The last Lawrie chanter and Capt. John MacLellan’s final performance
Our latest instalment of The Pipemakers series by Jeannie Campbell and Jim McGillivray looked into the history of the great R.G. Lawrie firm that, over the company’s 90 years, produced some of the greatest instruments in the history of Highland bagpipes.
The firm wound down its bagpipe making in the mid-1980s, focusing instead on tartan and tourist merchandise.
But before it ended for good, company head Arthur Lawrie enlisted the services of the great Captain John A. MacLellan to design a pipe chanter. He worked in Lawrie’s shop one day a week to refine the instrument.
Today, pipe chanters designed and endorsed by great pipers is a familiar practice, companies like R.G. Hardie and McCallum Bagpipes working with pipers like Bruce Gandy, Stuart Liddell, Callum Beaumont and Connor Sinclair to create instruments with great sound and brand cachet, and Murray Henderson has put his name to the highly successful Strathmore pipe chanters.
But in 1986, R.G. Lawrie seemed to be on to a good thing with the creation of the new MacLellan chanter. About 50 of them were made, and MacLellan himself played the chanter at the 1986 John MacFadyen Memorial Trust Lecture at Stirling Castle.
As it happened, his rendition of the piobaireachd “Lament for the Viscount of Dundee” would be the last public performance the great piper ever delivered.
The pitch is flatter than what we’re accustomed to today. But every note resonates, harmonics ringing against the drones. Captain MacLellan was 66 at the time, yet his blowing is perfect, every note rock-solid throughout.
We hope you enjoy this recording of Captain John MacLellan’s 1986 performance of “The Viscount,” his final showing on an obviously great chanter that never made it to market. It includes a heartfelt preface from the late James Campbell, son of Archibald Campbell of Kilberry, and one of the leading figures in the Piobaireachd Society.
Our thanks to Captain MacLellan’s son, Colin, for providing the details, the photo and the audio recording, used here with permission.
Click to hear Captain John A. MacLellan MBE’s rendition of the “Lament for the Viscount of Dundee” performed at Stirling Castle in 1986.
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