78th Fraser Highlanders returning to the Isle of Lewis for concert to mark immigration to Canada
To help mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the sailing of the “Metagama” from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides to Quebec, the Grade 1 78th Fraser Highlanders of Ontario are returning to Stornoway to perform as the headliner in a Grand Concert as part of Tattoo Metagama on August 11th and 12th.
It’s second trip to Stornoway for the 78th Frasers after the band’s 2009 journey where they also played a concert as part of Stornoway’s “Homecoming Scotland” festival, also marking immigration to Canada.
According to 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe-Major Doug MacRae, the band has been working with the organizers since before the 2022 World Pipe Band Championships. The Grand Concert will also feature Alyth McCormack, who will collaborate on a few pieces with the band. They’ll also take part in a tattoo along with the Lewis Pipe Band, Lewis & Harris Youth Pipe Band, Uist Pipe Band, Sgoil Lionacleit Junior Pipe Band, Skye Pipe Band, Ullapool Pipe Band, Strathaven & District, and possibly a military band.
The 78th Frasers have been hard at work developing concert material that MacRae said, “Bring in tunes recognizing the region, or events of the region, as well as Hebridean composers like the great Donald MacLeod, who was a native of Lewis.”
He said a video production crew will travel to Canada to trace the steps of the immigrants and highlight the band as it prepares for the journey to Lewis.
The band I also working with politicians in Ontario to try to elevate the stature of piping and drumming, which, despite the success of the art in the province, isn’t well recognized.
“We’re using the event to try to cultivate strategic political relationships,” MacRae said. “MP James Maloney has kindly agreed to announce our involvement in this event on the floor of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, and we have coordinated an invitation from Angus McNeil, the local Lewis MP, and James is hoping to attend.”
The “Metagama” was just one of five ships carrying more than 1,500 Hebridean settlers to Canada from 1923 to 1924, and since 1770 more than 25,000 Hebrideans have immigrated to the country. Before 1838, most settled in St. John’s Island (now Prince Edward Island), and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The development of the Canadian Pacific Railroad brought Hebrideans to Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
Hebridean immigrants played a central role in the rise of piping and drumming in Canada. The country developed Canadian extensions of the Scottish military regiments and, along with them, a tradition of piping and drumming, especially during World War I and World War II.
The strong military support of piping and drumming was directly responsible for creating a high standard of excellence, giving Canada a jumpstart on other countries that by the 1960s resulted in pipers, drummers and pipe bands competing successfully against the best that Scotland had to offer.
The Isle of Lewis has been surging in piping for the last few decades especially, with the holding of the annual Pipe-Major Donald MacLeod Memorial Invitational Solo Piping Competition and the latest Highland Society of London Gold Medallist, James Duncan MacKenzie, following in the footsteps of his late great teacher, Iain Murdo Morrison.