The first time I saw Brian MacLeod, he was piping up a storm around Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I didn’t know at the time, but Brian was studying at St. Francis Xavier University. Bagpipes and Nova Scotia go really well together, his music was a welcome installment when he would pipe around town, providing great cultural immersion for visitors. The first time I met Brian, was outside of my studio at 18 College St. in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He introduced himself as a MacLeod which was interesting because I’m also a McLeod! This clan association helped us out when it came time to executing our portrait shoot because Brian was able to borrow my “Loud Mac/McLeod” kilt.
By the time I finally got around to proposing the portrait shoot, Brian had already moved back to Baddeck, Cape Breton after the academic year had ended. That worked for me. I love road trips, especially to Cape Breton, and Baddeck would prove to be the perfect setting. When we met up and Brian had changed into the kilt, we were about two hours from sunset. I scouted out a few initial locations, looking for a grassy area with a view of the ocean and without any human artifacts like buildings or vehicles. We ended driving into the Inverary Resort, where I found our spot at the back of the property. Scott MacAulay was very generous to allow the use of his property to facilitate the portrait shoot without any advance notice.
Back to Brian: you’ll never find a more educated bagpiper, nor a piper with a stronger passion for Celtic culture. I’ll leave you with Brian in his own words, followed by my favorite images from our photography shoot.
I was born and brought up in Baddeck on Cape Breton Island, and a passion for Gaelic language and culture has been my guiding principle throughout my life. I am a graduate of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye with a Higher National Diploma in Business and Gaidhealtachd Studies, a fluent Gaelic speaker, published Gaelic poet and broadcaster, and now a graduate of Saint Francis Xavier University with a BA First Class Honours Degree in Celtic Studies. I am currently a graduate student in the MA program of the Celtic Studies Department of St. Francis Xavier University. After the completion of my MA in two years’ time, I shall be pursuing PhD studies in the Celtic Studies Department of Edinburgh University.
My focus of interest has been the research of Gaelic cultural traditions in Nova Scotia, but I have not been content with merely studying them. My honours thesis field research has taken me to the heart of the culture, for it is an integral part of my own identity. I also sing with the Gaelic Ecumenical Choir under the direction of Catriona Parsons, and some of my fellow choir members were also participants in my previous research. For me, academia has never been a case of the “dispassionate outside observer” examining these topics as an end in themselves: these are my own people and my own culture, and everything I do, and have done, in my Celtic Studies pursuits has been designed to illuminate and give honour to these cultural riches. At a personal level, I have attempted to give form to my own creative impulses through Gaelic poetry, and that is still my preferred channel of artistic expression. I took up piping, one could say, as an adjunct to this. When I am playing my pipes, it feels almost like a form of meditation as well as yet another avenue through which I can express my intimate spiritual connection to the Gaelic culture.