Peter R. MacLeod

(1878-1965)

Peter R. MacLeodBorn in Aird Uig on the island of Lewis on December 13, 1878, Peter R. MacLeod came to Glasgow around 1900, where he worked as a shipwright at Connells Shipbuilders until about 1927. At that time he was involved in an industrial accident in which his right leg became entangled in the gearing of a winch, necessitating amputation. This marked the end of his competitive piping career, and in fact he would not work again until 1941 when he returned to the shipyards until his retirement in 1955. Though he was fitted with an artificial leg, he was in pain from the injury for much of his life and would remove the prosthesis to ease the discomfort.

He joined the Territorial Army in the early 1900s and enlisted in the 7th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). He achieved the rank of Pipe Major and served in Egypt and Gallipoli.

He composed more than 200 tunes in his lifetime and was one of the most original composers of his day, penning such distinctive classics as “The Conundrum,” “Dora MacLeod,” “John Morrison, Assynt House,” “Major Manson,” “Hugh Kennedy,” and “Pipe Major Willie MacLean.”

He also composed a piobaireachd called “Salute to Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod,” which earned accolades from those who heard it. However, the score and hence the tune, have been lost.

His pupils included his sons Iain and Peter Jr., Norman Gillies and double Gold Medallist and former Piobaireachd Society president Andrew Wright.

Peter was a longtime resident of 22 Exeter Drive in the Partick area of Glasgow. His wife Christina MacDonald predeceased him and in later life he lived with his daughters Chrissie and Dora (of strathspey fame) in Knightswood. He died in Erskine Old Soldiers’ Hospital in Glasgow on June 16, 1965.

Of course, his son Peter R. MacLeod Jr. was a composer in the much the same mold as his father, so much so that there is some controversy about who composed some “Peter R. MacLeod” tunes. The great reel “Arnish Light” was said to be a joint composition. The MacLeod family was a musical one, and it is said that son Hector had particular input into some of the tunes as did his Peter’s wife Christian and daughters Gina and Dora. All were accomplished musicians.

Peter Senior was a player in the older, round style, while his son was a much more pointed. This may help point the way toward who composed which tune.According to Peter Jr., his father was not well known in the piping community at large until he introduced his talented son to the best pipers in the world. From that time on his status as a knowledgeable piper never dimmed and he became established as one of the best and most prolific composers of the century.

JM, July 2007
-with notes from the Piping Times, January, 1998, article by Angus J. MacLellan, Hebridean Connections and private conversations with Andrew Wright.

3 Comments

  • Ronald P Macleod

    His first born son Hector, my father, wrote many of the Intro’s and final parts of my grandfathers’ music and it is a great pity that my father has been “removed ” from this liturgy.
    However truth will out and of my Grandfathers greatest help were his wife Christina and his daughters Gina, Chrissie and of course Dora. Who were all accomplished musicians. Pipes and piano. I remember well them playing in my mothers” front Room”..:-)
    Happy to put the record straight.
    Ronald Peter Macleod
    PS He and my Grandmother were actually born in Aird Uig..:-)

    • Thanks for this Ronald. I wonder if you receive the email I sent a week or so ago suggesting I might like to phone or meet with you to further update the MacLeod bios?
      Cheers,
      Jim

  • Ronal P Macleod

    There is yet another error in this bibliography.
    My Grandfather Peter Roderick Macleod was married to Christina Macdonald and NOT Alice Cunningham,
    Alice Cunningham was the wife of my father hector Macleod.
    Please correct.
    Any postings re Peter Roderick Macleod and Peter Jnr really must be verified and not taken as factual.
    I have posted factual errors here.

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