Alasdair Gillies

Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies was a piper whose name had become a legend in his own lifetime, both in his native Scotland and his adopted country, the United States. He had the advantage of having been solidly and soundly taught by his father, the late and much missed Pipe Major Norman Gillies. The family hailed from the Western Isles, the heartland of the Noble Instrument, and had close links with the Isle of Raasay, home of the MacKays of Raasay, from whom our knowledge of the ancient art is derived. Alasdair himself had long service in the regiment of the Northern Counties of Scotland, the Queen’s Own Highlanders, and was its last pipe major, at a time when by common consent its pipe band was admitted to be the finest in the army. It was here that Alasdair’s ability as a teacher first became evident, as his pipers strove to emulate his enthusiasm and skill, several going on to forge successful careers on the competition circuit. On his retirement from the army Alasdair emigrated to the United States where he continued his successful career as a teacher and as a performer.

Alasdair had a record of success in competition unequalled at the time his 'Lochbroom' album was recorded, both in Scotland and in America. It is however possible to amass an impressive list of the glittering prizes through luck, supple fingers, and a good memory, and many a piper has acquired a corresponding reputation without really getting to the heart of the instrument, or, more importantly, to the soul of its music. Alasdair excelled in both fields of endeavour. He won on the competition platform with a solid display of sheer skill in the traditional interpretation of the classics, ceòl beag and ceòl mòr alike; he could charm a cèilidh audience with a demonstration of virtuosity and brilliance in the less formal type of music with its intricate and demanding technique.

Alasdair died on 27 August 2011, aged just 47 and his loss is felt keenly by family and friends alike.