June 30, 2008

P-M Bill MacLeod, 1914-2008

Pipe-Major William James MacLeod died earlier this week in Winnipeg, aged 94.

As a young boy in the late-1920s, MacLeod received tuition on the pipes from his father, Donald MacLeod, which he absorbed eagerly, going on to win top awards both as an amateur and professional player.

On September 2, 1939, the day prior to the outbreak of World War II, MacLeod joined the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada in Winnipeg.  During the time he was stationed overseas, he attended the British Army School of Piping held at Edinburgh Castle where he received training from Pipe-Major Willie Ross. His roommate and fellow classmate on that course was to become another piping legend of our time, Pipe-Major Donald MacLeod.

Bill MacLeod participated in numerous engagements during the war, and was “Mentioned in Dispatches” for his effort on one occasion, and had the added duties as Pipe-Major, maintaining the regimental pipe band.

In April 1947, Bill MacLeod moved to Pine Falls, Manitoba, to work with the Manitoba Paper Company. He became a journeyman electrician and remained with the company until his retirement in 1979. The Pine Falls piping pupils of Bill MacLeod began their tuition in September 1965 and in the fall of 1968 with a young corps of pipers and drummers, the Pine Falls Pipe Band was formed.  In 1972, with the approval of the city of Stirling, Scotland, the title was changed to the Stirling Pipe Band in recognition of Ian Rodger, a native of Stirling, and an early supporter of the Band.

Initially all of the band members were local Pine Falls children whose families worked directly or indirectly for the mill. In a town whose population was less than one thousand, the Stirling Pipe Band became a worthwhile and rewarding activity for many of the kids. Under MacLeod’s steady, competent guidance, the band competed in many competitions over the years, winning many awards, bringing recognition to Pine Falls from across Canada, the United States and Europe.

47th Piping School, Edinburgh Castle 1943-1944 being led by Pipe Major Wm. Ross.  Left to right: L-Cpl Duncan Lamont, Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders; P-M Donald MacLeod, Seaforth Highlanders;  P-M Willie Ross; and P-M W.J. MacLeod, Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada.For a time, the band amalgamated with the Centennial Pipe Band of Winnipeg and was known as the Stirling/Centennial Pipe Band. MacLeod and the late Tommy Thompson worked together to raise the band’s musical capability further during a very successful period for the band.

MacLeod was a leader of the Prairie Pipe Band Association; Pipe-Major of the City of Winnipeg Massed Pipes & Drums; a respected and often requested piping judge; and Instructor and Director at both the Fort San Summer School of the Arts in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, and the piping school at the International Peace Gardens in the Turtle Mountains of Manitoba.

Bill MacLeod was also a composer. His talent in this area goes widely unrecognized, but he had many tunes published in both Canada and overseas. Notably, several of his tunes are in the Gordon Highlanders Book 2. He continued to compose tunes up until just a few months prior to his death.

On February 6, 1979, Bill MacLeod was presented a Good Citizenship Award by the Honourable Bud Jobin, Lt. Governor of Manitoba for his remarkable work within the community. Family and friends were present at Government House to witness the award and to congratulate Bill.

MacLeod proudly led the band one last time in 2002 at the age of 88 as it performed at a handful of venues around Pine Falls to celebrate the town’s 75th anniversary. The highlight was a short parade to the Pine Falls cenotaph where Bill proudly displayed his grown-up band.

Bill MacLeod’s piping skills, his work with the youth of Pine Falls and others across Western Canada, and his service to the country in which he became Pipe Major of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, have been recognized in many ways. He dedicated his life to piping and passing along those fine skills to as many people as he could.

Pipe-Major Bill MacLeod’s funeral is on June 30 at 2 pm at the Pine Falls United Church.

– submitted by Hugh Peden


  1. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr MacLeod (and even playing a few tunes for him a few of years ago at the Officers Mess in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba). A class act, and a true loss to the piping community. Cheers, Rob Gereghty



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