Clan MacRae History – Readers Respond

Matthew M Farrigan: Long time since we have chatted. If you remember, I don’t like to stick my big American nose where it doesn’t belong. However, on this occasion, I felt I might have some info (not 100% sure) to ID another chap in the photo. 

In the mid-90s I traveled from Schenectady, NY, to Worcester, Mass, to play with the Worcester Kiltie PB. The band had rounded up all the original players from that golden era of the mid to late 1960s. They wanted to give it a go one more time. 

The Pipe Major was a gentleman named Robert ‘Bob’ Burnett. Bob gave me a few lessons to gain an understanding of where my level of play was. We started with the 2/4 the Australian Ladies. He felt I needed a lot more tuition than he had time for so he handed me off to the P/S George MacKendrick.  I believe George played with Glasgow Police.

It was a great experience and a hell of a lot of fun. In the short time P/M Burnett did work with me and I learned a lot about his past piping experiences. He told me when he was 17 he played with the Clan MacRae PB and they won the Worlds. 

He spoke at great length about his time with MacRae. If I remember he did mention the P/M and P/S were related.  If you go to the Kilties web site and touch on History on page one, scroll down secondnd picture, second row, first on left do you see the resemblance to the young chap to the right of the trophy in your photo?

Not sure if it is Bob could be a cousin.  I did run into his son Robbie this past summer but our conversation was cut very short. Robbie plays with the Stuart Highlanders outside of Boston. Maybe Robbie could confirm this. Thank you

Gordon Ferguson in Australia: I loved the MacRae article in Piping Press. It brought back memories. That is Eddie MacLellan in the far right of the photo and I’m pretty sure that is my old mate Kenny MacDonald holding the cup with Alex MacLeod the P/M.

In the bottom left I think that is Mick McEwan who was bass drummer, famous for winning the prize at Cowal with his amazing flourishing.

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My dad sent me to Eddie for lessons when I was nine before my days in the 214BB. He lived in Oatlands which was close to where we stayed in Rutherglen. Dad had met Eddie’s brother whilst in hospital and I still have his practice chanter.

Due to the fact that Eddie had been Pipe Sergeant in the MacRae and my good friend Jim Elmslie was playing with them I joined the band for a season when I left the 214 in 1962. However when Jim’s brother Dougie Elmslie left the 214 in 1964 and decided to join the Muirheads, I had no option but to do the same as we had agreed previously that we would play in the same senior band. Not surprisingly Jim joined the Muirheads too a year or two later.

Although I never regretted joining the Muirheads, I did have some fun in the Clan MacRae. They had some really good pipers, such as Archie MacTaggart, Archie MacGeachie, Andy Bell and Willie Robertson who composed The SPBA’s Welcome to Pittodrie 1954. Also, a good drum corps and some real characters such as the unforgettable Jimmy Macleod.

Clan MacRae – Cowal Champions in 1954

Iain Duncan, former RSPBA historian: In the Clan MacRae photo, Iain Riddell is second to the right of Eddie McLellan.  John McAllister is behind and above the trophy.

Sorry I can’t answer Eric Stein’s question regarding John MacRae, perhaps Kenny or his brother, Donald will know and might respond.

Iain White: Like you, until last week when a Cowal programme for 1969 fell into my hands, I thought the same [Glasgow Skye emerging from Clan MacRae]. However, it may be seen that, in 1969, the Skye was entered in Grade 2 and Clan MacRae in Grade 1. Clan MacRae was still on the go when the Skye was competing.

Now, in my mind, I have a memory of the Clan MacRae being downgraded to Grade 2 and maybe even winning the Worlds in that Grade – I’m really stretching the little great cells now. [I think the MacRae won Grade 2 under P/M John Finlay after he left Muirheads in the early 70s – Ed.]

Perhaps some of your readers could shed some light on the situation and clarify the urban myth of the Skye rising phoenix-like from the ashes of Clan MacRae.

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