August 25, 2023

Doug MacRae retires as P-M of 78th Fraser Highlanders

Doug MacRae, second from left, leading the 78th Fraser Highlanders off the Grade 1 arena at the 2022 World Pipe Band Championships. [Photo Alister Sinclair]
After 13 years as pipe-major of the Grade 1 78th Fraser Highlanders, Doug MacRae has retired from the role, making his decision official after notifying Leading-Drummer Drew Duthart and then by sending a heartfelt letter to all band members on August 24th.

MacRae is only the second pipe-major of the band, which was started in 1980 and led by Bill Livingstone for 30 years. MacRae’s total tenure with the band was 26 years.

“I have decided to retire from my position as pipe-major of the 78th Fraser Highlanders and from the band,” MacRae said in a comment to pipes|drums. “The decision is rooted in my need to focus on my family. While reaching this point has been excruciatingly difficult. I love this band and the people that make it, but my family is at a stage where I need to provide me full focus toward them.”

Under MacRae’s leadership, the band won several North American Championship titles and continued its unbroken record since 1984 of attendance at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow.

“As a band, we want to extend our sincerest thanks to Doug in the wake of his retiring from the role of pipe-major of the 78th Fraser Highlanders,” Duthart said. “Doug’s contributions to the band are immeasurable over his 26 years of membership, the last 13 of which were in the pipe-major role. Most notably, Doug took over the band in a time of serious transition, and was not only able to stabilize the band, but continued to push towards improvement. We, as a band, are proud of the music, performances, and memories that we were able to share with Doug through the years. As we wish Doug all the best as he enters the next chapter of his life and playing career, the band remains optimistic for the future and are looking forward to a productive fall and winter ahead of the 2024 competition circuit.”

No successor has been identified so far, and Duthart continues in his role, as does Pipe-Sergeant Robbie Beaton.

“It has been an incredible and humbling honour to lead the 78th.” – Doug MacRae

The band just returned from a nearly three-week trip to Scotland where, in addition to competing at the World’s, where they finished thirteenth overall out of 16 bands in the Grade 1 competition. During the trip, they journeyed to Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, to perform in concert at the Tattoo Metagama festival marking the sailing of several ships of immigrants from the Hebrides to Canada.

The band had a successful competition season in Ontario, highlighted by winning the 2023 North American Pipe Band Championship at Maxville, Ontario, against the 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) and City of Dunedin.

The 78th Frasers are the only active Grade 1 band in Ontario and, along with the 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) and Simon Fraser University, one of only three in Canada.

“It has been an incredible and humbling honour to lead the 78th,” MacRae continued. “I know I walk away with lifelong friendships and experiences, but additionally, the opportunity to have worked with Drew and Robbie, essentially on a daily basis. This has been an experience unique to nothing else. The admiration and respect I have for them is profound. I am also grateful to every player in the band, present and past, that have contributed to this era of the 78th. The band’s future is bright, and I look forward to seeing where the journey takes them. Succession is a matter for the band to decide, and I have full faith in their wisdom.”






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