Hugh Cheape and Decker Forrest, two of the world’s preeminent scholars on the MacKays of Raasay, the legendary piping dynasty, will lend their collected wisdom at a special talk on June 29th at the Raasay Community Hall.
Organized by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, a college that offers higher education in Scottish Gaelic, Cheape and Forrest have conducted research on the MacKays, including the great father-son duo, John and Angus MacKay and, according to the organizers “hope to describe the MacKays’ origins and revisit the Island of Raasay to explore the context of music, song and language.”
John MacKay is considered to be among the last pupils of the MacCrimmons. Angus MacKay is the most important piper of the 19th century, and his piobaireachd settings are the foundation of much of the modern ceol mor repertory.
Forrest, originally from California and resident in Scotland since the 1990s where he achieved a doctorate in Gaelic studies, will also perform on the Highland pipe some of the music being discussed, and will play a practice chanter he made from reeds and barley using traditional methods.
“Our presentation on the piping heritage of Clann ‘Ic Ruaraidh, the famous MacKay pipers of Raasay, represents one of a series of community-based events to take place this year in celebration of the college’s fortieth anniversary,” Forrest said. “The college also sees this as an opportunity to engage further with organizations like the Raasay Heritage Trust who share similar aims in promoting the language, history and culture of the Gàidhealtachd at the local level.”
Hugh Cheape is famous for his research and writing on piping, as well as for curating the Museum of Piping at the National Piping Centre. He is also the grand-nephew of Brigadier Ronald Cheape of Tiroran.
Cheape and Forrest’s research included the identification of “T” – the Piper’s House – the ruin of the house on Raasay where John MacKay lived.
“By considering these structural remains in the context of other evidence found in music, language, oral tradition, literature and even portraiture, we were able to piece together a greater understanding of the history of this remarkable family and in particular, the learning environment in which their music was transmitted,” Forrest added.