History: Rare Picture of P/M Donald MacLeod

Here is a photograph of Pipe Major Donald MacLeod which might be of interest. I think it is a photograph of a photograph. I obtained it from my brother Hugh, resident in Dingwall. He was of the opinion that it was taken at Dingwall Games.  

I have my doubts about that and am more inclined to the likelihood that it was at the Strathpeffer Highland Gathering. This is because I recognise the trees and the position of them as opposed to the layout at Dingwall. Maybe of little importance. 

By Duncan Watson

The photograph was taken well before my time attending the game and is probably from the mid ’50s. I must check my library  having a notion that Donald MacLeod won a Clasp circa 1956. 

Notable is the uniform Donald is wearing showing the Pipe Major’s chevrons and khaki jacket with cross-belt etc. From memory they were termed SD jackets, but the old soldiers will correct me on that. I cannot remember what the initials SD were for. Maybe something like Second or No 2 Dress, or Service Dress, the Full Dress being No1? This SD jacket was of smoother material than the Battle Dress which was made of rougher fabric.

I think from what I heard from the seniors of that time that Donald MacLeod had been transferred to Bridge of Don Barracks, Aberdeen. Travel from Aberdeen to Strathpeffer at that time would have been quite a journey. Fort George, where Donald had been the Depot Pipe Major, was much closer.

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Donald conducted the Pipe Majors Course at Aberdeen between 1957 to 1959 as I understand. Again the old soldiering pipers of that time will correct me, no doubt.

Of course the younger generation may not be aware of what a giant of piping Donald MacLeod was, knowing him only through his books of light music and the tunes therein. As a composer he would be ranked along with GS McLennan and John MacColl, Willie Lawrie, John MacLellan, Dunoon, I think.

As a piper he won all the major prizes many times over including both Gold Medals and eight Clasps at Inverness, admittedly in very different competition circumstances than today but very demanding nevertheless.

As a teacher he was world renowned and was one of first to travel to North America for schools of piping. I would welcome any comments on any of the above from PP readers. Please send via editor@pipingpress.com.

  • Read much more on P/M MacLeod here.


2 thoughts on “History: Rare Picture of P/M Donald MacLeod

  1. I can never hear or read PM Donald MacLeod’s name, or see his distinctive presence in a photograph, without a comment of Lt Col DJS Murray coming to mind. On Pipeline around 20 or so years ago, in referencing PM MacLeod’s escape from German captivity following the heroic actions of The 51st Highland Division around St Valery in 1940, and the subsequent march of the prisoners eastwards. ‘DJS’ commented that little was ever said about his escape, other than Donald’s use of the Gaelic in order to throw people off the scent of his fighting origins and, from memory, his making it across France and into Spain(?) and subsequent repatriation. Mr Murray very memorably(for me at least), using the bold and engaging tones that many shall recall, made the statement “There’s a story there yet to be told!” I only heard it that one time and that simple, short line has stayed with me since. For me, this statement, its context and its phrasing encapsulate so much of both these legends for me.

  2. I suggest asking Ronan Mac Guire who has photo enhancement software. Some interesting details might be seen there.

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