It is 26 years since the late P/M John MacKenzie, Queen Victoria School, Dunblane, sent me a copy of a new piobaireachd he had written, ‘Salute the Soldier’. As far as I am aware it has not been published before. I included it in my list of tunes for a 1988 competition run by the Scotway organisation for the performance of modern ceol mor (won incidentally by Roderick MacLeod with me in second playing ‘Lament for Alan, My Son’ by Duncan Johnstone – robbed again!). A native of Campbeltown, John was one of the most genial of men and dedicated to piping and the boys he taught at the Queen Vic. He once showed me round the band room where he had each young piper’s instrument all set out on a table, each in perfect order, polished, neatly tied cords, properly hemped and reeded. It must have taken him hours of work.
John MacKenzie was also that rare thing these days, a man of honour. Once when asked to judge a senior piobaireachd event he politely declined admitting that he perhaps did not have the requisite knowledge or experience of the tunes set for the competition.
Nevertheless, he was the complete musician and an outstanding composer. Just look at some of his highly melodic and popular tunes: The MacNeills of Ugadale, The Wedding Waltz, Tug Argan Gap and The Piper and Dancer, to name a few. I believe this piobaireachd, ‘Salute the Soldier’, has considerable merit too. In these days of ‘Help for Heroes’ and other HM Forces charities, and all the sacrifice made by our military, wouldn’t it be nice to hear it played at an appropriate ceremony or even better, in competition?
Here is a copy of John’s letter to me and then the tune with a short excerpt on the practice chanter:
If any reader has more on P/M MacKenzie then perhaps they could forward it on and I’ll include it on this page as part of the archive.