Donald Morrison Archive: The Frost of Suspicion Before John MacDonald Arrives on South Uist

We conclude this story on the revival of the piping tradtion on South Uist. This is from the archive of the late Donald Morrison. Readers might like to refresh the memory by reading the first part of this anonymous article here. Given that this excerpt mentions the ‘late’ John MacDonald, Inverness, it must date from the late 1950s or 60s. P/M MacDonald is pictured above in a rare photograph taken at the Argyllshire Gathering in the 1920s.

Canon MacDougall then set out to get a more charitable and stable relationship established in the south end here between the South Uist Estate, the factor, the farmers, councillors, hotel keepers, etc. and the crofters, cottars and fishermen of the area.

It was not easy to dissolve the frost of suspicion. However the Canon got friendly with the factor, John MacDonald, a native of the Black Isle, and through him with Simon MacKenzie of Lochboisdale Hotel (who had come here from Barra).

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They established the South Uist Golf Club and the Canon got Lachlan [Lachlan Ban MacCormick] to compose the well-known tune of that name. The club is still flourishing.

The chances of getting funds to pay for the teaching of piping were not good, but the three set to and the bank account of the South Uist Piobaireachd Society has continued with the bank since then – I think it is in quite a flush condition now.

Due a revival….Lachie Ban’s strathspey from P/M Willie Ross’s Book 1

They were fortunate in their attempts to get a qualified teacher, and to procure the services of the late P/M MacDonald, a native of Glentruim in Badenoch, generally known as P/M MacDonald, Inverness.

He was a wonderful player – he told me he first competed at the Portree Games in 1901 along with George and Angus MacDonald of Arisaig.

George MacDonald of Arisaig/Morar pictured at a games in 1910

He [John MacDonald] was a fiddler besides being a piper and a quiet and humble man.

Now the way was open and the young men flocked to him. Starting in the north the MacIntyres of Inishvale came, the Smiths and Beatons from Stoneybridge, the people of Garryheillie, Daliburgh, Lochboisdale, Kilphedar, Boisdale etc. Their names are well known.

Thus it may truly be said that the carefully prepared plans and ideas of the late Canon MacDougall bore fruit. Some attempts to resuscitate activities continue at present.

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