Peter R. MacLeod
Born in Aird Uig on the island of Lewis on December 13, 1879, 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.