Published: August 31, 2006

Five John MacDonald Clasps sold

An undisclosed buyer has acquired five of the seven Clasps that the legendary John MacDonald of Inverness’s won at the Northern Meeting during his historical piping career.

The Clasps had been in the possession of a Scottish antique dealer when he suddenly brought them to market, reportedly offering them for sale to select bidders, reportedly including a Sultan and a Manhattan-based collector of music memorabilia.

Sale price of the MacDonald Clasps is not known, but is thought to have exceeded $3,000.

The two other John MacDonald Clasps, one of which was found affixed to a pipe box with a nail through it, are owned by Scottish organizations.

John MacDonald was born at Glentruim, Scotland, on July 26, 1865, and died on June 6, 1953, in Inverness. His style of playing, which he learned from Malcolm “Calum Piobaire” MacPherson, is predominant in today’s competitive piobaireachd playing.

After John MacDonald won the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at Inverness in 1890, he went on to win the seven Clasps and the Open Piobaireachd at Oban five times. MacDonald was honorary piper to King George V, King Edward VIII, and King George VI, and was awarded the MBE for services to piping.

He began teaching aspiring Pipe-Majors in the Regular Army in 1909 under the auspices of the Piobaireachd Society. After the First World War, he conducted classes in Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, South Uist and Inverness. His greatest legacy was his pupils, 14 of whom went on to win Highland Society of London Gold Medals. His most famous students were Bob Brown, Bob Nicol, and Donald MacLeod, who each also learned from him to pass along their knowledge.

The Clasp is awarded in a competition reserved for winners of the Highland Society of London Gold Medal at either the Argyllshire Gathering at Oban or the Northern Meeting at Inverness. In 2005 the Northern Meeting moved to Aviemore, Scotland.

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