If Jimmy Shand was the accordion hero of Lowland Scotland, Bobby MacLeod was that of the Highlands. He wrote several superb pipe tunes, partly because he was a very good piper.
He was born in Wester Ross in 1925, and moved to Tobermory on the Isle of Mull when he was 12. He was taught piping by his father, Duncan. He was playing piobaireachd by age 12 and received top-drawer piping instruction from Willie MacLean and Willie Ross. As a teen, he took to the melodeon, or button accordion. As soon as he had mastered enough tunes, he formed a band and began playing at local dances. He soon become a regular at the Argyllshire Gathering Ball.
By the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Bobby MacLeod’s band had earned international notoriety through TV appearances, tours of Britain, Canada and the US, and recordings for Beltona, Parlophone and Phillips. He was an innovator as well, employing a second accordionist in the person of Hugh Mallarky, a former church organist, who was responsible for many of the band’s arrangements.
He gave up the life of a full-time musician in 1958 and returned to the family’s Mishnish Hotel in Torbermory. He remained active as a band leader, player and composer, served on Tobermory town Council, then as town Provost for 14 years. He died in 1991. His good friend John D. Burgess played “John MacFadyen of Melfort” and “Happy We Have Been Together” on a cold January day at the graveside.
He was commemorated in Donald MacLeod’s popular 6/8 march, “MacLeod of Mull.”
-with notes from www.footstompin.com and private correspondence with Mr. Duncan MacKechnie.