John Roy MacDonell was born on the Third Concession of Kenyon in 1902. After losing his mother when he was two years old, he was raised by John & Ellen Kennedy on the fourth of Kenyon. Here he had the opportunity to meet a talented piper and Highland dancer, Neil MacVean. From Mr. MacVean he learned not only the pipes, but Highland dancing as well. As a result, Roy performed as a dancer with the 59th Highlanders Pipe Band during the First World War as part of their recruiting campaign. Later, he joined the 59th Highlanders as a piper. in 1922 when the 59th became the Stormont Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders, Roy, as a member, progressed to the rank of Pipe Sargent. Like other area pipers, Roy was a member of other smaller local bands such as the Greenfield Band and the Highland Society of Alexandria.
Individually, Roy played the pipes whenever asked. He played at weddings, funerals, church socials, Orange walks, Remembrance Day services. He was often asked to accompany Highland dancers for both competition and practice and because of his own dancing experience, he was more than able to fit his music to the steps and timing of the dancer. For several years, starting in 1948, Roy played with the SD&Gs as “Duty Band” for the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville. They played at the train station, welcoming visitors from Ottawa and Montreal and at the Games, piping in visiting dignitaries such as John Diefenbaker in 1957.
Roy considered himself honoured when, in 1959, he had the pleasure of meeting Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip when he played with the SD&G Highlanders for the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
In 1934 Roy married Lenore Wood of St. Andrew’s; the wedding was attended by the entire SD&G Pipe Band in full ceremonial dress. Lenore and Roy raised six children; their house was always filled with pipe music so it was natural that two of his sons, George (Buddy) and Stephen became pipers as well.