I was born in 1957 in Kincardine, Ontario. The fourth of five children from Scottish emigrants John and Irene MacRae.
Dad was a true highlander from Scourie, Sutherlandshire. He also played some fiddle, accordion, harmonica, and had sung, as a boy, in the Gaelic mods. His enthusiasm for piping was at its peak while I was an infant and obviously this made an indelible impression on me. I remember visits to Wilfred McQuillans shop to pick up supplies where often new tunes and stories were shared with great enthusiasm. When I was about 11 years old dad was approached to teach a local pipe band in Orangeville, Ontario. Dad was unable to accept but my sister and I started on the path to enlightenment via this art form. Two local pipers Chuck Thompson and Bruce Haw did the initial instruction. Neither was a competitive player. After the group fizzled out I was the only member remaining still keen to pursue the instrument and joined Chuck in the "Sandhill" pipe band.
This was a local legion group interested in parades and fall fair performances. There was one member, "OLD" Glen Mcwhirter, who hailed originally from Ireland, who knew of the whole competitive piping culture and shared this with me. This led me to my first serious instruction from Gail Brown, that is, besides the College of Piping's green book. I joined Gail's first "kids/juvenile" band was the "Hopedale" pipe band. It evolved into the Oakville Optimists which enjoyed great success in the lower grades winning our first "Champion Supreme", and Maxville, in 1972. I attended several piping schools over the next few years. These included such instructors as P/M John Wilson (Edinbugh), P.M. John Maclellan, James McIntosh, John D. Burgess, Reah MacKay, Bill Livingston and Ed Neigh among others. In 1979 I moved to the big city (Toronto) to embark on a career in the I.T. industry. That same year I sought private lessons from P/M John Wilson and joined my first grade one pipe band, Toronto and District Caledonia under P/M Ron Rollo. Ronnie and I both left in 1980 and I spent a year with my future wife's band, the Clans of York. In 1981 I joined the General Motors pipe band which was comprised mostly of members from the former Caber Feigh band under Bill Livingstone and John Walsh. John, while not a frequent competitor on the solo boards, possessed a phenomenal talent and brought to the table experience from his days in Shotts and Dykehead (in the McAllister era) and British Caledonian Airways. I also took some private tuition from John before he left Ontario for Antigonish.
The next year the G.M. band morphed into the 78'th Fraser Highlanders. Over the next decade (80's) we would win numerous North American titles and follow our leader on the annual journey to the world pipe band championships. Bill introduced this annual excursion to us as a five year plan. Sure enough in the 5'th year they pulled off a world championship. The 78'Th produced several recordings and performed at some memorable concerts the most significant being "Live in Ireland" in 1987.
In the 90's at some point I opted to leave the 78'Th and played with the Metro Police under Jake Watson and later Peel Police under Mike Grey, both former 78'th friends and bandsmen. Under Jake, in Metro, we managed to end the long time winning streak of the 78'Th. In 1994 Metro won the North American Championships in Maxville. In 2001 I rejoined the 78'Th which was still under Bill Livingstone's command. We were 6'Th, 5'Th at the worlds in 2001, 2002 respectively, as I recall.
In 2002 my family made a huge decision to move to Vancouver, B.C., to pursue a career with the software company PeopleSoft. A major change in technology, for me, but more current than the I.B.M. environments in which I had worked for over the prior two decades. Also a major change for our whole family which now included three sons, two dogs, a pair of Degus, and a leopard Gecko.
Fortunately the piping scene in the lower mainland, while slightly smaller than Ontario, offered exceptional quality. I quickly found myself involved in the pipe band scene first with RMM2 then SFU for each one season. Unfortunately fate intervened in the workplace with a "hostile takeover" of Peoplesoft by Oracle corporation which took me up to the B.C. interior for a stint. Fortuitously, in my absence, the RMM2 band, having won the grade two world pipe band championship, had morphed into, and resurrected, one of Canada's finest pipe bands from the 70's, "Triumph Street".
I returned to Vancouver taking a full time position at the University of British Columbia as a systems analyst (PeopeSoft Enterprise Systems) in August 2007 and at this time also joining the Triumph Street Pipe Band (now DTSPB). The many accomplishments of this young group can be found elsewhere on this website!
I am also on the list of BCPA Approved Adjudicators.
The end ... at least thus far!