From the Archives: Dame Flora’s 90th Celebrated at an ‘Exhibition of Piping’ in London

This is taken from February 29, 1968, edition of the ‘Edinburgh Weekly’ newspaper. The original article was headlined ‘The Skirl o’ the Pipes in the Swinging City’……

Dame Flora MacLeod (90) stepped off a plane from New York at London Airport. She made straight for ‘an exhibition of piping’ at the London Scottish regiment Headquarters, Buckingham Gate.

A packed audience of 400 gave the Clan Chief a tremendous ovation. In an impromptu speech, Dame Flora said, ‘When I heard that the champion pipers of Scoptland were gathered in London, I just had to come along. To hear piobaireachd played as it should be played is a rare delight.’

The concert was organised by the Scottish Piping Society of London. Man behind the idea, Mr Hugh Mackay, said, ‘We’re trying to raise £10,000 to set up a Piping Centre in London. We have £3,000 already. The concert raised £270.’

Never before had London heard a whole evening of uninterrupted piping. This was no piping contest but an appreciation session of ‘the great music’. The audience sat in quiet wonderment, as though they were listening to Bach.

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The evening began with a performance by a mini-pipe band, and then a quartet led by Pipe Major Robert Hill, late Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

After the ‘pop piping’ came the serious music of the evening. Pipe Major JB Robertson, late Scots Guards, played a tune of his own composing.

This was followed by David Ross of Rosehall, acknowledged as one of the greatest pipers of all time, playing the tune ‘MacLeod of Raasay’ [‘s Salute].

Two years ago David Ross, now over 70, came second in the top piping contest at Inverness. Fifty years ago he won it.

The came the piéce de rèsistance of the evening. The two current piping champions appeared – Pipe Major Willie Macdonald, Benbecula, and Hector MacFadyen, Pennyghael.

Willie Macdonald regaled the guests with reels, jigs and hornpipes and set tears flowing with the 300 year old ‘Desperate Battle’. The tune commemorates the fight to the death between two Highland clans on the North Inch of Perth.

David Ross, Rosehall, stalwart of the London Society, and immortalised in Archie MacNeill’s 2/4 march. Listen to the tune below played by Inveraray & District. This was five years ago at the UK Championships in Belfast when they placed second to FMM

Then Hector MacFadyen, champion of champions, holder of the Silver Chanter (only top pipers can compete for this trophy) played the great MacCrimmon tune [Lament for] ‘MacSwan of Roaig’.

The caption to the picture up top reads: Hector MacFadyen playing the MacCrimmon Pionbaireachd which won him the Dame Flora MacLeod ‘Silver Chanter’ at Dunvegan last August, at the Champions’ Recital put on at Buckingham Gate, London, before an audience of 350 [sic] piping enthusiasts.

In the foreground, left to right, Lord Craigmyle (with beard), Dame Flora MacLeod, and, with hand over mouth, Patrick Wolridge-Gordon, MP for East Aberdeen [Dame Flora’s son].

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