The Rout of the MacPhees

OK, so it would be nice to play a tune that commemorates a great victory of your clan over the degenerates who live in the next valley over. Sadly, for the Macfies this is not the case.

The Macfies (or MacPhee, MacPhie, etc.), despite a long and interesting history there, were finally kicked off their ancestral island of Colonsay in 1620, just as another group of people, an ocean away, were arriving to settle the Americas. The Macfies had resisted as long as they could, but their relatively small number, coupled with some double-crossing, finally ushered in the end of their occupancy. The clan moved onto the mainland where they dispersed. Many ultimately moved to North America.

There is a tune that commemorates this dispersal. It is called The Rout of the MacPhees. For better or worse, it is the one tune in the ancient repertoire that names my family, so I feel a certain attachment to it. It is not often played, and I have not been able to find a recording of it, other than Donald MacLeod on practice chanter, on his set of instructional tapes. Lewis Turrell, of New Zealand, became the first overseas player to win the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1958, playing The Rout of the MacPhees. He learned the tune from Donald MacLeod, and is himself still playing ceol mor, although in his 70s. I called Lewis at his store in Auckland, to see if he had recording of himself playing the tune. Sadly, he did not, but I am sure he will be glad to see that it features among the Piobaireachd Society’s set tunes for 2008 in the Silver Medal list. This means it is likely to be played during the 2008 season, and I may yet find a recording.

For now, I will try to learn the tune, and there is a new point on this story arc. About 15 years ago the Clan Macfie organized a gathering on the Isle of Colonsay. The clan piper, Bob McFie, wrote and played a new piobaireachd for the event. Next step is to contact him and see if I can start learning that tune.

2 Replies to “The Rout of the MacPhees”

  1. Hey,
    In the Winter Storm, every year in Kansas, there was a recording of the tuine,by Dough McNally. Its number 4 on the CD, if you want, email me, and I will send it to you.


  2. Thanks for that Liam. I’ll be in touch.

    I checked out your band’s website, by the way. You guys look like you’re about at the same level as my band (newly promoted to WUSPBA Grade 3)

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