Remembering Alasdair Gillies: Colin MacLellan

Published: October 31, 2011
(Page 1 of 3)

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 . . .

Page 1 of 3123
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0
  1. Lornescots

    A beautifuly story told so well about a wonderful person. I would like to add a comment regarding Alasdair. Having the same name only spelt differently, I menioned to him that many people not familiar with our name had difficulty pronouncing it. So I told him that whenever I gave my name I would mention, Do you know the name Fred Astair” then I would say “Well I’m Alistair”. Alasdair thought this very amusing and laughed and said he would use this when giving his name. When we exchanged e-mails he would always sign off. “Fred

  2. uilleannonlooker

    nice story Colin but am curious, regarding The next editorial of the Piping Times thundered on about the perpetrator of the rather heinous light bulb crime being caught and punished for having “brought the game of piping into disrepute” (Seumas MacNeill was one of the judges)”. So were you caught and what was the punishment? M.”

  3. brucegpiper

    Well done Andrew for this idea and WELL DONE, to Colin for writing such a great personal story on Alasdair. This is what a tribute should be all about and a wonderful way to honor his memory. Bruce

  4. JimMcGillivray

    Beautifully done, Colin. That story about the red light is one of the greats. Sad but glad you were able to share it.

  5. FredBe

    Wonderful words, Colin. A very fitting memorial to a very fine man and piper. Bengt Fredén, piper, PD1RE, Stockholm, Sweden

The new pipes|drums app offers the same publication with a streamlined experience. Get the latest news optimized for your smartphone.
Download on the App Store

Get it on Google Play
October 23, 1962Archie MacNeill dies, age 83, Glasgow.
  • One last time
    Fri, 14 Oct 2016
    “The pipes will fall in front of the band.” So ordered Queen Victoria way back when, and so it has been ever since. Except at the march past of the 2016 World Pipe Band Championships when the last band on, … Continue reading → …
Read more »
UPCOMING EVENTS November 5, 2016Niagara SessionsNiagara Falls

November 18, 2016Balmoral ClassicMcGonigle Theater, Central Catholic H.S., Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

November 19, 201621st Annual George Sherriff Memorial InvitationalSt. Paul's United Church, Hamilton, Ontario

May 20, 2017British Pipe Band ChampionshipsPaisley, Scotland

June 10, 2017UK Pipe Band ChampionshipsBelfast

Young drummers: Learn the basic rudiments properly.
Alistair Aitken, Gorebridge, Scotland