Heritage Association of Northeast Ohio’s
Robert Burn’s Dinner & Hall of Fame Award
By Barry Conway
The Scottish Heritage Association of Northeast Ohio (SHANO) held its annual Robert Burn’s Dinner at the American-Croatian Lodge in Eastlake on January 18. This formal event is held annually to celebrate the life of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns.
Robert Burns lived from 1759-1796 and is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland. He is best known for poems written in his native Scots dialect. Burns was also a composer’ as well as a collector of folk songs, often revising or adapting them. One of Burn’s most well-known poems adapted into a folk song is Auld Lang Syne, which is frequently sung on Hogmanay, the last day of the year or New Year’s Eve.
The event included dance music provided by Plaid Sabbath and Marys Lane, the Great Lakes Pipe Band with the Ohio Highland Performance Group, the Lochaber Pipe Band and the Heather Bells Scottish Dance Ensemble.
The evening also featured the SHANO Hall of Fame Award ceremony. The SHANO Hall of Fame Award is giving annually to “publicly and permanently recognize those individuals or organizations which have had a major and significant impact in the Scottish community of northeast Ohio and beyond.” The key factors considered include reach, duration, engagement and recognition. This year recipient is Noel Slagle.
Noel was a lifelong resident of northeast Ohio who’s influence continues to this day. Noel was the greatest bagpipe player in the northeast Ohio region in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In addition to being a great player, Noel was a leader, having served as Pipe Major of several local bands, including Caledonian Pipe Band, Western Reserve Pipe Band and MacGregor Pipe Band. Noel was also Pipe Sergeant of the Clan Macfarlane Pipe Band of St Catherine’s, Ontario for many years.
As Pipe Major, Noel led the Western Reserve Pipe Band to the Champion Supreme Award of the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario in 1979, and later repeated this feat as Pipe Major of the MacGregor Pipe Band in 1985. Always striving for that perfect sound, Noel became a reed maker by learning the craft from the famed MacAllister brothers from Shott’s, Scotland. Noel was always willing to share his knowledge and would later share reed making with fellow Clevelander Sandy Hain, who became a well -known reed maker in his own right. Noel was also an avid teacher.
Throughout his life, Noel would teach anyone at any playing level. In 1978, Noel was instrumental in starting the Ohio Scottish Arts School and was an instructor in its inaugural year. One of Noel’s students said this, “I think it is easy to say that northeast Ohio would not have the level of piping today as it has if it weren’t for Noel Slagle.” This high praise in honor and recognition of the foundational role of Noel’s contribution had made is echoed by the many who knew him.
To honor Noel, many of the former members of the Caledonian, Western Reserve and MacGregor Pipe Bands were in attendance. The award was accepted by Noel’s daughters, Sheri Slagle Alexander, Debbie Slagle Bauck and Penny Slagle Hungerford.