The MacNeill's of Ugadale - Slow Air

For this bagpipe lesson Pipe Major Bill Robertson explains playing the tune The MacNeill's of Ugadale. Bill breaks the lesson down into sections with commentary for each section.

The tune is a slow air and the tune was composed by Pipe major JM Mac Kenzie, BEM.

Listen to Bill's Audio Instruction
The MacNeill's of Ugadale - Slow Air

Download the Music Notation for The MacNeills of Ugadale

Click to download the tune notation for The MacNeill's of Ugadale

Lesson Pointers for The MacNeills of Ugadale

The compound time of 6/8 with two beats to the bar has a basic pulse/beat rhythm of 1–2,3–; 1–2,3– and so on. The often dotted 8th note downbeat “1” has the longest relative duration. The 16th note “2” is relatively short, while the eighth note “3” must have the remaining relevant duration of the upbeat.

In some music books including a more recent one and some through the internet in compound time tunes particularly might have too many grace notes. I call it “overloading” that can spoil the melody and perhaps the proper rhythm. Maintain the flow of the piece and consider a suitably controlled musical tempo when playing for your own enjoyment and that of others. Half tachums on upbeats in 6/8s etc, not the full tachum that is too much.

Additional Information

The composer for The MacNeill's of Ugadale was Pipe Major John M. MacKenzie BEM. The biographical information below was extracted from

MacKenzie, John M, B.E.M. 1922–1996

  • From Campbeltown. Pipe Major of the 11th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during World War II and then the 2nd Battalion until 1947 and the 8th Battalion until 1952.
  • Pipe Major at Queen Victoria School after returning from South Africa where he had lived for a spell.
  • Composed ‘The MacNeill's of Ugadale’.
  • Taught by Robert Reid.
  • In 1938 he enlisted in the Argylls as a piper, later becoming pipe major of the 2nd and 8th battalions.
  • Was the principal mover behind the formation of the Kintyre Piping Society in 1951.
  • In 1953 he emigrated to Rhodesia but later came back to Scotland in 1965 and became piping instructor at Queen Victoria School, Dunblane.
  • He compiled his own book of pipe music which contained a number of his own tunes.
  • Amongst his best were the 6/8 Marches ‘Tug Argan Gap’ and ‘The MacNeills of Ugadale’.

The Argyllshire Gathering - September 1950's

Argyllshire Gathering(From Left) 1. John Finlay; 2.Pipe Sergeant Charlie D. Scott (City of Glasgow Police); 3. William Connell (Glasgow); 4.Donald MacLean (Lewis); 5.John D. Burgess; 6. George Stoddart (R.S.F.); 7. John M. Mackenzie(8th A.& S.H.); 8.Bob Henderson (Dundee).

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