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PPBSO Life Achievement award: Colin MacLellan

The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario recognized two outstanding long-serving members at the 74th Glengarry Highland Games, Maxville, on Saturday, July 30: Colin MacLellan and Hugh Cameron. Transcripts of both presentations will be published through the coming week.

The PPBSO is grateful to the games committee for allowing us the opportunity to recognize our members in this public way.

Life-long friend of Colin MacLellan, Michael Grey, presented the award on behalf of members of the PPBSO.

What follows is the full text of Colin MacLellan’s recognition:

Good afternoon, everyone!

Today I have the privilege of honouring the piping and pipe band world’s most famous dual citizen. He’s no stranger to the people of Glengarry County – and Maxville, in particular – in fact, you’ll know he lived here for many years raising his family. He is now a resident of Edinburgh, Scotland – and today he’s with us. Of course, you may know, I’m referring to the one and only, Colin Roy MacLellan.

With the thumb of one hand, I can count the number of pipers active today who I have known for a longer period of time. I first met Colin as a student at a piping and drumming summer school in Brockville, Ontario – a very long time ago. Along with his father, Captain John A MacLellan – that great legend of 20th century piping – the teen-aged Colin, administered the large and successful Seaway School of Piping and Drumming.

Since that long-ago time on the banks of the Saint Lawrence, Colin’s life has taken many twists and turns – as it does with most people over the course of a long time. From life lived in areas as varied as Vancouver, Lunenberg, Ottawa, St Catherines, Glasgow, Edinburgh – and Maxville – at least one thing stands as a common element in all these places and associated life situations. Yes. Of course … its bagpipes.

From his earliest days as a piper, Colin has been relentless in his pursuit of excellence. A successful stint in the amateur ranks saw him competing as a professional class piper at the age of 18. On his journey to becoming a piping master he won both Inverness and Oban gold medals, the Silver Chanter at Dunvegan Castle on Skye – twice in succession – and countless other piping prizes of note.

The man can play.

So there’s some irony, I think, when we look to a famous line from one of George Bernard Shaw’s works – and that is: “those who can: do – and those who can’t: teach”. Colin is a shining exception to Shaw’s contention.

It bares noting that in the tradition-bound world of the Great Highland Bagpipe teaching is everything. The soul of the music can’t be imparted from a cold recording. The survival of the instrument’s music is dependant on good teaching. Without pipers working to help others know and understand the music – it withers. In fact, without teaching, the music dies.

Colin has done his part. His teaching efforts have been monumental. They have also been impactful. The music of the bagpipe thrives in many places around the world thanks to Colin MacLellan’s teaching.

During his years in Canada he taught at seventeen different summer schools across North America – an astonishing number. I’d have to think during this time, especially, Colin wore the figurative clothes of piping missionary very well.

In 1986 he moved to Glengarry County, where he was appointed Piping Teacher for the Stormont Dundas and Glengarry County School Board as well as the Pipe Major of the Glengarry Pipe Band. It was due to Colin’s efforts in teaching at three different high schools – while also the Director of the Glengarry School of Piping and Drumming – that he was able to move the Glengarry Pipe Band upwards through the competition grades: from Grade 4 all the way to the Glengarry Pipe Band’s eventual promotion to the premier grade, that is: grade one pipe band status.

Along the way the band won Canadian, US, and North American titles in Grades 4, 3 and 2. For those who know even a little of the ins and outs of the competitive pipe band world you will appreciate the glorious magnitude of this accomplishment.

Of course, we know today, in Glengarry County, especially, Colin’s teaching efforts of not-so-long ago continue to bare fruit.

His work with pipe bands is broad and varied: he helped build a successful grade one band in Ottawa, the Dunvegan Pipe Band – an inventive and outward-looking group. After settling back in Edinburgh he took on the task of rebuilding, the Lothian & Borders Police Pipe band. In his first season with the grade two band he led them to the title of Champion of Champions. He is the last Pipe Major of the Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band to have lead the band to the grade one finals of the World Pipe Band Championship.

In his piping career, Colin has worn many hats: player, teacher, reed-maker and two, in particular that can be called out: composer and administrator.

In 1992 Colin was winner of the international composing competition for piobaireachd, held by Clan Donald Canada. He performed his wining tune, ”The Salute to Sir John A Macdonald”, for then Prime Minister Mulroney, at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of Macdonald’s death.

As an administrator Colin’s volunteer efforts have been many: He is currently Chair of the Scottish Solo Piping Judges Association and for the past fifteen years has served as a Board Member of Glasgow’s famous Piping Live! International Festival.

While we recognize Colin today for a life of contribution and excellence – we know there is more to come.

And, so, on behalf of the membership of The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, I am privileged, to present Colin MacLellan our award for Lifetime Achievement and Life Membership.

Colin MacLellan receives his PPBSO Life Achievement award from Michael Grey (photo courtesy: Courtesy of Lindsay McIntosh-Mainville)

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