Donald MacDonald Cuach – Update on Last Friday’s Contest


Press release: Winners have been announced for two prestigious traditional music competitions held at Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum of the Isles last weekend. The winner of the 32nd Donald MacDonald Cuach piobaireachd competition (15 June) was  Iain Speirs. Iain’s tune was ‘An Gròta’ or ‘The Groat’.

Iain has won the prize twice previously, in 2009 and 2016. Adjudicator Allan MacDonald praised the high quality of all the players. The audience also enjoyed singing from Christine Primrose MBE, and playing from young piper Malin Lewis and pupils from Bun-sgoil Shlèite (Sleat Primary School):

The winner of the inaugural Princess Margaret of the Isles Memorial Prize for Senior Clàrsach (16 June) was Riko Matsuoka. Riko was born in Osaka, Japan, and is studying for a Masters in Scottish Traditional Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. Her performance included a composition inspired by a Japanese traditional song and featuring both Scottish and Japanese musical styles.

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Both competitions took places in the Stables Café at Armadale Castle (Gasta at Armadale) and were extremely well attended. Performances were live streamed and attracted a global audience, with music fans tuning in from as far afield as Australia, North America and Japan. They can be watched on Armadale Castle’s Facebook and You Tube channel. See links on the website:

Iain with the Cuach

About the competitions
The competitions are a key part of Clan Donald Lands Trust’s ongoing commitment to supporting Gaelic performing arts and are made possible through support from donors.

Donald MacDonald Cuach: Named in honour of the 18th-century piping pioneer, the Donald MacDonald Cuach is a flagship cultural competition for Clan Donald Lands Trust. The five pipers who took part this year (pictured top) were Callum Beaumont, Glenn Brown, Alasdair Henderson, Iain Speirs and Craig Sutherland. The event also included singing by Christine Primrose, Head of Gaelic Song at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, who was recently awarded an MBE:

The competition was opened by talented young local piper Malin Lewis from Bernisdale, north Skye, who is studying at the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music in Plockton. Malin will study Piping at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in September. There were also be contributions from pupils from Bun-sgoil Shlèite (Sleat Primary School) – Emmaceit MacKinnon (Accordion), Caramarie MacCalman (Clarsach) and Emily MacDonald (Pipes).

Princess Margaret of the Isles Memorial Prize for Senior Clàrsach: Candidates in this new open competition were required to prepare a 25 minute recital including a variety of Scottish styles, traditional and contemporary, and a new composition of their own. Four finalists have been selected to perform at the competition recital: Màiri Chaimbeul,  Fraya Thomsen, Karen Marshalsay and Riko Matsuoka.  The prize winner receives a cash prize of £2000. The adjudicator is acclaimed Scottish-born harpist and composer Savourna Stevenson and convenor Professor Boyd Robertson, retiring Principle of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

The prize is named after for Princess Margaret of Scotland, the daughter of King Robert II and the wife of John, Lord of the Isles. Princess Margaret was a great patron of the arts, and the through this prize for senior clàrsach playing, CDLT seeks to perpetuate and honour that reputation.

Films of the event are available on Armadale Castle’s Facebook page ( and YouTube channel (link from website, 

Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum of the Isles is a Visit Scotland 5 Star visitor attraction in Sleat, south Skye. The castle ruin, historic gardens and award-winning Museum sit at the heart of a 20,000 acre estate that was once part of the traditional lands of Clan Donald. The estate is now run by Clan Donald Lands Trust, a Scottish Registered Charity whose mission is to promote understanding and appreciation of the history and traditions of Clan Donald, the Lordship of the Isles and the Highlands & Islands. 

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