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Posted on: August 9, 2015


Ed Neigh, 1945-2015



Ed Neigh, a major influence on piping in North America, died suddenly on August 8th, in his seventy-first year. Known and beloved as a teacher, adjudicator and dedicated student of piobaireachd, he played a major role in shaping the piping and pipe band community in his native Ontario.

Born May 22, 1945, and originally from Brantford, Ontario, he started piping as a boy with little support from his parents. Neigh immersed himself particularly in piobaireachd, gaining tuition from, among others, the great John MacFadyen when MacFadyen would come for summer schools in the area. In 1976 he was so engrossed in the instrument that he went to Scotland to compete and taught at the same Glasgow school at which MacFadyen was headmaster.

While in Scotland in the mid-to-late-1970s, Neigh, along with his contemporaries Bill Livingstone, Bob Worrall and Jim McGillivray, was one of the first Canadians to regularly compete on the Scottish solo circuit. Among his prizes was the Dunvegan Medal at Skye, becoming one of the first non-Scots to win the award. He competed diligently for the Highland Society of London Gold Medal competitions, and, although he never gained one, he finished second several times at both the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting.

“I think piobaireachd is everything,” he said in his 1992 interview with this magazine. “I don’t think I would have played bagpipes past my middle-twenties had a I not become a piobaireachd player.”

With pipe bands, Ed Neigh was a true pioneer. His Guelph Pipe Band from Guelph, Ontario, would form in the 1970s and rise rapidly to Grade 1. With Guelph he was seen as the first to use a tuning metre for drones, and his inventive medley creations routinely opened the ears of the world to possibilities with harmony, rhythm and drumming accompaniment.

For more than 50 years Ed Neigh was a driving force in teaching, working with hundreds of students at all levels. For the last 10 years especially, he worked with the Paris Port Dover Pipe Band, watching that group rise from the lower grades to, this year, a Grade 2 band with one of his most successful students, Dylan Whittemore, as pipe-major.

He adjudicated right up until his final days, judging the weekend before he died at the North American Championships at Maxville, Ontario. He had suffered from health problems in the last decade, include a diagnosis of lung cancer and two hip replacements. Even through his illnesses, Neigh was constantly in and around the piping and drumming scene that he loved.

Ed Neigh was a major and well-loved figure in the piping world, and one of the true great contributors to the art.


Article courtesy of Pipes|Drums

August 8, 2015


I had the privilege and honor of getting to know Ed well over the last 10-15 years. I took a number of lessons from him both private and at the North American Academy of Piping and Drumming in 2008. Ed also judged me at a myriad of solo competitions on the East Coast of the United States. My sincere condolences to his family. He will be sadly missed. The piping world has lost one of its great!




Clan Campbell's Gathering with notes from Ed Neigh (February 2, 2003)





Posted on: May 15, 2012


Donald McPherson, 1922-2012




Born: 5 September, 1922, in Glasgow. Died: 21 April, 2012, in Edinburgh, aged 89



DONALD MacPherson, BEM, who has died aged 89, was a wonderfully gifted musician whose mastery of the bagpipe led to him achieving unrivalled success in the world’s most prestigious piping competitions.

From his first appearance at a major Highland gathering in 1948 until his last competitive outing 42 years later, MacPherson built up an astonishing record that will almost certainly never be surpassed.

On his debut at the Argyllshire Gathering, MacPherson won the Gold Medal for piobaireachd, a Holy Grail for pipers that can only be won by the most skilful exponents of the bagpipe’s classical music.

With that prize under his belt, he became only the second piper ever to take first place in the Senior Piobaireachd competition for former winners of the Gold Medal on the same day.

That rare double signalled the arrival of a unique talent who had an apparently effortless ability to produce an extraordinarily rich and sonorous tone from what can be a notoriously temperamental instrument.

While lesser mortals struggled to set up a properly tuned bagpipe, MacPherson was able to create a spell-binding resonance that was often compared to a church organ.

The stunning effect of MacPherson’s flawlessly true chanter scale harmonising with an unwavering wall of sound created by his drones, took bagpipe tuning to a level of perfection that marked him out from his contemporaries. He produced a tone which the top pipers still strive to emulate today.

His superb ear was combined with immaculate fingering technique and an instinctive gift for musical expression. With these attributes, it was perhaps unsurprising that, in 1954, he was to win the other highly sought-after Gold Medal for piobaireachd, which is presented at the Northern Meeting in Inverness. He won the Gold Medal and Clasp at Inverness at the same event, being the first piper in history to do so.

From then, he was to win the Clasp at Inverness for former Gold Medallists on nine occasions – the most first places in that event ever accumulated by one piper.

At the Argyllshire Gathering, Oban, he holds the record for most wins in the Senior Piobaireachd. He won that competition on no fewer than 15 occasions.

A piping career that was remarkable for its longevity as well as its quality came to an end with his last victory at Oban in 1990 with a memorable rendition of Lady MacDonald’s Lament when he was 68 years old.

A lack of space prevents all of MacPherson’s major prizes being listed here, but as well as piobaireachd he also excelled at the light music of the bagpipe. He won all the big prizes for Marches, Strathspeys and Reels several times over.

Born and educated in Glasgow, as a boy he played in the Glasgow Shepherds Pipe Band under Archie MacPhedran.

But it was his father Iain who taught the young MacPherson to pipe. MacPherson’s father had been taught by Pipe Major John MacDougall Gillies, one of the great players of the early 20th century who could trace his piping to the MacCrimmons of Skye.

After leaving school, MacPherson trained as an engineer serving his time with the West of Scotland Engineering Company in Finnieston.

When war broke out he volunteered for air-crew in the RAF and trained in England and South Africa. Later he was stationed in Egypt and Italy. Just before he was demobbed, he was returning to base near Naples in an army truck. The truck careered into a ditch and MacPherson sustained a serious injury to his left arm that saw him laid up for eight months.

That he overcame this set-back to compete so brilliantly was an achievement in itself. Indeed, his subsequent success at piping competitions was all the more remarkable, given that he spent much of his working life south of the Border – many miles from the piping scene.

Piping came so naturally to him that he was able to perform consistently at the highest level even though at various times in his life he did not pick up his pipes for several years on end.

During one of his spells away from the pipes, he took piano lessons and became an accomplished pianist.

His engineering career took him to Wiltshire, Exmouth, Bearsden and Edinburgh. In retirement, he spent four years living in Wales before he moved with his wife Gwen to Balbeggie, Perthshire.

Pipers everywhere regarded MacPherson as a gentleman in the truest sense. He remained unassuming and modest, despite his many achievements and the admiration in which he was held by other pipers. It was the distinguished piping judge Major General Frank Richardson, who once remarked: “I would go 20 miles to hear a piper but I would go 120 miles to hear Donald MacPherson.”

As well as being a master player, he was a talented composer of pipe tunes and in his spare time he passed on his knowledge to some of the best pipers of the generations that followed him. He also played at many recitals throughout the UK and abroad. After he retired from competition he became a respected judge at piping contests.

He was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to piping and was also piper to the Lord Provost of Glasgow. More recently he was inducted into Scotland’s Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

His playing is recorded for posterity on several albums including a CD recorded in 2002.

His album Donald MacPherson – A Living Legend saw him give immaculate interpretations of some of the most demanding tunes in the piper’s repertoire in his 80th year.

MacPherson is survived by his wife Gwen, who he married almost 65 years ago, their three children Heather, Fiona and Katrina and three grandchildren.




The Scotsman

Posted on: August 27, 2011
P/M Alasdair Gillies, 1964-2011

The legendary piper Alasdair Gillies died suddenly on the morning of August 27, 2011, at the age of 47. Probably the most successful solo light music competitor in history, Gillies won almost every major prize in both piobaireachd and light music, some many times over.
A native of Ullapool, Scotland, and the son of the great solo piper Norman Gillies, his record of 11 Former Winners MSR Silver Stars at the Northern Meeting may never be rivaled. Indeed, it was the Northern Meeting where Gillies reigned supreme, winning every trophy in both senior and junior piping but one – the B-Grade Strathspey & Reel – is probably another record that will never be matched.
Among his other awards were the Glenfiddich Championship three times, both Highland Society of London Gold Medals and the Clasp at Inverness.
At the turn of the last century, Alasdair Gillies was voted by pipes|drums readers as the best piper of the 20th century.
A career piper, first with the military as Pipe-Major of the Queen's Own Highlanders and latterly as director of Carnegie-Mellon University's degree in piping for 12 years.
A full appreciation of Alasdair Gillies will appear soon in pipes|drums.
On behalf of the world piping and drumming community, we extend our condolences to Alasdair Gillies's family and friends at this sad time.
Article courtesy of Pipes|Drums
I was saddened to hear today of the death of P/M Alasdair Gillies, one of the greatest pipers the world has ever known. He will be greatly missed by all in the Piping World! I had the privilege of meeting P/M Alasdair Gillies on a number of occasions when he judged me in solo piping competitions in the Southeast of the United States over the years. I extend my condolences to his family and friends. Rest in Peace P/M Alasdair Gillies.