Recordings of P/M Hugh MacInnes from the 1980s

Hugh MacInnes at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1981. Here he plays for judges Ronnie MacCallum, Dr Colin Caird and John Burgess

We are very grateful to Jack Taylor for forwarding these two recordings of the late Hugh MacInnes. Hugh was an outstanding player of light music and winner of the Former Winners’ MSR at the Argyllshire Gathering.

The recordings were found on a tape of a BBC programme that featured Hugh on ceòl beag and Andrew Wright on ceòl mòr, probably from the early 1980s.

Hugh had an outstanding record in light music and won the Former Winners mentioned above in 1982. He had previously won the Strathspey & Reel at Oban in 1975 and the March in 1976.

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At Inverness he took the Strathspey & Reel in 1975 and the March in 1987. In these days it should be remembered that there was no grading of light music. Entries were huge and winners usually had to make it through a short leet to get to the final which was twice over.

Hugh died suddenly at his home on the outskirts of Glasgow in February 2002. He was 52. As part of a tribute, Editor Robert Wallace wrote in the Piping Times: ‘Hugh also won the Jigs at Inverness with a still talked about rendition of John Patterson’s Mare. No tuning of the pipe, twice through, first prize, no problem.’

Our first excerpt, introduced by Lt. Col. David Murray, begins with that tune:

Hugh in his days in the Lanarkshire Police Band

Hugh began piping aged 10. He lived in a tenement building in Bell Street, Glasgow, near where the city’s police mounted branch stabled their horses. Periodically the ‘polis’ band would come along and play for the lucky animals, the better to acquaint them with loud, unusual noises.

Hugh would lean from his tenement window entranced – not by the horses but by the sound of the pipes. He fixed on becoming a piper. Fortunately for him working nearby was Eddie MacLellan a pupil of Willie Fergusson and John MacColl.

Eddie took Hugh under his wing and he was soon winning all the amateur events in and around the city. Hugh played in the City’s Cleansing Department band before Muirhead and Sons and then Lanarkshire Police. He won the World Grade 2 title with this band under its then P/M, Campbell McGougan.

P/M Angus MacDonald, Hugh and Campbell McGougan

Later Hugh became P/M of Toyota Pipes and Drums taking them into Grade 1. Have a listen to the band here. His last band years were with British Caledonian Airways which he led to a commendable fifth place at the Worlds.

In later years Hugh judged and had started a successful reed making business before his life was cut tragically short. Of him Campbell McGougan said: ‘Piping was Hugh’s life. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest light music players of his day.’

Campbell was not wrong. Have a listen to these two 2/4 marches, Brigadier Cheape of Tiroran by Willie Ross, and Stirlingshire Militia by Hugh MacKay:

  • For more historic piping recordings, check out our audio archive here.

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