenzie, and his personal piper was Calum Johnston, Barra (pictured above). Here are some responses:
Hector Russell: ‘Archie [Maclean, piping adjudicator, Inverness] was a student at Glasgow School of Art for five years, followed by a year at Jordanhill College, and began his teaching career in Glasgow in 1973. He joined The Clan MacRae in 1972 which was led, at that time, by ex-214 old boy John Finlay, winning the Grade Two World Championship at Ayr in 1973. The MacRae disbanded and amalgamated with the Rolls Royce band, and Archie moved to Inverness to take up a teaching post in 1975. There he continued to study piobaireachd with Neil Angus Macdonald of Barra, (the piper in ‘Whisky Galore’) who was a pupil of piobaireachd master John MacDonald of Inverness.’
Archie Maclean himself: ‘Good to see the stills from ‘Whisky Galore’ on Piping Press. The piper was my piobaireachd tutor here in Inverness, Neil Angus MacDonald from Barra. When director Sandy McKendrick arrived to film, Neil Angus was then teaching at Eoligarry School and landed a minor ‘star’ part as the piper.
‘Another minor ‘star’ was the book’s author Compton MacKenzie – as the captain of the ill-fated SS ‘Cabinet Minister [Politician?]’. Yet another minor (in more than one sense of the word) ‘star’ in the film was Neil Angus’s son. There’s a scene where a ‘salvaged’ whisky bottle is hidden beneath a baby in his cot – the baby was Neil Angus’s son. (He had two sons, Ruairidh and James, can’t remember which one it was). Neil Angus’s father Roderick was a great friend of John MacDonald, Inverness, and Neil Angus learned all his piobaireachd from ‘Old John’ (as he used to call him) down at Perceval Road.
Niall Macdonald: ‘Now no longer under the influence of whisky galore myself as I was last night 🙂 and having read the question properly, the answer is Compton Mackenzie and his piper was I think Calum Johnston, who tragically died when playing at Mackenzie ‘s funeral. As my grandad was a close friend of Calum Johnston, he bought a set of his pipes from his widow for my dad.’
Paul White: ‘The author was Sir Compton Mackenzie and I think his piper was Calum Johnston. Keep up the good work on Piping Press – it’s a great website and always interesting.’
Calum, very much part of the carrying stream of Gaelic song and music tradition, lives on however in a series of recordings made by Dr Peter Cook for the School of Scottish Studies and these can still be purchased from Greentrax Recordings.
Results from weekend competitions at the SPA and Springbank posted on the Results pages.