Piobaireachd Society of Antigonish
Official Pipers of
Antigonish Highland Society:
“The Ridge” MacDonald
PM, June 3rd, 2000
the Annual General Meeting of
Piobaireachd Society of Antigonish
Antigonish Highland Society Office
Main Street, Second Floor
are welcome to attend.
John Hamilton, President, Piobaireachd Society of Antigonish
Father Vernon Boutilier, Parish Priest, St. Andrews Parish
L-R Jocelyn Gillis
(Guest Speaker), Ian Juurlink, Isaac Mills, Laura MacLellan, Fr.
Vernon Boutilier (Parish Priest), Dr. John Hamilton (President,
Piobaireachd Society of Antigonish), Mary Ellen Baldner
at the grave of Alexander "The Ridge" MacDonald
of Official Pipers
“The Ridge” MacDonald and Allan Cameron
Jocelyn Gillis, Curator, Antigonish Heritage Museum
and First Variations will be played by
for Donald Ban MacCrimmon”
Battle of the Strome”
piobaireachds will be played by
Long In This Condition”
The Kilberry Book of Ceòl Mór
to the performers from Antigonish Town and County
John Hamilton, Janis MacLellan-Peters, and Scott Williams
a Gift Certificate
to Maureen Williams, by Janis MacLellan-Peters
to follow at Antigonish Highland Society Office)
“The Ridge” MacDonald
MacDonald was born about 1865 at Upper South River, Antigonish
County. He was the son of Alexander MacDonald, and grandson of
Allan MacDonald, the famous Gaelic poet. Like his father and
grandfather, Angus was a singer and a composer of Gaelic
songs. While working in Dorchester, New Brunswick, he studied
piping under the guidance of Pipe Major MacKenzie Baillie, of
Pictou County who was also stationed there at that time.
Minutes of the Antigonish Highland Society record that Angus
played at the annual St. Andrews Night Banquet in 1925 and for a
number of years thereafter. He was the piping judge at the
Antigonish Highland Games in 1927. Angus was named “Official
Piper” in 1934, and was listed as such in the Minutes again in
1936, but it is quite possible that he was given this title
prior to the mention of it in the 1934 Minutes.
was filmed by Judith Crawley in 1943 as he played and marched in
front of his home. He was also recorded singing, piping, and
playing the violin at a house ceilidh at the home of Peter
MacIntosh at Loch Katrine. Some of Angus’ songs were collected
and published by Helen Creighton of Nova Scotia and by John
Lorne Campbell of the Isle of Canna, Scotland.
Angus died on October 27th, 1951, at the age of 86.
was born in Springfield, Antigonish County on December 7th, 1903
to John A. and Elizabeth (Sullivan) Cameron. He and his younger
brother Hugh were both fascinated by the bagpipes, and learned
pretty well by ear as youngsters. Though Allan had no formal
lessons, he received some help from Duncan “Big Colin”
Chisholm of Marydale, and for several summers went to live with
his father’s first cousin, piper Dougald Gillis, of Pleasant
Valley, where he received tuition in return for working on the
appeared for the first time in the records of the Antigonish
Highland Games in 1922 when he placed first in Junior Piping. He
would continue to compete and win prizes right through to the
1960s. In 1937, he was admitted as a member of the Antigonish
Highland Society and that November he was named the Society’s
Official Piper, an office he would hold for most of the rest of
He played annually at the St. Andrews Night Banquets for
more than fifty years.
was a member of the very first pipe band in Antigonish, led by
Pipe Major Herman Beaton, in 1946. In 1950, the Antigonish
Highland Society presented Allan with a set of silver and ivory
mounted Henderson pipes. He played at the Opening of the Canso
Causeway in 1955, at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto
in 1963, and in Wilmington, Ohio in 1964. He played for the
Highland dancing competitions for over fifty years, in
Antigonish and across the Maritime Provinces.
Allan played publicly for the last time at the age of 91
on Canada Day, 1995. He died in 1996 at the age of 93.
about the tunes being played today:
Battle of the Strome
the end of the 16th century there was violent warfare between
Macdonells of Glengarry and the Mackenzies of Kintail. This
culminated, in 1602, in a great attack by the former, who still
held Castle Strome, on the Mackenzie at Glensheil. Kenneth
MacKenzie of Kintail visited his brother-in-law, Hector MacLean
of Duart to seek his help, and during his absence Angus Og of
Glengarry made a raid on Lochcarron. Angus Og lost his life in
the ship battle on Lochcarron, and was buried in the same tomb
as the MacKenzie family, with all the due ceremony for a
gentleman of his rank. A subsequent attempt to ambush Mackenzie
in the same place failed when Lady MacKenzie sent him a timely
word of warning.
following spring, MacKenzie besieged Castle Strome. For weeks
the siege went on, and there seemed to be little hope that the
garrison would ever surrender. Donald MacRae, who had been
captured by the MacDonells during their earlier raid on
Glenshiel, was a prisoner in the castle, and when he realized
that the Kintail men were preparing to abandon the siege, he
persuaded some captive Matheson women, who did all the work in
the castle, to pour water on the supplies of gunpowder stored in
barrels. When Glengarry’s men discovered this, there was a
great commotion and the maids were accused of treachery.
the uproar, Donald MacRae managed to escape by jumping from the
battlements onto a dung heap which broke his fall. He was able
to reach MacKenzie and tell him that the castle had no
serviceable gunpowder. The Mackenzie renewed their attack, took
the castle, and blew it up.
With the destruction of Strome Castle, the power of the
MacDonells in that area came to an end. MacKenzie later received
a charter from the Crown for the lands of Lochalsh and
Lochcarron which had formerly belonged to Glengarry. (It was as
a reprisal that the Glengarry Macdonalds later burned the church
of Kilchrist, the MacKenzie congregation reputedly being
number of clans in the north of Scotland formed a confederation
in 1609. With the exception of the MacLeans of Dochgarroch, the
component septs were all clearly descended from the same tribal
stock. That being so, all the septs wore the same badge, and had
the same war-cry - Loch Moy - a loch near the seat of the Chief
at Moy Hall. The name Catan or Gille Chatain means the servant
of St. Catan, which denotes little cat, and the crest, motto,
and armorial bearings of the clan bear out that this was
understood to be the meaning of the name.
tune is also known as An Groata Misgeach - The Drunken Groat.
MacDonald believed that it was composed on the christening of
Ruairidh Mór MacLeod of Dunvegan and Harris, one of the
greatest Highland chiefs of all time. In those days, the
christening would not be long after the birth, which occurred in
tune has often been attributed to Donald Mór MacCrimmon, but
Ruairidh Mór would have been eight years old before Donald Mór
was even born. The MacCrimmons, however, had long been
established as MacLeod’s pipers, so it is very likely that one
of them composed the tune. Alex Haddow suggests that it is more
likely that the composer was the rather shadowy Iain Odhar, born
about 1500, about whom very little is known. Iain Odhar was the
first hereditary piper to the MacLeods. His son, Patrick Donn,
born about 1530, and second hereditary piper, is also a possible
candidate for composer.
has also been suggested that the tune was actually composed for
Ruairidh Mór’s elder brother, William (13th chief), in 1560,
but this makes it even more unlikely that Donald Mór was the
MacLean was the son of Allan of the Firebrand, who had lead the
life of a desperate and depraved freebooter. Among his many
crimes, he plundered the lands of Lochbuie in 1525 and later
murdered his kinsman, MacLean of Lohire about 1540. Allan died
in his bed in 1551. Hector was his elder son, and succeeded his
father to the lands of Kintyre and Islay. Chief for only about
five years, Hector lived a life of ease, pleasure and bounty,
and squandered much of the fortune he had inherited.
When Lauchlin, eldest son of the Chief of the MacLean’s
of Duart, reached maturity in 1576, Hector tried to have him
excluded from the succession. When this failed, he tried to have
the young man murdered. Lauchlin found out, captured Hector, and
put him in irons in Duart Castle. Hector was taken to Coll in
1578 and was executed without trial.
for Donald Ban MacCrimmon
the 1745 Jacobite Rising, the MacLeods of Dunvegan and Harris
supported the Hanoverian cause. In February, 1746, Norman, the
19th Chief, was at Inverness with Loudon’s forces, which
numbered about 2000. Prince Charles arrived at Moy Hall where he
was entertained by Lady Anne MacIntosh. Loudon determined to
capture the prince but his plans were overheard and a warning
was sent. Prince Charles left the house and made his escape.
the meantime, Lady MacIntosh determined to make a stand to hold
off Loudon’s forces, thus allowing the Prince more time to
make his escape. She sent her blacksmith, Donald Fraser, and
five men to watch the crossing of the River Nairn at the Bridge
of Faillie. About midnight, Loudon’s troops approached the
bridge. Fraser and his men fell back to a pass near Creag an
Eoin where they took up positions behind peat stacks along a
front of about a quarter of a mile. When the advanced guard of
Loudon’s men reached the pass, the defenders opened fire from
several vantage points. They also yelled orders to other
non-existing groups - the Macintoshes, the MacGillivrays and the
MacBeans to form at the centre, the MacDonalds to take the right
and the Frasers to take the left - urging them to surround the
approaching enemy and cut off their retreat.
men believed that they were being attacked by a much larger
force, and turned back, running for their lives, carrying the
rest of the more than 1500 men with them. Fraser and his five
men were now firing at ramdom and Donald Ban MacCrimmon, who had
been beside his Chief, fell, mortally wounded.
MacCrimmon, it seemed, had predicted his own end when he
left Skye, with his now famous piobaireachd, “MacCrimmon
Returns No More”. Donald Ban was the only casualty of this
battle, and from his death arose one of the greatest
piobaireachds of all time, “Lament For Donald Ban MacCrimmon”.
Long In This Condition
tune may belong to the period when Donald Mór MacCrimmon fled
to Sutherland from the MacKenzies, having burned a Kintail
village in revenge for the murder of his younger brother,
Patrick. There are various stories about this piobaireachd and
it has been dated, by some, to the Battle of Worcester, 1651. It
has been attributed variously to Donald Mór, Padruig Mór, and
best known tale, however, is of Donald Mór sitting unrecognized
near the door at a MacKay wedding and singing a little Gaelic
rhyme which may be translated roughly as:
Too long like this, too long like this,
long like this Am I.
long like this, without a bite or sup
the Wedding of MacKay.
This song may well have been the original version of this
tune. It is known that Donald Mór was in Sutherland in 1612.
This was important for subsequent developments in piping as it
was during his exile in Sutherland that Donald Mór met and
taught the MacKays who would later become the famous piping
family of Gairloch.
Ard is the name given to a high hilloch where a beacon fire
would be lit to warn of impending danger, and there burned while
the fiery cross was sent through every strath and glen to rouse
the inhabitants. A drawing of the hill with its flame forms part
of the crest of the MacKenzie’s of Seaforth. It is often
mistaken for a volcanic mountain, being heraldically termed a
mountain inflamed. It is accompanied by the motto Luceo non
uro, I enlighten, I do not burn. The tune is also known as
The MacKenzie’s March.