Four will be inducted into the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame on May 27

The 2020 inductees into the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame will finally be officially inducted and honored at a dinner on Friday, May 27 at the Bonnie Glen Pavilion near Alexandria.

The 2020 inductees are:

  • Shelley MacPhee: piper, promoter
  • Ashley MacLeod: violinist, teacher
  • The SD&G Highlanders Regimental Pipes and Drums: Musicians, Promoters
  • Sandy and Alice Watt (deceased): musicians

Below are the biographies of each of the inductees:

Ashley McLeod McRae

Ashley MacLeod-McRae

First taught by her father, Ian, when she was ten and later by Denis Lanctot, Ashley MacLeod-McRae’s youthful exuberance and love for the violin have made her a master artist of our time. She and her father helped rekindle interest in fiddle music in Glengarry.

Ashley has won numerous awards in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes and, at the age of 14, was invited to play at the Canadian Grandmaster Violin Championships – an honor few can achieve. In 2003 she performed with the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band. Playing with the band Hadrian’s Wall (which she continues to do) brought her to Highland Games across North America. Her style and original compositions have captivated audiences wherever she has performed.

In 2003, Ashley was at Carnegie Hall in New York, playing with the Ottawa Police Services Pipe Band in their 9/11 commemoration. In 2004, she made an appearance on Country Music Television (CMT) with country star sensation Johnny Reid.

Ashley returned to Vancouver in 2005, at the invitation of the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, who called upon her expertise on fiddle and keyboard for their upcoming launch of At home Volume 1 and later Volume 2 in 2006. That same year, she opened for the original members of the Seven Nation Band called Clan Na Gael on their US tour.

The Brigadoons hosted her playing with the band for 16 years. She has also performed with The Two Paddys, Soltice, a band from Montreal, The Paper Boys from Vancouver with whom she has toured Europe and was front line for Torridor Scottish Country Dance Band in 2015. She also formed the fiddler ensemble, Scotch River Fiddlers, that same year. She composed and wrote slow tunes, marches, jigs, strathspeys and reels.

Over the past twenty years, Ashley has taught violin, piano and dance to several lucky students. Extremely generous with her time and talents, she has participated in numerous recordings, workshops, fundraisers, benefits, concerts and religious events. At home, she created “Mini Music Makers,” a program for preschoolers to instill in them the joys of playing the violin.

This busy mother of four, along with her husband Chad, taught Kenzie, Shelby, Glen Ian and Chancy a love of Celtic music. Two CDs have also been made of Ashley’s fiddle playing, some traditional, others of her own composition. She also received her Bachelor of Education from the University of Ottawa in 2020 and is a full-time substitute teacher at Laggan Public School.

Glengarry and many other places have been enriched by Ashley’s contribution to all things Celtic. She has accomplished so much in her young life and we look forward to her varied and continued efforts.

Shelley MacPhee

Shelley MacPhee

For over 50 years, Shelley MacPhee has been a driving force and a great influence in the continued operation of the Glengarry School of Piping and Drumming. During this time hundreds of pupils, many from Glengarry, passed through the school, learning the fine art of Highland bagpipes and drumming.

Shelley’s bagpipe career began in 1967 under Charlie Bell at the Glengarry School of Piping and Drumming (GSPD) in Maxville. Shelley’s mother, Sybil, was a member of the GSPD executive and very supportive in that role. Shelley progressed rapidly, and her Grade 8 teacher was the famous Connie Kippen Blaney.

In 1970 Shelley joined the Glengarry Pipe Band under Pipe Major Dave Danskin. This allowed him many trips to Scotland. She spent a few years playing for the City of Brockville Pipe Band.

When Shelley had children, who later became accomplished pipers, she honored them with two new tunes written in their namesake; Captain John’s piobaireachd Lullaby for Iain and Scott MacAulay’s famous hornpipe Emily Kate MacLellan.

In 1986, Shelley returned with her family to Maxville and resumed her place in the band, beginning to teach at GSPD even during the summer months. His constant support matched his constant search for the best current bagpipe practices. Many of his bands were award-winning ensembles locally and at world competitions.

Shelley worked closely with Robert Wilson and Janet MacCrimmon to rebuild the school after her mother’s death. She received the Canada 150 Sesquicentennial Award for Community Service, was inducted into the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame in 2020 and tonight she is inducted in 2022.

Glengarry is very grateful to Shelley for his work, which spread and improved the Celtic tradition of bagpipes and drums. May his contributions and gifts continue to influence our love of Celtic culture. His own words describe what it means to be successful in bagpipes and drums.

“Success in a pipe band is based on three things: very good education, good leadership and the need to give everyone a chance.”

Regimental Pipes and Drums of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders (main photo)

Shortly after Confederation in 1867, the 59and The Stormont and Glengarry Battalion of Infantry, headquartered at Cornwall, was organized under a general militia order on July 3, 1868, by the amalgamation of the companies of the Stormont Volunteer Militia , Dundas and Glengarry. Soon after, a pipe and drum band was organized, although it took several years for the band to adopt kilted dress. It happened in the 1920s.

When the 154and The United Counties Overseas Battalion was established in 1915 for service in Europe. It was not allowed to parade as a Highland unit, but it did have a pipe band. The MP, Mr. John MacMartin, paid to have the unit kilted, and the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire presented a silk flag before the overseas trip.

When World War II began, the SD&G Highlanders were in Debert, Nova Scotia, completing their divisional training before going overseas. Previously, pipes and drums won first prize in an open competition at the Antigonish Highland Games. Some time later, two band members, Corporal Thomas Marshall and Piper Robert Wishart, performed for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Both men later served as the regimental pipers.

To this day, the Regimental Pipes and Drums of the SD&G Highlanders is made up of serving and retired members of the unit, as well as civilian members. For 130 years, this group has been known for their deep Celtic roots in Glengarry and their adherence to Highland traditions. Its roots in the Militia Companies of Glengarry (No. 4 Company, Lancaster, No. 5 Company, Williamstown, and No. 7 Company, Dunvegan) have made outstanding contributions to Celtic music in Glengarry.

‘The Counties Own’ as they are affectionately known, whether attending the Glengarry Highland Games, Remembrance Day services at SD&G or many cultural events, have always been ambassadors for Celtic music of Glengarry. In November 2019, they represented the three counties, as the group marched at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. They were heard in Alexandria as well, as locals reflected on those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

As they continue to donate countless hours of volunteering, practicing or at ceremonies, the men and women of the band are true selfless ambassadors of Celtic music and culture. Whether we play in Eastern Ontario, in Canada or overseas, we are so lucky and proud to have The Regimental Pipes and Drums of SD&G Highlanders in our community.

Alexander (Sandy) and Christena Alice Watt

Alexander (Sandy) and Christena Alice Watt

Alexander and Christina Watt definitely formed a musical duo, he an accomplished violinist and she a piano teacher. A cousin recalls that a party could go on at their house until the wee hours of the morning, with visitors playing until it was time to go home for chores.

Both were born in Quebec, Alexandre on May 9, 1871 in Saint-Louis de Gonzaque and she, then Christena Alice McKell, was born on February 14, 1873 in Riverfield. Before her marriage, Christena taught music.

After their marriage, they lived and farmed in Howick, Quebec for several years before moving to Lancaster in 1903. It is said that visitors always came from Howich and played for hours without saying a word. The many Celtic fiddle tunes were serious business.

The couple established Maple Crest Farm in Lancaster and purchased purebred Ayrshire breeders. Their cattle were known from afar.

After moving to Lancaster, Christena was active in the church and community and was the organist at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for many years. Sandy was an elder and a member of the choir. Music was so much a part of their life.

The Watt House was a gathering place for young and old and their love of music was passed on to many. They performed at many local gatherings as well as the many ceilidhs they held at home.

They were buried a few weeks apart in the old stone church in South Lancaster.

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