New Archive Recording of John MacDougall

In this, the week we remember John MacDougall, I thought it apposite that we should share a recording of his wonderful playing with our readers, writes the Editor.

It comes to us courtesy of Breton piper Patrick Molard and is of John competing in the Former Winners’ MSR at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1971, a competition he won on five occasions.

I don’t know what the results were (perhaps someone could ferret them out) but the playing is at once attractive, bright, entertaining.

The tunes are Lochaber Gathering (GS’s masterpiece of 2/4 march construction), Caledonian Society of London (Nellie MacDonald, Craigellachie’s superb arrangement), and another GS masterpiece, the Little Cascade. All tunes are played twice through and were recorded by Patrick on a reel to reel machine at the side of the board at the Games in Oban.

The fact that the contest was held outdoors made it that bit more difficult for the pipers – and made the contest unique in world piping. As I’ve said before, going indoors just made the Argyllshire like all the other ‘big’ MSR contests and denied us the presence of all the master pipers at the Games.

But to John’s playing. The first thing that impresses one is the tempo. Everyone plays far too slowly nowadays – safety first. Not here. John is going for first and though you may detect the odd catch (very unusual for him), I would take these minor blemishes any day of the week over an MSR of monotonous technical perfection.

Listen to the march swinging along and you can see John tramping the boards in his circular fashion. Then to the halt and the strathspey – again taken at a good lick, and the runs at the end of parts 3 and 4 played as they should be – as runs – not as interrupted triplets which seems to be all we hear today. Not all passages of strathspeys are staccato 4/4 and this tune needs the treatment John gives it.

Then it is into the Little Cascade with a cut to E from B in the first part and a nice syncopation in the fourth part. See what you think; go to the PP Audio Archive, and thanks once more to Patrick for sharing this historic recording.