Donald William (Donnie D.D.) MacLeod

2013 Jun

Donald William (Donnie D.D.) MacLeodThis legendary Glengarry piper was born September 28, 1890 to Donald D. MacLeod and his wife, Mary Ann MacSweyn. As a youngster, he learned to play the fife, accordion, piano and fiddle before he learned to play the bagpipes. He picked up tunes from his uncle, Fred Neil P. McCrimmon, his cousin Jimmie McCrimmon and Big Colin Campbell.

In January 1915, he joined the 42nd battalion of the Black Watch, Canadian Expeditionary Force as a piper. On June 10, the regiment went overseas from Montreal to the battlefront. The march of over ten miles to the front line in Belgium was a very difficult time for pipers. Mr. MacLeod reported, “Pipers doubled as stretcher bearers in the First World War. We were loaded down with equipment which periodically was deposited on transport trucks to allow us to play when we were on the march.”

The pipers took part in the battles of Mt. Sorrel, the Somme, Vimy Ridge and Amiens and followed the final retreat of the Germans. In the Battle of Mons, Donald was the only surviving piper and led the Black Watch through Mons on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. The regiment was demobilized and when Donnie returned to Canada, he became part of the Black Watch Pipe Band in Montreal.

On his return from the war he settled in Montreal where he married Isabel Nielson of Paisley. They raised a son, Donald and a daughter, Sheila. A proud Glengarrian, he operated the Glengarry Grocery in Verdun for a few years, then joined Canadian Pacific as an accountant for the next thirty-five years. He was a member of the Montreal Celtic Congress, where he practised his Gaelic. He kept up his association with the Black Watch and attended their 50th reunion in Toronto. He was asked to play, so, on borrowed pipes, he played the same march, “Highland Laddie,” he had played at Mons in 1918. At age 87, he was still an active member of the Montreal branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. He was a member of the Clan MacLeod Society of Montreal and greeted Clan Chieftain, Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod in July, 1951.

In 1978, he was the guest of honour at the Montreal Highland Games, and at 88, he was believed to be the oldest active piper in North America as well as the chief elder of the Montreal Scottish Community. He was similarly honoured by the Glengarry Highland Games for his long years of piping at the Games. He continued to enjoy his interest in the Scottish culture until his death in 1983.

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