November 30, 2007

Celebration of Willie MacDonald, Benbecula’s 80th

The 80-year life of Willie MacDonald, one of the world’s direct links to the teaching of John MacDonald of Inverness, will be celebrated on December 13, 2007, in Inverness at a gathering of some of today’s greatest Scottish pipers.

Angus MacColl, Dr. Angus MacDonald, and Roddy MacLeod will join Willie MacDonald’s son, the famed composer R.S. MacDonald, at the Inverness Royal British Legion Club at a ticketed party open to all.

Willie MacDonald was born at Glasgow’s Stobhill Hospital on December 5, 1927, to Hebridean parents, and, due to the early death of his mother and his father serving overseas in the military, he was brought up in Benbecula by his grandparents. That island’s name became synonymous with his own in piping circles so as to differentiate him from other William MacDonalds.

His father was Donald-James MacDonald, who was Pipe-Major of the 1st Highland Light Infantry. Willie MacDonald enlisted in the HLI as a teenager with his first overseas posting being Palestine. He also had tours of duty in Egypt, Cyprus, Portugal, Germany and England. When the HLI disbanded in 1958 he left the army, but re-enlisted to join the Cameron Highlanders.

MacDonald’s first teachers included Lachlan Ban MacCormick, who composed, among many other tunes, “The South Uist Golf Club.” In the military MacDonald was taught by P-M Frank Kennedy HLI, P-M Joe MacGrady HLI, and P-M Donald MacLeod. MacDonald had occasional lessons from John MacDonald (Inverness).

Willie MacDonald contends that he learned most from P-M Willie Ross when he was on his Pipe-Majors course at Edinburgh Castle.

He was not a frequent competitor, but nonetheless won the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at Inverness in 1965, the Clasp in 1967, the Oban Gold Medal in 1969, the Oban Senior Piobaireachd in 1973, the Gillies Cup in London in 1972 and a raft of light music prizes, including several wins of the Jig at the Northern Meeting.

The Inverness British Legion Pipe Band, which Willie MacDonald has been associated with for more than 40 years, will also perform at the December 13th event, as will National Mod Medalist Janet MacGregor.


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  1. Willie Macdonald – a lovely guy and what a great laugh when about thirty years ago after getting his tunes in the MSR in the Caledonian Hotel ballroom in Inverness he proceeded to start his march (Maclean of Pennycross, I thing) while actually going up the stairs onto the platform. That’s true! Best wishes to you Willie



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