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Open Easter to October 2018

Piping and music traditions

The Clan Donald Lands Trust (CDLT) aims to preserve traditions relating to Clan Donald and the Gaidhealtachd (Highlands and Islands) by supporting the music traditions of the Highlands, and by holding the Donald MacDonald Quaich Annual Piobaireachd piping competition at Armadale Castle. In 2017 CDLT launched a new competition for senior clarsach (Highland harp), building on the success of our junior competition.

Supporting young musicians

CDLT sponsors junior piping competitions at the Isle of Skye Highland Games and the Northern Meeting in Inverness. It also supports local clarsach tuition and has provided twelve clarsachs on long-term loan to local schools. Each year we run a junior clarsach competition, the Kate MacDonald Memorial Prize. Deadline for 2018 entries is 3 March and the competition will take place on 24 March; contact us (details below) for further information.

Princess Margaret of the Isles Prize for Senior Clarsach

Launched in 2017, this new senior clarsach competition is open to adults aged 19 and over. Candidates are asked to prepare a 25-minute recital including a new composition by the candidate. For further information see our news page. Deadline for entries is 15 April 2018. The four finalists will perform at Armadale Castle in front of a panel of judges on 16 June 2018.

Donald Macdonald Quaich Annual Piobaireachd Competition

Donald MacDonald, born about 1750, became a pupil of the MacArthurs, hereditary pipers to the MacDonalds of Skye. He later moved to Edinburgh, establishing himself as a maker of Highland and other bagpipes. At that time, the premier award for playing of the piobaireachd was a Prize Pipe, awarded annually by the Highland Society of London, which Donald won in 1817.

In 1822, he published a book of piobaireachd, written in a staff notation of his devising, which has remained the basis on which subsequent editors of piobaireachd have worked. Although well received, the book’s financial return prevented publication of Donald’s projected second volume.

Donald therefore presented the manuscript to the grandfather of General C.S. Thomson. Thomson used the MS as a reference in compiling ‘Ceol Mor’, a comprehensive collection of piobaireachd published in 1900.

Donald died in 1840 but his book has been reprinted and several of his arrangements have been played on Radio Scotland. By his own account, Donald embraced several schools or styles of playing and the way in which he wrote the standard movements in different tunes varies, providing scope for individual interpretation and expression.

Without his work, it is conceivable that much Highland musical heritage would have been lost. Although the piobaireachd arrangements usually heard today are those published by the Piobaireachd Society, derived mainly from the collection of Angus MacKay, the Donald MacDonald Quaich honours the memory of this revered piping pioneer.

The 2017 Donald MacDonald Cuaich competition took place on Friday 2nd June in the Stables Cafe, Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum of the Isles. Callum Beaumont was determined the winner and received the Cuaich from Mags Macdonald of Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum of the Isles. Callum is a piping instructor at Dollar Academy, Clachmannanshire. In his three years at Dollar Academy Callum has lead the Novice band to two consecutive champion of champion titles. Introduced to the bagpipes at the age of seven, Callum’s solo achievements have included winning both Gold Medals, the Silver Chanter and the Clasp at The Northern Meetings. In 2016 he won the Bratach Gorm in London.

Pipers and tunes:

Iain Speirs, “A Cholla mo Ruin” or “The Pipers Warning to his Master”

Finlay Johnstone, “Cumha an Aona Mhic” or ” Lament for the Only Son”

Stuart Liddell, “An Grota” or “The Goat”

Ian K. MacDonald, “Cill Chriosda” or “Glengarry’s March”

Callum Beaumont, “Cumha Dubh Shomairle- Lament for Samuel” or “The Stewarts White Banner”

Adjudicator: Colin MacLellan

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