The death of Alasdair Gillies on August 27th, 2011, is still very much a wound that may never fully heal. While the piping world lost one of its most accomplished and talented performers in its long history, the many friends of Alasdair Gillies lost something much more, and the pain of his passing may lessen with time, it will never completely go away.
It is difficult to put into words this absence, and an “appreciation” may never really be fully possible. We have decided to ask several individuals from our community who may have known Alasdair Gillies a little better, or in simply a slightly different way, to assemble a few thoughts about him. Rather than aggregating these memories into a single piece, we have chosen to publish each separately over the next few months.
The first in our “Remembering Alasdair Gillies” series is from Colin MacLellan of Edinburgh.
The very first time I ever heard Alasdair Gillies play was at Oban, in the summer of 1985. I’d heard all about him, of course, but had never met him or had heard him. I suppose that was because I had lived in Canada since the late 1970s and my trips over to compete weren’t really all that frequent. It was during that period of time that Alasdair had joined the army as a boy soldier and had acquired a rather well-deserved deserved reputation as the country’s latest rising star.
I’d heard about how he had been to Highland games in the north of Scotland, and about the times that he had been awarded first prizes in front of the likes of Iain MacFadyen and John MacDougall, and other established pipers of the top rank, even before he had finished winning the junior competitions at the Northern Meeting. I was especially interested in hearing him for the first time, and I wandered over to the marches board at the Argyllshire Gathering and there he was, striding up onto the platform, dressed in the full regimental uniform of a piper of the Queen’s Own Highlanders. Gleaming buckled sandals, tartan diced hose, full plaid, and the famous eagle feather erect . . .