Allan MacPhail Jr. was born on December 21, 1926 at St. Andrew’s West, the son of Allan Sr. and his wife, the former Catherine Ann MacDonald of Munroe’s Mills and St. Raphael’s. He received his elementary and secondary education at St. Andrew’s School. He went on to graduate from the University of Ottawa and the College of Education, Toronto. Allan is a nephew of fiddler John Angus MacDonald and pianist, Mary Frances MacPhee. This family was noted in Glengarry for its active participation in traditional music.
Allan chose teaching as a profession and had a very successful career; however, his heritage, his innate talent and his love of music made him a leader in the field of Celtic music. He not only maintained the musical tradition of his family, but he sustained and enhanced the Celtic music culture in Glengarry by generously playing the music of his ancestors and encouraging his own family and friends to maintain the tradition. Music has always held an important place in the MacPhail household. Allan and his wife Christena (MacDonell) of the St. Raphael’s area now reside in Alexandria. Their children, Alana, Martin, Innis and Monica live in Ontario and frequently visit with the grandchildren.
During his 60 years of fiddling, Allan has generously shared his talents with many audiences at charitable events, the National Arts Centre, Glengarry and Cape Breton concert stages and church services. Besides being a fine violinist, Allan is a strong advocate of preserving the Celtic music of Glengarry. That specific interest was the impetus for his founding the Glengarry Strathspey and Reel Society as he was afraid that the Celtic music traditionally played in Glengarry would be lost. Allan was the main force behind the group’s two successful recordings. With his family, he made another equally successful record, Loch Garry Breezes, featuring Allan and Innis on the fiddles, Alana on the piano and Martin on the bass guitar. This record included Allan’s very fine renditions of Scottish and Irish music, and featured his own composition, Loch Garry Breezes.
Although Allan has had some health problems in recent years, he continues to play whenever he has the opportunity, whether at a house party, a concert, a nursing home or the church. In addition, he is very supportive of young people and is fast to offer music to play and tips on playing it, if requested. He has also been helpful in promoting the foundation of the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame.