Introducing Ron MacLeod ...
For some time now Ron MacLeod has been compiling a collection of Piobaireachd Historical Stories. I believe that this is an invaluable resource to the Piping Community at large. Over the next few months we will be publishing these stories on this website for your perusal. So keep an eye out for these Piobaireachd Stories.
Ron's parents were Gaelic speakers from the Island of Raasay in Scotland who emigrated to Tofino on Vancouver Island. Ron's family were fishermen and Ron himself is the retired Director General of the Pacific and Freshwater Fisheries. Ron MacLeod is an Officer of the Order of Canada and, in 2000, he received the Chancellor's Distinguished Service Award for service to Simon Fraser University. Ron was one of the community founders of the Centre for Scottish Studies.
Read some additional information about Ron MacLeod's families migration from the Isle Of Rasaay to Tofino on Vancouver Island.
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Ron's Interest In Piping ...
My interest in piping goes back to my earliest childhood. I grew up in a small, isolated fishing community of about 180 people. There were three MacLeod families in the village when I was a child. My father sang Gaelic songs, his brother and a cousin played the pipes. My brother and two cousins took up the pipes and needed an audience. I was a willing volunteer. The sound of the pipes locked into my psyche and remains there yet, stronger than ever. Annex I of the collection probably captures the impact that piobaireachd has on me.
I attended Gatherings and competitions when able – which was not often during my working life as I was very much on the move. However, when I retired in 1984 I had the time and made the effort to attend every piobaireachd event I could. My predilection for history led me to seek out the historical setting of a tune. My efforts were largely stymied as all I could get out of even the most experienced player was an occasional tantalizing snippet of information. Written material was scattered in bits and pieces and difficult to access.
Ron Macleod And The Piobaireachd Club
In 1990 I was invited to participate with Jack Lee, Peter Aumonier, Duncan Fraser and Ron Sutherland in creating the The Piobaireachd Club under the auspices of the B.C. Piper's Association. One of the criteria we approved was that there would be a newsletter to report on Club meetings. I was commandeered to do the reporting. Another criteria stated there would be no comment on the quality of the playing as the purpose of the Club was to create a stress-free forum for the amateur as well as the professional player.
So what was I to report on? I opted for a simple format: who played; what a person played; and, a comment about the historical setting of a tune, looking always for the composer's inspiration. Slowly, slowly material was gathered from a wide variety of sources, a snippet here, an article there, and so forth. Fortunately, for starters I obtained a copy of Alex Haddow's unfinished publication “The History & Structure of Cèol Mòr”. Gradually a body of information came to be gathered in my library. About the year 2000 I began to think about leaving a record behind as I had no guarantee of immortality, let alone longevity.
I decided on a format that presents a summary of known facts and/or of the heather myths that seem to have some relevance. I set a target of 196 tunes to match the requirement for a student in the MacCrimmon school to graduate with a certificate. I remain 23 tunes short but if I am spared I will continue to move towards the goal.
The Hunt For Piobaireachd Information
Sources for the tune histories in this collection are varied: the excellent but unfinished work of Alex Haddow was heavily drawn on. Poulter & Fisher's 1936 “The MacCrimmon Family” was referenced. I.F. Grant's “The MacLeods, The History of a Clan” was another good source. Bridget Mackenzies' two books on Piping Traditions was and remains a major help. Also, Seumas MacNeill's “Piobaireachd', Seton Gordon's “Highways and Byways of the West Highlands“, Chamber's “History of the Rebellion of 1745”, Boswell's “Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson”, Donald Campbell's “A Treatise on the Language, Poetry and Music of the Highland Clans”, Raymond Eagle's biography “Seton Gordon”, Norma MacLeod's book Raasay: the Island and its People” all of these have helped.
Extracts from the Piping Times, extracts from Clan MacLeod magazine, numerous papers pulled from the internet. These have provided useful information and cross-references.
At the personal level, Colin MacRae of the Seattle piping family has been most generous with papers, stories and advice. And, of course, quotes taken from Angus MacKay's manuscripts were very helpful (many of the references cited above drew on Angus MacKay's work).
Ron MacLeod And The Order of Canada
The Order of Canada is the most prestigious civilian award that the federal Government of Canada bestows. There are three levels: Companion, Officer and Member. I am an Officer of the Order. It is difficult for me to explain why I received the Order, let alone the level. The award recognizes my service as a public servant with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
During my term I developed and implemented a program called the Pacific Salmonoid Enhancement Program, a cooperative federal/provincial endeavor. The program applies technology to preserve and to increase salmon stocks in British Columbia. The program was also designed to promote and encourage the active participation of aboriginals, sports fishermen, school children, community organizations and businesses. The feature that has had and will continue to have the highest impact is “Salmonoids in the Classroom”.
This program has children from Grade 1 through High School and for some, University, participate in both classroom and hands-on in stream activities. There are several dimensions to the program with the overall purpose of “fostering the conservation ethic as a system of value in British Columbia”. In the 30 years since the program was launched, nearly one million school children have participated. The impact will continue to redound on provincial societal values for years to come
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