The tune Flett from Flotta
has an interesting story behind it. Pipe Major Donald MacLeod,
MBE, was a very prominent piper of old in the Scottish
regiments. The regimental silver was on its way down to London
for a big "do" and Donald and another soldier were guarding the
silver on a train. While sitting on the crates containing the
silver, they played their chanters to while away the time.
Donald said they should write a tune to pass the time and when
the tune was finished they were looking for a title. He asked
the big soldier what was his name and where was he from. The
rest is (as they say) history. The tune was written after Donald
observed the peculiar gait of Flett. The rhythm is supposed to
reflect his awkward walking style; it helps with the phrasing of
the tune if you think of it like that, too.
Flotta is an
island off the south west of Mainland, Shetland. The name may
come from the Old Norse, flatey meaning flat island, and
the island's highest point is only ten meters.
Until 1914, Flotta was a quiet
farming community. In 1910, a population of 431 included two
blacksmiths, four carpenters and three dressmakers. But
everything changed with the arrival of the Royal Navy in Scapa
Flow at the start of WWI. During
World War I, the island was
home to a naval base. The dreadnought
HMS Vanguard sank nearby in 1917, reputedly the
worst maritime disaster in UK waters. In WW2, the island was
again used as a military base.
Pipe Major Donald MacLeod (1917-1982) was
born in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. He was one of the
finest, most creative and merriest, recent, great highland
Scottish bagpipers. He was also a remarkable teacher of the
highland bagpipe. In addition, Donald MacLeod was one of the
most original and innovative composers for the bagpipe. His most
popular and most recorded tunes include "Susan MacLeod", "The
Blackberry Bush" and "The Hammer on the Anvil". He
died in Glasgow in 1982.
MacLeod Memorial Competition is an invitational piping
competition held on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. The
competition, started in 1994 by the Lewis & Harris Piping
Society, was instituted to honor Donald MacLeod.