From the Archives: A Teaching Trip by P/M Donald MacLeod to the Canadian Prairies

By The Editor

I travelled many times to the Canadian province of Saskatchewan in the 1990s to teach under the auspices of their pipe band association. Each time I heard stories of the huge impact P/M Donald MacLeod had made with his pioneering visits in the 1960s.

Together with John MacFadyen, Seumas MacNeill and Captain John MacLellan, Donald established the North American summer school piping tradition, a tradition which has done so much to establish the high levels of performace we now take for granted from Canadian and US pipers.

What follows is from the first 1969 edition of ‘Piping World’ magazine edited by Don Varella. The report is from the 1968 summer school at Fort San in the Qu’appelle Valley. The caption to the above picture reads: ‘In the front rank, Saskatchewan’s instructors: JL McWilliams, Angus Spence, Gary Marshall, Bob Wagers, Ted Cant and William MacLeod.’

JL McWilliams is Jim McWilliams he of the popular march by P/M MacLeod. Jim has recorded his own memories of Donald for PP. Read them here.

The article: ‘The second annual piping and drumming school sponsored by the Saskatchewan Arts Board was held at Fort San in the Qu’appelle Valley during August.

‘Students came from as far away as Trail BC, Toronto and Buffalo NY. Fifty one pipers and twenty drummers took courses. The piping instructors were P/M William MacLeod, formerly of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, Sgt. Angus Spence, Randy McNicol, Bob Wagers, Gary Marshall, Ted Cant and Jim McWilliams.

P/Ms McWilliams and MacLeod

‘P/M Donald MacLeod came all the way from Glasgow to act as Guest Instructor. While at the school, which is situated on the shores of Echo Lake, Donald composed two more tunes which are sure to be hits: Echo Lake, a 6/8 slow air, and P/M William MacLeod at Fort Qu’appelle, a four part 2/4 march.

‘Donald was met at the airport with Canada’s Welcome to Donald MacLeod, which was composed especially for the occasion by the school’s Principal, JL McWilliams.

‘The drumming instruction was in the capable hands of George Pryde, now of Powell River BC, and Misses Irene Scott and Pat Meikle. Mr Hughie Scott of Moose Jaw served as Director and ironed out all the difficulties and kept things running smoothly. More…

‘Unfortunately the weatherman was not co-operative and most classes were held indoors because of the unseasonable rains. Instruction was given individually as well as in small groups. P/M MacLeod was busy teaching piobaireachd from early morning until night.

‘Students and visitors were delighted with several recitals by Donald MacLeod and George Pryde. It is hoped that all of this year’s instructors and students will be able to attend next year’s school.

‘The school is just one of the many proofs of the enormous interest in piping and drumming in Saskatchewan. And Donald and Georgie picked several youngsters as potential greats….so keep an eye on Saskatchewan!’

Echo Lake and P/M Jim McWilliams are in Donald’s Book 5 available here. Listen to the City of Wellington Pipe Band play Echo Lake:

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