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Family Piping History

My Great-Grandfather | My Grandpa | My Uncle | My Dad | My Story


I have been able to trace my piping ancestry back for at least 7 generations. My great-grandfather James, married Christina MacQuarrie. Her great-grandfather was Donald MacQuarrie "The Great Piper of Eigg". His descendants were all known for their piping prowess.

My Great Grandfather: James MacLeod (1860 - 1903)
James was born to a single mother, Mary MacDonald. His father Lachlan MacLeod lived next door but we donít know if he was a piper or not. We do know that Jamesís grandfather John MacDonald was a piper and so were a couple of his uncles and several other relatives were very well accomplished pipers as well. We have to assume that he learned his piping from the MacDonald side of the family. James was a crofter on the Isle of Eigg, a small island off the south coast of Skye. We know that he did play the pipes, as my grandfather Donald learned by sneaking his chanter out when James wasn't around. In those days, the only ones who were allowed to play the pipes were adult men... women and children were forbidden to play! Donald would take his father's chanter outside, fashion a reed out of some sort of grass that grew locally so that his father would not suspect that his reed was being used and he taught himself the basics.

We do not have a picture of James and we don't have any information on HIS father, Laclan MacLeod (circa 1806 - ?)

My Grandfather, Donald Macleod of Eig. (12/26/1886 - 06/10/1957)
Born on the Isle of Eig to James and Christina, young Donald learned the pipes by sneaking his father's chanter outside, fashioning a reed out of the local grasses and playing what he had seen his father playing. Children and women were strictly forbidden to play the pipes in those days.

Donald when Piper in the Glasgow Tramsways Pipeband After the death of his father in 1903, the family moved to the mainland settling in the Oban area.
March 24, 1908 saw Donald start work with the Glasgow Tramway rising to the position of "Motorman". While working for this company he was a member of the Glasgow Tramway Pipe Band. At this time he was tutored by the well known Pipe Major Fargahar McRae. He remained here until August 17, 1911 when he set out for a new life in Canada.

Donald settled in Winnipeg and by 1912 had joined the City of Winnipeg Fire Department where he remained till his retirement on December 31, 1951 at the position of District Chief.

Upon his arrival in Canada he became very active with the Scottish community as well as with pipe bands and solo piping. By 1921 he had joined the 79th Cameron Highlanders (Winnipeg) led by PM Lauchlan Collie. At this time he became very active in his solo career, competing and winning awards in all categories including Piobaireachd , all across western Canada. In 1929 he became the Pipe Major of the 1st Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlander (Winnipeg). After 10 years in that position, he became the PM of the 2nd Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders where he remained until November of 1945. In one of his proudest moments in his life, he turned over the Donald in his competitive days in Winnipeg
Pipe Major's job to his eldest son, William, who had just returned from WWII as the Pipe Major of the 1st Battalion, serving in Europe.

While with the Camerons, Donald led them to many Championships across North America, keeping them organized and playing at a very high standard.

He received two major awards, "The Canadian Efficiency Decoration" (for militia service and efficiency) and "The King's Jubilee Medal" May 6th, 1935, which was an honor limited to 11 members of the Camerons.

In Brittish Columbia he is list in the "Roll Call of Pioneer Pipers".

Donald passed on his love for the bagpipe to hundreds of young students, eager to carry on his legacy. Donald's greatest love of music was the Piobaireachd, Ceol (Mhor).

Queens Own Cameron Highlanders Pipe Band 1925

47th Piping School at Edinburgh Castle 1943-1944 My Uncle Bill - P-M Bill MacLeod

As a young boy in the late 1920s, MacLeod received tuition on the pipes from his father, Donald MacLeod. He absorbed the tuition eagerly, going on to win top awards, both as an amateur and professional player.

On September 2, 1939, the day prior to the outbreak of World War II, MacLeod joined the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada in Winnipeg. During the time he was stationed overseas, he attended the British Army School of Piping held at Edinburgh Castle where he received training from Pipe Major Willie Ross. His roommate and fellow classmate on that course was to become another piping legend of our time, Pipe Major Donald MacLeod.

Bill MacLeod participated in numerous engagements during the war, and was "Mentioned in Dispatches" for his effort on one occasion. He also had the added duties as Pipe Major, maintaining the regimental pipe band.

In April 1947, Bill MacLeod moved to Pine Falls, Manitoba, to work with the Manitoba Paper Company. He became a journeyman electrician and remained with the company until his retirement in 1979. The Pine Falls piping pupils of Bill MacLeod began their tuition in September 1965 and in the fall of 1968, with a young corps of pipers and drummers, the Pine Falls Pipe Band was formed. In 1972, with the approval of the city of Stirling, Scotland, the title was changed to the Stirling Pipe Band in recognition of Ian Rodger, a native of Stirling, and an early supporter of the Band.

Initially all of the band members were local Pine Falls children whose families worked directly or indirectly for the mill. In a town whose population was less than one thousand, the Stirling Pipe Band became a worthwhile and rewarding activity for many of the kids. Under MacLeod's steady, competent guidance, the band competed in many competitions over the years, winning many awards, bringing recognition to Pine Falls from across Canada, the United States and Europe.

For a time, the band amalgamated with the Centennial Pipe Band of Winnipeg and was known as the Stirling/Centennial Pipe Band. MacLeod and the late Tommy Thompson worked together to raise the band's musical capability further during a very successful period for the band.

MacLeod was a leader of the Prairie Pipe Band Association, Pipe Major of the City of Winnipeg Massed Pipes & Drums, and a respected and often requested piping judge. He was an Instructor and Director at both the Fort San Summer School of the Arts in Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan, and the piping school at the International Peace Gardens in the Turtle Mountains of Manitoba.

Uncle Bill in 2002 Bill MacLeod was also a composer. His talent in this area goes widely unrecognized, but he had many tunes published in both Canada and overseas. Notably, several of his tunes are in the Gordon Highlanders Book 2. He continued to compose tunes up until just a few months prior to his death.

On February 6, 1979, Bill MacLeod was presented a Good Citizenship Award by the Honourable Bud Jobin, Lt. Governor of Manitoba for his remarkable work within the community. Family and friends were present at Government House to witness the award and to congratulate Bill.

MacLeod proudly led the band one last time in 2002 at the age of 88 as it performed at a handful of venues around Pine Falls to celebrate the town's 75th anniversary. The highlight was a short parade to the Pine Falls cenotaph where Bill proudly displayed his grown-up band.

Bill MacLeod's piping skills, his work with the youth of Pine Falls and others across Western Canada, and his service to the country in which he became Pipe Major of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, have been recognized in many ways. He dedicated his life to piping and passing along those fine skills to as many people as he could.

MY DAD, Frederick John Patrick MacLeod.
March 17, 1931 - June 17, 2018

(as written by Fred MacLeod)

A young Dad with trophies Fred MacLeod - Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba 17 March 1931.

I was well indoctrinated through early years with my father and brother Bill blowing pipes regularly in the house. Formal piping lessons began at age 6/7 years old.

Competitive piping began around nine years of age. I began taking prizes very early. Joining the Cameron Cadets at 11 years of age (I was allowed to join early because of my father and brother in the Regiment), I became P/M shortly after my 16th birthday and left the Cadets at 18 years of age.

Dad and Grampa with trophies In the interim of cadets, I earned many prizes from the Juvenile to Professional level. This included many prizes from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta , British Columbia and Washington State, including Provincial and State Championships.

In 1954, I moved my family to B.C. First settling in Nanaimo BC, I competed that summer at the Highland games in Vancouver, winning a number of prizes and met the Powell River Pipeband. They encouraged me to move to Powell River, as they assured they could provide me with a job and play in the band. We moved to Powell River in August and we are still there.

Mom and Dad I played with the band until 1972. The company no longer had a band, as the members were leaving the area and interest in the band declined. During the latter time, I spent three years working with Rene Cuisson at Nanaimo(commuting). It was a very good set up because when Rene was competing, I was preparing the band. We were competing Grade Three, but Rene and I thought we should go Grade Two. The members of the band felt there would be too much work to be done so I left the band at that point. While with the Powell River Band, I continued to compete individually and won many prizes including provincial/state championships.

I am unable to remember the Trophies won, however as the years passed, I shifted into a judging/teaching mode. In 1964/65 and on for ten or eleven years, I taught with Bill, P/M Donald MacLeod, Angus MacLeod, Jim McWilliams and others. Two weeks each year; what a joy!

Dad at Rememberance Day 1982 Needless to say. Donald and I were in trouble (at times). 'Willie' was the principal, but I think he had his hands full. Teaching wise, I was engaged for four/five years with Rene Cusson at Shawnigan Lake, where he had a School going, including dancing etc. The next teaching engagement was at Regina, Saskatchewan. Robert Wallace was the Principal there, operating in a church. Rene and I were engaged to teach with Rob Worral and others. Coffee @ 6 AM was the norm for us four, then on to breakfast and classes. I was the humor guy, putting up cartoons(etc) for the enjoyment of all each morning. It was a real joy to teach with (for) Roband it was affiliate to the College of Piping. During 42/43 years of judging and teaching, I think the most enjoyable time I spent was with Andrew Wright. His expertise in judging, I think, was flawless. His knowledge of Piobaireachd was a joy to listen to. The most interesting tidbit in the whole of my career was when I first met Andrew. He looked at me and said, "So you're Freddie MacLeod 'The Rogue'!!"


Dad and me at the Sea Fair Parade - 1968 As a young lad in the early 1960's, I was taught the Great Highland Bagpipes by my father, Fred MacLeod. At 10 years old, I joined the Highland Laddies Pipe Band in Powell River, BC. Pipe Major Lionel Devine and Pipe Sergeant George Thomson tutored me and molded me into a fairly decent piper.

The band was very active, playing in many events, competitions and parades on the Canadian West Coast and on Vancouver Island. These were busy, fun years. In 1967, the band boarded a train and headed for Montreal to participate in Expo 67. Unfortunately, there were no prior arrangements made to play IN the Expo site, so the band was left to play outside the main gate. Vowing to rectify this mistake, our leaders and parents immediately began to make plans to take us to the next Expo in Osaka, Japan in 1970. WOW, What a trip! We drew huge crowds everywhere we went and the public seemed to love us.

As all of us "laddies" grew older, the band evolved into the "Highland Gentlemen". That was short-lived and soon it became the "Clansmen" Pipe Band which is still operating and entertaining everyone on the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island.

While on a road trip with the Kalamalka Highlanders to the Powell River Sea Fair in 2008 - My dad watches, proudly I moved away from Powell River and spent a lot of time in areas where there were no bands. I continued piping, however, and played at many events, weddings, funerals, memorials, anniversaries and much more. I was conscripted by my soccer team to play the team onto the field before every game. I was always in close contact with my family and many friends who were deeply involved in the piping world.

In 1999, I moved to Vernon, B.C. and shortly thereafter, I joined the Kalamalka Highlanders. I worked hard under the direction of Pipe Major Reg Scott, helping to teach and build a strong band.

After 20 years of leading this band, Pipe Major Scott decided it was time to step down and he handed over the leadership of the band to me. I've tried to involve everyone in the band to work towards building a band that all of the members, the people of Vernon and communities all across our province can be proud of.

In 2006, with the help of my wife Grace, I built a youth pipe band, starting with just 4 pipers and 2 drummers, we grew to a wonderful group of 24 kids. I named the band "The Arran Campbell Memorial Youth Pipe Band" after the son of a good friend of mine who was killed in a trajic car accident. In 2012 when someone came along with a "better idea", I left both the Kalamalka Highlanders and the youth band. The youth band disbanded 3 years later.

After leaving that organization several members, both youth and adult, came to me and we formed a new group of mixed youth and adults. We now have 31 members in the North Okanagan Pipes & Drums. We now focus on a band of family values performing at many community events and charity functions. All in all a good thing came out of all that happened.

Gibson 3/4 silver bagpipes I wear the: MacLeod of Harris, Modern tartan (pictured on the page column to the left).

My kilt was sewn by Robert MacDonald of Westcoast kilts in Vancouver, BC.

I play Gibson 3/4 silver bagpipes (pictured left). They have a very nice, mellow sound and are a very nice looking set of pipes. At present I play a Gibson chanter, as well as the shuttlepipes and tin whistles pictured below.

shuttlepipes and tin whistles