Remembering Alasdair Gillies: Willie McCallum

Published: November 30, 2011
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. . . weight of expectation coming from a piping family and of course a love of the Rangers. In later years we were to win our first Gold Medal in the same year, 1989. When the organisers at the Winter Storm workshop issued us with rugby shirts with a number to commemorate a landmark win, we were both number 89.

We shared many a tuning room, stage, bar, car journey, piping school class over the years after our first meeting and Alasdair always greeted you with that big friendly smile and a bear hug. Always a laugh and a joke. Because of Alasdair’s army life, we didn’t see each other that often but with the advent of the Internet, this made the world smaller and some of the banter we had on the email was brilliant, sometimes unprintable, having debriefs of competitions, results, etc.

 

Some of the schools we did were unforgettable and the fun we had would go on all week and late. I can remember arriving for the Ontario school one summer to the news that Alasdair had found a bar that was showing the World Cup games at 5 pm, so there was to be no messing about going for food, we could watch the football and get back in time to do any evening classes. Perfect! Often with the likes of Ken Eller, John Wilson, Roddy MacLeod, Angus MacColl and Alasdair I can remember no one speaking for minutes as we couldn’t get a breath for laughing, you know that feeling when you might burst and the tears are running down your face.

Alasdair’s fun-loving personality belied an intelligence and a wonderful memory. I was always impressed with how he could remember details that others wouldn’t think of, could learn tunes at an alarming rate, he knew also how many times you or someone else had won this contest or that contest, even minor ones. He had me in stitches when I would be whistling a tune and he would just make up words to the tune, off the top of his head.

Alasdair’s place in piping was always clear to me, as he always had the very first version of any new invention. When you saw him, he would . . .

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  1. TheCaptain

    Willie….so spot on…. you have given us another glimpse of one of the most charismatic personalities to ever play the pipes. Our lives are so much richer for having known Alasdair, yet so much poorer from his passing…… always remembered… Ken Eller

  2. Hossman

    Ah Ali G. As each day goes by and as time should provide healing. I find myself more sore and missing him more and more. Great stories from good guys. Reason alone to subscribe to Pipes Drums. RIP Alasdair

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