May 31, 2012

Piobaireachd Society acquires Robert Reid recordings

When the legendary piper Robert Reid died in 1965 he notoriously was said to have requested in his will that all of his piping manuscripts and recordings be buried with him. But a number of reel-to-reel tapes of his playing – the only recordings of Reid’s playing in his prime known to exist – survived, and the Piobaireachd Society has managed to purchase them from the Reid estate.


“The Piobaireachd Society has been able to buy the tapes of Robert Reid’s playing,” Piobaireachd Society President Jack Taylor said. “We intend to listen to them, then to digitize them and post appropriate content on the Piobaireachd Society website in due course.”


Taylor did not disclose the amount that the organization paid Reid’s family for the tapes, many of which were reportedly made in Reid’s bagpipe-making shop in Glasgow in the 1950s. The late piper Willie Connell, who was taught by Reid for 14 years, said that he often operated the reel-to-reel recorder when he worked with Reid at the shop.


Born in the mining village of Slammanan, Scotland, Robert Reid was one of the greatest exponents of piobaireachd in the 20th century. He was a pupil of John MacDougall-Gillies, who was in turn taught by the Cameron family of pipers. Reid and his relatively few pupils, who also included William Barrie and Andrew MacNeill, are seen as the last links to the “Cameron” style of piobaireachd playing, which has been all but replaced by the “MacPherson” style, largely due to the prodigious teaching of John MacDonald, Inverness; then MacDonald’s primary pupils Robert Brown and Robert Nicol; and, subsequently, their pupils, such as Ian Duncan, Andrew Wright and Taylor himself.


The son of a coal miner, Reid was often at odds with the Piobaireachd Society’s then aristocratic “society” management. He was at times ostracized by the organization. Reid was said to have contended that the MacCrimmon family of piobaireachd composers and teachers from Skye was a myth, sparking rage from Piobaireachd Society editor Archibald Campbell of Kilberry.


Taylor added: “I know that there is quite a bit of interest in the tapes generally . . . and I hope that our acquisition of them will mean that his style can be preserved now for all time.”




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