BC Pipers Tune and Memories of Captain John MacLellan MBE

Rob MacNeil

Rob MacNeill, President of the British Columbia Pipers’ Association, has sent this: ‘April 20, 2017 marks the 30th Anniversary of the tune for the British Columbia Pipers’ Association.

‘In the lead up to the 1987 Annual Gathering, Captain John MacLellan [pictured top], who was adjudicating that year’s Annual Gathering with Robert Wallace, recommended that a tune composition competition be held for a tune to be named for the British Columbia Pipers’ Association.

‘On Easter Monday April 20, 1987, at the home of Ian and Mary MacKinnon, Captain John MacLellan and Robert Wallace announced that they had selected my submitted composition as the winning tune (sheet music is located here).

‘At the announcement, to which I was invited, Robert Wallace played the composition and Captain MacLellan indicated that he would like to include it in the reprint of his book ‘Music for the Highland Bagpipe’.

Rob’s tune with its inscription

‘Several years later, I framed the tune and formally presented it to the Association on December 8, 1990, on the publication of my first book of music. The Pacific Northwest is fortunate to have many bagpipe music composers whose great compositions capture the people, places, and events of our area and times. May more great bagpipe compositions continue to be created by the next generation of players.’

The editor writes: ‘I remember the occasion well Rob and thanks for sharing that memory. It remains a fine tune and I certainly enjoyed learning it and playing it. That particular Indoor Meet  weekend was noteworthy in other ways too. I was with Captain John for over six days and it was piping, piping all the way.

‘What a fund of knowledge he had, and he and Ian MacKinnon whiled away the evenings reminiscing about Willie Ross and the old days with me an avid and very junior listener. John had strong opinions and preferences but that’s what made him interesting and these were ideas that he never considered better or superior to anyone else’s.

‘I like to think that, despite the age gap, John and I became friends and he was certainly encouraging and supportive thereafter. In his final years, when heart trouble meant he couldn’t blow, he showed an interest in getting a set of bellows pipes and I was glad to be able to offer a few pointers.’

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John MacLellan bio for those who may not be aware of his considerable contribution to piping: John Archibald MacLellan was born in Dunfermline in 1921. His first piping tuition was from his father who had served with the HLI during World War One. Later he was taught by PM Iain MacLean, PM William Ross and John MacDonald, Inverness.

In 1936 he joined the Cameron Highlanders but transferred to the Seaforth Highlanders in 1941 to become pipe major. He took the pipe major’s course under PM William Ross in 1946 and in 1954 became Regimental Sergeant Major of the Seaforth Highlanders. In 1959 he took over from William Ross as the Instructor at the Army School of Piping in Edinburgh Castle, and in 1968 was commissioned as Captain. In 1964 he was awarded the MBE. His army career ended on his retirement in 1976.

Captain John A. MacLellan

On the competition scene he won many prizes, including the Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1957, the Open Piobaireachd in 1949, 1958 and 1959, the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1959, and Clasps in 1958 and 1963. In 1946 he won the strathspey and reel at the Argyllshire Gathering and both the march and the strathspey and reel at the Northern Meeting. In 1957 he won the march at the Argyllshire Gathering. He won the Former Winners march, strathspey and reel at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1948,1958,1963,1964 and at the Northern Meeting in 1947,1948,1949, 1958 and 1963.

He published several books of pipe music during the 1960s, Music for the Highland Bagpipe, More Music for the Highland Bagpipe, Bagpipe Music for Dancing, and Ceol Mor agus Ceol Beag. These books include several of his own compositions.

For many years he was secretary of the music committee of the Piobaireachd Society. A piobaireachd composed by him and named The Phantom Piper of the Corrieyairack won first prize in a composing contest in 1969. He also updated the old Logan’s Tutor and made several instructional cassettes for pipers. In 1964 he published The Pipers’ Handbook, a guide to the maintenance of the bagpipe with information on famous piping families and piping competitions.

From 1978 to 1981 he and his wife edited a magazine, The International Piper. John MacLellan died in Edinburgh on 26th April 1991.

Robert MacNeill’s music books are available from Terry Lee’s Tartantown web shop. The Captain John A MacLellan Memorial Competition is held each year at the Army School of Piping Inchdrewer House, Edinburgh.

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2 thoughts on “BC Pipers Tune and Memories of Captain John MacLellan MBE

  1. Dear Robert,
    If you have the details could you let me have John MacLellan’s family story, his parents, their parents and so back as far as…
    John G. Gibson, Judique, Cape Breton.

    1. Please feel free to use whatever you wish from PP John. An acknowledgment would be appreciated; if I come across anything else will forward. Regards, RW

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