Creagorry Blend, Lachie Ban MacCormick and P/M William MacLean

Christoph Warth from Germany regarding the reel, Creagorry Blend: ‘Dear Mr. Wallace, I hope you are doing well. You may remember me from the first years of the Brüggen classes in Germany. I was the one with the saffron kilt.

‘I frequently play my pipes for myself and together with a friend but stopped playing in a band or competing in lack of time.

By the Editor

‘I´m looking for the sheet music of a reel called Creagorry Blend. P/M William MacLean is mentioned as composer. It was recorded several times but I´ve never seen the tune published in a book. Maybe it is published by a different name. Any ideas where I can get the sheet music? Thanks for your help.’

Well Christopher I have a copy of a reel Creagorry Blend but it says it is by Lachie Bàn MacCormick, Benbecula, and not P/M MacLean.

You’re welcome to download the tune below and you will discover quickly if it is the tune you are after. This music is over 60 years old and was given to me in 1962 when I a young lad in the 214 BB band. Our P/M, Alex MacIver, was from Lewis and often favoured tunes with that west coast flavour such as this one.

Lachie Bàn was an interesting character. The following is from Edinburgh University’s Archive from the work of musicologist Calum Maclean. Calum does mention the tune Creagorry Blend as being by William MacLean….

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Set in C: Made by Richard Evans in 2015. Two keys on the chanter, one G# and one High B (referred to in the scale of A). Back thumb hole on lower hand for flattened 3rd. Twist valve in the baritone drone, drones tuneable to C or D with the twist valve allowing the baritone drone to play the 4th or 5th in either key. Stop pins to shut the drones off.  

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No mention of the tradition-bearers of Benbecula would be complete if we did not include the grand old gentleman, the blind piper Lachlan Bàn MacCormick. As well as several traditional pipe-tunes, he recorded two tales, and has more to tell. My most moving experience as a folklore collector was to have recorded from him. He is 92 years of age and his eyes have been completely sightless for the past eight years.

Lachlan Bàn MacCormick (1859–1951) was a native of Creagorry, Benbecula, and later joined the 2nd (later 3rd) Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders in 1889 when he was thirty years of age. He was called Lachie Bàn due to his very fair hair and complexion.

While in the Camerons, he reached the rank of Pipe-Sergeant and would later serve in the Lovat Scouts. It is likely that after his demobilisation he returned to Benbecula and settled down to life as a crofter. In his day he was numbered as one of the best pipers in the Hebridean scene and was a competition prize winner as well as being a highly regarded instructor. A composer of merit, some of his tunes are still to this day part of the piping repertoire such as the catchy strathspey The South Uist Golf Club. MacCormick [left] on more than one occasion would also take to the bench and, when not competing himself, would judge his fellow pipers in light as well as the classical music of the pipes at the games in South Uist and probably elsewhere.

On 28 November 1949 Maclean wrote an account of his visit: When we arrived we found a full house as all the neighbours were in. Lachlann Bàn is 91 years of age and was also famed as a piper. He used to pipe at weddings and funerals. He learnt by ear and could compose his own tunes. Lachlann had always been short-sighted and he was grey-haired from a young age. He has now been blind for more than eight years. He sometimes recognises voices but mainly he had to ask who was speaking to him. He still has good hearing. He was very familiar with William MacLean, a famous piper who was in Creagorry, and it pleased him greatly to hear that I was related to him.

Pipe-Major Willie MacLean (1876–1957) mentioned here had also been a fellow Cameron Highlander and had at one time owned the Creagorry Inn. A noted piper and composer of the reel Creagorry Blend, MacLean could trace his piping lineage back to the MacCrimmons, hereditary pipers to the MacLeods of Dunvegan, through his instructor at Catlodge, Malcolm MacPherson, styled Calum Pìobaire. Maclean then goes on to give further details of the ceilidh and how MacCormick played the pipes to the joy of the audience who were present in his house…..

3 thoughts on “Creagorry Blend, Lachie Ban MacCormick and P/M William MacLean

  1. Thanks alot for your help.
    I played the tune yesterday evening on chanter and pipes and it is really a nice tune.

    I have searched for music by Lachie Ban and found the following:

    “South Uist Golf Club” composed by Lachie Ban, strathspey, printed in the Willie Ross collection

    “Lads of Mull” 4 part setting by Lachie Ban, printed in the Donald MacLeod colletion

    “Eight men of Moidart” 4 part setting by Lachie Ban, printed in the Logan colletion

    unnamed 2 part reel, just called “Reel”, composed by lachie Ban, printed in the Logan Collection


  2. Sorry to not be of much help Christoph, but I can point you to 214 books which do NOT contain “Creagorry Blend” by tune Name or Melody – see “The New Melody Directory – Highland Bagpipe” (Two Volumes, 1986).

    In his review of the book in the Piping Times, Seumas McNeill noted that I “could not have got to them all”, but (unfortunately) failed to identify those we had missed. His copy should now be in the archives somewhere, as well as in some Scottish Libraries.

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