Remembering Alasdair Gillies: Willie McCallum

Published: November 30, 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  asked 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 a few months.

The second in our “Remembering Alasdair Gillies” series is from Willie McCallum of Bearsden, Scotland.

A few weeks ago I was reminiscing about Alasdair with a friend and we both remembered the then Secretary of the Northern Meeting Piping Competitions, Ross Martin, reading out the winners at the prize-giving in his distinctive Highland accent: “First, in the Former Winners March, Strathspey and Reel . . . Corporal Alasdair Gillies, Queen’s Own Highlanders.” The only thing that changed year to year was maybe Alasdair’s rank. We had heard Ross announce this so often that we learned to imitate Ross’s reading out of the prize. This was nothing but total respect for the achievement.

I first knew of Alasdair when he was tearing up the prize lists in the Junior contests. We didn’t know each other when we were young as we lived in different parts of the country and in those days the junior players didn’t travel the length and breadth of the country to competitions.

It was outside Ibrox  in 1982 when we really first got to know each other. I was strolling along to a game against Liverpool which was to mark the opening of the new Govan Stand at Ibrox Stadium, and here’s Alasdair shouting hello from a queue waiting to get onto the ground. We had a blether and from then on a lifelong friendship. Before that we had only really nodded to each other at contests.

We had a lot in common as we shared a west coast upbringing, had the . . .

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  1. TheCaptain

    Willie….so spot on…. you have given us another glimpse of one of the most charismatic personalities to ever play the pipes. Our lives are so much richer for having known Alasdair, yet so much poorer from his passing…… always remembered… Ken Eller

  2. Hossman

    Ah Ali G. As each day goes by and as time should provide healing. I find myself more sore and missing him more and more. Great stories from good guys. Reason alone to subscribe to Pipes Drums. RIP Alasdair

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