November 30, 2007

Colin MacLellan retires from solo competition

The Scottish Pipers Society of London competitions on November 3, 2007, were the last events in the long and storied career of Colin MacLellan, one of this era’s greatest competition pipers on both sides of the Atlantic.

MacLellan, a native of Edinburgh where he currently makes his home, lived for 23 years in Ontario. The son of the legendary Captain John A. MacLellan MBE, he won the Northern Meeting’s Highland Society of London Gold Medal in 1982 at the age of 24 playing “The Lament for the Viscount of Dundee,” and continued from there to take most of the big prizes in Scotland and Canada, including:

  • The Piobaireachd Society (Canada) Gold Medal in 1982
  • Bar to the Piobaireachd Society (Canada) medal 1986
  • Toronto Knock-out 1986
  • Silver Chanter 1990 (“MacLeod of Colbecks”)
  • 1991 Silver Chanter
  • Twice winner of the North American Championship at Maxville
  • 1990 Dunvegan Medal (“Lament for the Earl of Antrim”)
  • Bar to the Piobaireachd Society (Canada) medal 1992
  • Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1992 (“The Blue Ribbon”)
  • 2003 Donald MacDonald Quaich 2003 (“Glengarry’s March”)
  • 2006 Lochaber Gathering Gold Axe (“The Red Speckled Bull”)

Along the way he competed at the Glenfiddich Invitational Solo Piping Championships seven times.

MacLellan was a committed competitor around the games in Scotland and Ontario, winning most events, some many times over. So far he has taught at 17 different summer schools in North America, and for many years ran the teaching program in Maxville, Ontario. He has taught at the National Piping Centre and currently teaches piping at Edinburgh Academy.

In 1990 Lismor Recordings selected Colin MacLellan for its World’s Greatest Pipers series of CDs.

“As a competitor he will be remembered as one of the most musical players, whose tunes were full of dynamics and within the traditional framework of subtle and innovative touches,” said the well known piper Martin Kessler of Germany. “Off the boards he has the same gift: he cannot be boring. He is just as entertaining and relaxed as on the stage.”

At London MacLellan played “The Lament for the Viscount of Dundee” in the Bratach Gorm, a contest that he narrowly missed winning several times, and “MacNeil of Barra’s March” in the Gillies Cup.

Beginning at its 1999 AGM, MacLellan served as President of the Competing Pipers Association for six years, pushing for reform in judging, ethics and fairer representation for non-Scottish members.

“As President of the CPA he invested generously a lot of his time, energy and his private life into encouraging up-coming players from Scotland, North America and Continental Europe,” Kessler continued. “We can only be grateful for this, the many good tunes and all the contributions to improving the standards and structures of competitive piping. A great competitor and sportsman leaves the stage. A great man and musician remains. He will have a lot more to offer and to enjoy. We look forward this.”

MacLellan has extensive experience in pipe bands, having played with the 78th Fraser Highlanders, the Grade 1 Dunvegan Pipe Band, and was pipe-major of the Lothian & Borders Police and Glengarry bands.


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  1. Best wishes Colin, Some fifteen years ago I had the good fortune to hear you play ‘The Desperate Battle…. ‘ at a piobaireachd seminar at St. Michael’s College, UofT, chaired by Ed Neigh; again at an indoor competition in TO at which you played ‘The Red Speckled Bull’. Wonderful memories of beautiful music. But my fondest memory is of being introduced to you by Jim Scott who said something to the effect What do you think of this 50 year old guy learning some piobaireachd?”; to which you responded ” Och

  2. I just want to wish Colin all the very best from my dad and myself, I remember hangin around the Ontario circuit with my dad as a kid and always trying to get in a listen to Colin competing. A great player and we hope to see you back in Ontario in the future. Steve

  3. Colin, What a fine piping career, well done. And it’s fair to say that I would not be the reedmaker I am today had I not spent the time with Colin in Glengarry county back in the late 80’s. Good Luck in your future interests . Piping and competitve piping is a better place due to your hard work and dedication. Cheers my friend, Donald

  4. I hope that we still get the chance to hear Colin play in recital situations. Maybe with the pressure off to learn set tunes and polish MSRs, he’ll feel more like letting loose in concert. It has been great to hear Colin’s tunes over the years. We saw a lot of Colin across Canada when he was in this country, and from the BC Annual Gathering to Maxville, he was always treat to hear. Congratulations on a great competitive career Colin. Look forward to hearing you in recital!



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