John MacPhee, former President of the Glasgow Uist & Barra Association, has kindly supplied an old cutting from the Oban Times newspaper from 1959. It features well known post war tutor and piper Roddy MacDonald and the late Kenny MacDonald.
Their story reads: ‘One of the happiest men in Scotland is Roderick MacDonald, a Glasgow policeman and tutor to Kenneth MacDonald and this year’s winner of the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at Oban.
‘Roderick, who has won every major award in piping, won his own Gold Medal at Oban in 1938, the year in which Kenneth MacDonald was born.
‘I have been very fortunate with my pupils’, said the modest Roddy , who does not seem to be aware of the reputation he is building as a teacher.
‘His other pupil, Iain MacFadyen, won the Gold Medal last year at Oban and at Inverness in 1957. Roddy comes from South Uist and was a member of the famous City of Glasgow Police Pipe Band of which his brother John was pipe major for over 30 years.’
Here is this historic picture in full:
Kenneth MacDonald went on to win the Gold Medal at Inverness in 1963. His tune for both his medal victories was the lengthy Donald Gruamach’s March.
Kenneth MacDonald was born in Glasgow to parents Angus and Mary MacDonald from the Hebridean island of Tiree. He had tuition from Peter MacFarquhar from the age of nine and later went to Roddy MacDonald for piobaireachd on and off for 20 plus years.
Kenneth was an expert in all branches of pipe music and was famous for winning the jig competition at the Uist & Barra on no less than eight occasions.
Kenneth passed away in 2010.
Roddy MacDonald was known to Gaelic speakers as ‘Ruaridh Roidein’. He was born in 1901 in Daliburgh, South Uist, and died aged 80 in 1981 in Glasgow. He first had lessons from his father and later attended the classes in piobaireachd given by John MacDonald, Inverness, when the latter came to South Uist after WW1. On moving to Glasgow, Roddy joined the Glasgow Police, and from 1924 played under his brother, P/M John MacDonald, in the pipe band.
In addition the Oban Gold Medal mentioned above, Roddy won the Inverness medal in 1946 (Mary’s Praise – one of this year’s set tunes) plus a host of other awards.
Still with the Uist & Barra, we are grateful to Northern Ireland piper and professional reedmaker Alastair Murray, now domiciled in Pittsburgh, USA, for drawing our attention to the video of the 1991 competition now doing the rounds on YouTube.
The film was made by Scottish Television in the Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, as part of their franchise submission for that year. TV bosses employed a cameraman strapped into a floating rig which enabled him to circle the pipers as they played – much to the chagrin of many competitors. Check out the video here. Read a review of this year’s Uist & Barra here.
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