Malcolm M. MacKenzie

(1939- )

Malcolm M. MacKenzieThere can be few if any within the piping fraternity who have the depth of experience on the pipe band scene, both as a player, an adjudicator, and a producer of piping recordings. His recording activities embrace many of the various forms of the instrument ranging from Ceol Mor to light music and pipe band recordings, including 20 years of producing  the CDs of the World Pipe Band Championships.

“Malky” MacKenzie was born in 1939 and lived most of his life with his wife Janet in Bearsden on the outskirts of Glasgow.

His piping career began at age 9, when he came under the tutelage of the great player and composer Peter R. MacLeod of Partick. ”Wee Peter,” as he was affectionately referred to, was the composer of such classics as “The Conundrum,” “Dora MacLeod,” “John Morrison of Assynt House,” “Arnish Light,” “Hugh Kennedy” and many more.

Like so many Partick boys, Malky became a member of the Boys Brigade, in his case the 108th Glasgow Company of the Boys Brigade, who challenged and defeated the pre-eminent might of the 214th Glasgow Company Boys Brigade in the coveted Highland Shield competition for Boys Brigade bands in the 1950s. Malky recalls with pride all that the Boys Brigade has given him and he continued his involvement in the institution, including as Honorary President of the vibrant 108th Ex-Members Association.

As a 16-year-old Malky joined the Rutherglen Pipe Band and, under the direction of their highly respected Pipe Major, Jimmy Baxter, he competed with them in Grade 2 and then in Grade 1.

When he left school, he joined Yarrows Shipbuilders and remained in their employment for all of his working life. As a teenager, he worked for Yarrows in the North of England. During these years, piping became sidelined for a while as he played professional football. However, his burgeoning football career was cut short by injury. Shortly thereafter, he was back on Clydeside and took one of the most significant steps in his life when he joined the renowned Red Hackle Pipes & Drums.

The “Hackle” were based in Otago St. in Glasgow, directly opposite The College of Piping. Many will not know the immense contribution played by the Red Hackle’s owners, Hepburn & Ross, in the establishment and ongoing development of the College.

At the beginning of Malky’s 22-year career with the Red Hackle, the Pipe Major was Angus McLeod, and he was followed by Donald Murray. Both played important roles in developing Malky’s pipe band knowledge and experience.

In 1963, with some convincing from Malcolm and a Hepburn & Ross board member, Pipe Major John Weatherston, M.B.E. B.E.M., took command of the Red Hackle. “Wee Jock” had formerly been Pipe Major of the pipe band of the 227 Territorial Army Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and led them to the World Pipe Band Championship at Belfast in 1962.

So began a partnership which would take the Red Hackle to new heights in pipe band innovation and recording. From that day on, Malky benefitted from a close and long-standing friendship with John Weatherston. He would later succeed John as Pipe Major, become an R.S.P.B.A. judge and pursue with vigour and enthusiasm his role as a producer of piping recordings.

Under P/M John Weatherston (left) and P/Sgt. Malcolm MacKenzie, the Red Hackle Pipes & Drums travelled extensively, including trips to France and the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s.

During Malky’s time as a player and Pipe Major of the Red Hackle, only the premier Prize in the Grade One World Championships eluded the band. In 1973, with Malky as John Weatherston’s Pipe Sergeant, the Red Hackle won the prestigious Inter-Continental Pipe Band Championships at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Canada. In 1978, as Pipe Major, he led the band to a fourth-place finish at the World Championships in Lanark, securing third place for piping.

As Pipe Sergeant and then Pipe Major of the Red Hackle, Malky encouraged bold new innovations in pipe band musicianship. Tommy Wilson, a colleague of Malky’s at Yarrows, was an accomplished organist. Malky introduced Tommy to John Weatherston, and before long the band had recorded such tunes as “Longeuval” and “The Gareloch” with organ accompaniment on several ground-breaking and popular albums. This was a revolutionary step in pipe bands and would give Red Hackle a reputation as one of the best bands never to win a world championship. The band would later add brass to its music mix and produce “Red Hackle in Concert” one of the most popular and entertaining pipe band recordings of its time.

In 1985 Malky retired from band life and became a pipe band adjudicator, judging all major championships at every level. He also took the rare step as a judge of learning pipe band snare drum with former Red Hackle leading drummer Wilson Young, feeling that providing effective ensemble judging required that he acquire an informed understanding of the vagaries of the drummer’s role. He has judged all over the World, including Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and mainland Europe. Today he is one of the most senior R.S.P.B.A. judges and serves as Vice-Convener of the Adjudicators Management Board.

malcolm-trossachs250His work in recording production has been significant and extensive. He has produced piping recordings for Klub Records since 1978, including the entire “Pipers of Distinction” series and many years of World Championship recordings, as well as other projects such as Victoria Police’s “MasterBlasters,” St. Laurence O’Toole’s “Dawning of the Day” pre-World’s Championship concert and many more.

Piping compositions have flowed freely from Malky’s pen for many years and a number of his tunes have been published and played in competition.

Malky is grateful to Janette Montague, for her unfailing help in rendering his tunes in proper form.

June 2010
Hector Russell, JM

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