The piping world has been shocked to the core this week by the news of the sudden death of Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies. Tonight we paid tribute to one of the finest pipers of a generation with tunes, tales and memories of his prodigious skill.
Honorary Pipe Major Euan Anderson opened the evening and the tributes with a classic set of Caber Feidh played as a march, a strathspey and a reel. Many of us will have been lucky enough to hear Alasdair play Caber Feidh as all of these three, plus a hornpipe and a jig. Colin Maclellan also incorporated his own settings of Caber Feidh as a strathspey and reel into a double MSR set.
Pipe Major Michael Gray shared recollections of his army career with Alasdair, and gave a moving presentation in his honour. Mike began by highlighting some of Alasdair’s most notable achievements, amongst them his 1986 record of winning the Silver Medal, the Jig, the A Strathspey and Reel and the Silver Star for Former Winners at the Northern Meeting.
Mike then gave us some Queen’s Own Highlanders marches, beginning again with Caber Feidh, the March of the Cameron Men and Pibroch of Donuil Dhu. He followed this with an MSR set of Mrs John MacColl, the Ewe Wi’ the Crookit Horn and Thompson’s Dirk. Mike’s set concluded with an emotionally charged Lochaber No More – The Highlanders’ Regimental Lament.
Tonight’s Eagles meeting also fell right between the Argyllshire Gathering and the Northern Meeting, and so while we were remembering Alasdair’s extraordinary competitive achievements particularly at the Northern Meeting, we also celebrated the successes of our current Eagles members and were treated to some selected highlights. Douglas Gardiner was placed 5th in the Silver Medal at Oban and gave us a flavour of the ground of The End of the Great Bridge. Iain Speirs was the winner of the Oban’s Senior Piobaireachd event and was placed 3rdin the Former Winners MSR. He showcased his prize-winning style with another double MSR on a magnificent pipe.
And to conclude this evening of tributes and celebrations, Cameron Drummond (2nd in the Gold Medal; 2nd in the Jigs; Finalist in the A Strathspey and Reel) played the Lament for Finlay. This tune commemorates the passing of another fine man from the north-west of Scotland and was a poignant note on which to end the evening.
It was lovely to see Bob Kilgour in the audience and at the ripe old age of 87 he is still as sharp as a tack. Bob still has a tune from time to time using his kitchen stool as a perch.
The next Eagle Pipers meeting shall be held on 13 September. We look forward to seeing you then.