Every year the Glengarry Highland Games welcomes a Canadian celebrity to officially open the Games. During its seventy-two year history, the Games has welcomed the Governor General, Prime Ministers, television personalities and even astronauts. This year’s Guests of Honour are special ones for the Games as they have been a key part of the Games since the early ‘80s.
The Brigadoons have been playing at the Games since that time starting out in the old Angus Grey building and now a key component of the Friday night Tattoo with the MacCulloch dancers and also entertaining endless generations in the Metcalfe Centre.
Games President Lindsay MacCulloch states, “It is an absolute pleasure to honor the Brigadoons as our Opening Guest for the 2019 edition of the Glengarry Highland Games. I remember as a child hearing of this new band, all the youth were raving about them. Now, 45 years later they are still going strong. The Brigadoons’ longevity is a true testament to their talent. Along with our Glengarry Highland Games, the Brigadoons have helped continue the strong Celtic heritage of Glengarry. With pride, we honour and thank Glengarry’s own, the Brigadoons.”
The Brigadoons band was formed in 1971 when Newfoundland native Rob Taylor gathered local lads, Bob Burnie, Guy Leroux, and Brian McDonell and began performing at spots like the Bonnie Glen, the Hub, the Atlantic Hotel and popular bars in Quebec. The group was a hit and they played to full houses that kept the crowd on the dance floor for the entire night. Members changed through the years, but the band’s following continued to grow. Denis Carr joined the band in 1979, when they started playing at venues in the States. Over the years, different entertainers added their talents to the band, such as Rick Linke, Gerry Lefave, David Wright, Paddy Kelly, Shelley Downing, Jack Smith, Luane Doyle, Bonita Leblanc and Ashley MacLeod.
As the Brigadoons gained in popularity, they began to perform shows at the National Arts Centre and the Centrepoint Theatre, in Ottawa. The band continues to be a popular draw at highland games and Scottish festivals across North America with the latest show being this summer in Denver, Colorado. The Brigadoons with Denis and Rob played on thirteen Scottish Caribbean cruises and Denis says the band has done twenty in total. From a show in Alert, Nunavit to accompanying the MacCulloch Dancers at EPCOT Center for ten consecutive years, the Brigadoons are truly Glengarry Ambassadors. As Denis Carr relates, “The Brigadoons have travelled all over North America and Europe playing at festivals and concerts, but like the song says, Glengarry’s Our Home. It is certainly a great pleasure to be honoured by the Glengarry Highland Games and we plan to continue our Games tradition for years to come.’
While all this performing took them far and wide, they also took time to make CDs and to play for their local fans. When the parish of St. Raphael’s suffered the devastating loss of its church to fire, Rob and his wife, Irene, wrote The Burning of St. Raphael’s which the group sang at one of the first fund raising concerts in the Ruins and later included on their first CD.
Fortunately for their many fans, the Brigadoons are still performing and while new songs are being added to the repertoire, they gladly perform fan favourites from Glengarry such as The Road to Dalhousie, Glengarry My Home or the Martintown Song. Denis Carr now leads the group and is the longest serving member. Reg Portieous on vocals and guitar and Dan Leroux on bass keep the music going while Heather Flipsen and Paddy Kelly on fiddle and guitar add to the mix to create the group’s memorable sound.
Rob Taylor, founder of the Brigadoons sums up the story of their success when he recalls, “Who could have imagined when we started in 1972 playing at the Atlantic Hotel that our band would end up playing all kinds of Scottish festivals across North America, twenty Scottish cruises, Disneyworld and even Alert in Nunavit . Wherever we went, we always came home to Maxville for the Games. Now here we are over 40 years later being honoured by the Games. It is wonderful to receive this recognition for something that we had such fun doing.”
The Games will welcome past and present members of the Brigadoons to the stage at centre field on Saturday, August 3 at noon hour to officially open the Games. Of course, after that, they will be playing in the Metcalfe Centre to the delight of all their fans.