The famous piper and Gaelic singer Finlay MacNeill died in Inverness, Scotland, on October 29, 2008, after a long illness.
MacNeill achieved rapid success as a piobaireachd player, winning the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1971 playing “Lament for John Garve MacLeod of Raasay.” He also was a prize-winner for Gaelic Song at the prestigious National Mod competitions, considered the pinnacle of success for that art.
MacNeill was raised in Port Glasgow, Scotland, in a fluently Gaelic household. He started his formal piping tuition with a local Boys Brigade band, and at the age of 17 started more formal instruction at the College of Piping. He cited College co-founder Seumas MacNeill as the biggest influence on his piping career.
In 1982 he released Fonn is Furan, a recording that featured both his singing and piping talents. He committed much of his time to teaching both song and piping, and was a frequent instructor at, among other places, the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, Nova Scotia, in the 1970s.
His last judging assignment at a piping competition was to be at the 2008 Northern Meeting at his hometown of Inverness, but he was too ill to participate.
In 1982, Seumas MacNeil said of Finlay MacNeill, “Every now and again, Scotland produces a person who so excels at his chosen art or profession that he profoundly affects not only those around him, but all people of similar interests throughout the world. Such a man is Finlay MacNeill – piper, singer, Gaelic scholar and personality extraordinary.”
Finlay MacNeill’s children followed in his Gaelic song footsteps, and his daughter, Catriona, rose to become both an accomplished piper and a Gold Medallist at the National Mod.
To Finlay MacNeill’s survivors and his many friends, we extend our sympathy at this sad time.