World-renowned Scottish bagpiper Roddy MacLeod was flattered last spring when a visitor asked him to try out a set of homemade pipes. The master piper was impressed by their sound, which was similar to the seasoned drone of an instrument at least 50 years old. Even more surprising was the address of the manufacturer listed in the accompanying brochure: Roderick MacLellan, Brick, N.J.
Scots have long regarded their bagpipes as the only ones worth playing, but MacLellan’s Garden State variety is winning fans on both sides of the Atlantic. For the Glasgow-born MacLellan, 41, who moved to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as a silversmith before launching his fledgling business six years ago, making the musical instrument of his fathers in the adopted land he loves is, he says, “the perfect mix of who I am.”
MacLellan’s bagpipes have silver ferrules (ringlike decorations) and hand-carved drones (the aptly named pipes themselves). And with demand fanned by tartan-packed movies like Bravebeart and Rob Roy (and Titanic, which featured Irish-style uilleann pipes), buyers from as far as Hong Kong must wait up to four months for MacLellan’s $1,50043,000 pipes. Says Angus MacDonald, deputy director of Glasgow’s Piping Centre: “They’re as good as anything we’ve got here.”
All of which is music to the ears of MacLellan and wife Avis Taylor, 35, a model, who supported her husband’s pipe dream in the days before it was profitable. “I like shopping and driving fancy cars,” jokes Avis. “We’re not there yet, but I can see a little light at the end of the tunnel.”