John MacraePart One: ‘It’s just a great feeling playing the pipes’
Duration: 38m 12s
Recorded: 26 July 2018
About this recording
John Macrae was born in Dunbeath and developed a passion for the bagpipes as a child, after a parade in the village by Wick Pipe Band. He played the pipes during his national service and, after returning to Caithness, was a member of Thurso Pipe Band for 30 years. He had been a police photographer in Edinburgh and went on to work as a photographer at Dounreay. John also began covering community events for the local press – his first photo in the Groat was published in 1958. As a photographer who could also play the pipes, he was in great demand for wedding assignments.
In this wide-ranging interview conducted in his home overlooking Thurso Bay, John talks about his 70 years as a piper, being shot at in Aden, meeting survivors of the Royal Oak disaster in Scapa Flow, playing for members of the royal family, and the satisfaction he still gets from teaching young up-and-coming musicians. His pipes were once owned by a World War Two serviceman from Wick and John explains why he would never part with them.
He begins by giving details of the pipe tunes played at the Battle of Altimarlach outside Wick in 1680.