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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (Mc)
Angus MacLeod

Following the Dream

Angus Macleodletter on an unusually warm winter's day in February 1998, Angus Macleod loaded the final box onto a rented moving van, hopped into the vehicle's cab and began a journey that he had been contemplating most of his adult life. He was leaving behind him what most of us consider to be the trappings of a successful life; an administrative job that had become comfortable like an old sweater and a circle of friends with whom he shared good times, if not the passions of his life. Angus was embarking on a voyage that many would consider altruistic; a voyage to a place where all the magic of his childhood lay.

The impetus to follow the dream at this particular time in his life had come a year and a half earlier on a lonely windswept stretch of land at the edge of Europe. The location was the Isle of Lewis in Scotland's Outer Hebrides where on a cold and rainy November morning Angus had found himself surveying the ocean and a tiny collection of ruins which looked more like randomly placed rock piles than former dwellings. Angus had come to Lewis with his aging father to find the village of their ancestors. With the village in sight and tears dripping down his cheeks from the emotion of the moment and from the gale force winds pounding off the Atlantic, the motivation to pursue his life long dream came like a thunderclap.

Returning to Canada, he vowed to tell the story of his family and their forced exile from their ancestral homeland - a story that can be echoed by literally hundreds of thousands of Canadians of Highland and Island descent. To tell the story Angus knew that he had to return to the place of his childhood - a place where there was still a glimmer of his Hebridean past, a place where images for The Silent Ones were first stirred within in him some forty years earlier.

Angus Macleod was born into a long line of traditional singers and story tellers. Both his grandfather and great grandmother were interpreters of Gaelic song, entertaining at ceilidhs throughout the Lewis Settlement in Ontario's Huron Township. Angus' early memories of his grandfather are of a kindly old gentleman singing to him in a strange awkward tongue. At the time, young Angus thought that the old man was making up his own special language. "I was in my teens before my father explained to me that my grandfather was really singing in Gaelic." As a child, Angus spent his summers in Huron Township where his great aunts told him stories of a not so distant past; stories about pioneer life in the backwoods of Canada and tales of a far away island off the coast of Scotland. "They spoke about the Isle of Lewis like it was home - almost like our family was on some kind of extended leave of absence from the island " says Angus. "They spun yarns about people with nicknames like Black Murdo and Red Malcolm and talked about events that must have occurred a hundred years earlier - just like they happened yesterday!". These early years made a lasting impression on Angus and have been a constant influence on his professional and personal life. "I think I was always keenly aware of where my family came from and it has affected almost every aspect of my life - the books I read, the people I associate with and the music I listen to."

Angus' interest in traditional music, although deeply rooted in his childhood, first became apparent when as a teenager he heard music from the British Folk Revival of the 1960's. "I was blown away by it. When listening to the songs, they sounded strangely familiar." The music had stirred long forgotten memories within Angus of warm summer evenings by Lake Huron's shores when his father and uncles would sing the traditional songs of their Hebridean homeland - their voices echoing melodiously across the water.This is perhaps when Angus had his first glimpse at The Silent Ones CD.

Angus MacleodThe next few summers were spent traveling around Scotland, Ireland and England, collecting recordings of traditional music, researching in folk song libraries and frequenting folk clubs. Angus totally immersed himself in the folk music world. It was after one such sojourn when Angus had the idea for the folk rock group, Sworded Sailor. Impressed by the contemporary treatment given to traditional song by British groups like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, Angus put together an ensemble that blended theatre with traditional Canadian folk song. The resulting show was a musical journey across Canada telling the country's history in song. Buoyed by the success of Sworded Sailor and the desire to push the envelope a little further, Angus created Brigand. The group combined rocking treatments of Cape Breton jigs and reels with Angus' own atmospheric Celtic influenced compositions well over a decade before the current onslaught of East Coast entertainers and new age Celtic performers. Brigand toured the country several times, released two critically acclaimed recordings and was called "a forerunner of the folk revival" by the Globe and Mail.

In the mid eighties Angus continued to satisfy his eclectic interest of combining the old with the new, studying folk lore at Memorial University in St. John's Newfoundland and acquiring a diploma in Recording Engineering from the Trebas Institute in Toronto. Later in the decade he owned and operated his own recording studio and production company which specialized in film scores and folk recordings. The nineties saw Angus employed as an arts administrator with a number of high profile Canadian music festivals and theatres. For five years he was Artistic Director and Administrator for Guelph, Ontario's Hillside Festival. Angus was at the helm when the festival was voted one of the world's top 25 Roots Festivals by the prestigious California-based publication, Acoustic Guitar. It was during his final year at Hillside that Angus returned with his elderly father to their ancestral home on the Isle of Lewis. "The trip was very emotional. My father was 82 at the time and not in the best of health. I think he wanted to see where his family came from before he passed on."

The journey was indeed emotional as it inspired Angus to pursue his life long dream; to tell the story of Huron Township's Lewis Settlers, the best way he knew how, through music. For a year he continued to work for the Hillside Festival while devoting his evenings and weekends to the Silent Ones project. During that time period Angus spent hundreds of hours researching in the Scottish Studies Section of the University of Guelph Library. His weekends were occupied interviewing old-timers and collecting local history books in Huron Township. "I must have dragged my wife, Vicki, to every cemetery in Bruce County researching my family tree during that time period."

The Silent Ones CDThen at Christmas of 1997, it was decided to make the move to Huron Township where Angus would record The Silent Ones CD. Angus' great grandfather's original homestead was chosen as a fitting location for the new venture's headquarters and Torquil Productions and Recording Studio was born.

So on a sunny midwinter's day in 1998, Angus Macleod found himself in the cab of a rented moving truck, embarking on an adventure that, in truth, he had been preparing for all of his life. The next two years would be filled with hard work, joy and discovery - discovery about an amazing group of people who survived, perhaps, the most devastating period of Scottish history and discovery, more importantly, about himself. The Silent Ones is the fruit of Angus' labour of love.

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