Duncan Johnstone

July 2, 2007 on 6:55 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Stories | 4 Comments

A photograph from 1983: a party at George Steele’s house [Glasgow Police Pipe Band] in Glasgow.

Barry Ewen played in the band I played in at the time and knew George. With a party in the offing a taxi load of us headed over with tins of beer and bagpipes. 

I clearly recall the thrill of finding the great Duncan Johnstone there, too. As you know, Duncan J was one of the greats of his time and leaves a fantastic legacy of brilliant tunes and a lot of great players thanks to his dedicated teaching (Roddy MacLeod immediately comes to mind).

I can remember taking my pipes apart in a furtive – and futile – attempt  to reverse the drones (bass on the outside) so Duncan might play.  Duncan was a “left-handed piper”; that is, he played his pipes under the right arm. Not common, but not uncommon for pipers of his time with roots in Uist. Duncan Johnstone’s mother came from the Isle of Barra and his dad, Alexander, from Torlum, Benbecula – the very same place as my grandmother.

Duncan Johnstone on chanter, Michael Grey on pipes, 1983

Anyway, as you can see we were well in ceilidh mode and I ended up blowing the pipes while Duncan played with the chanter twisted in reverse.  I recall him playing one of his great tunes, “Farewell to Nigg” and singing along at the same time.  A really great memory.

It seems funny to me now that I would haul my pipes to a party – and to a party where I’d never met the host. No shortage of piss and vinegar in those days, I guess.



  1. No shortage in ANY days, I’d say. Those are great memories, and cool to have a photo to go with.

    Comment by iainmacd — July 2, 2007 #

  2. Ha! Maybe you’re right, Iain. Yes, lucky to have a photo, no doubt! M.

    Comment by mike — July 2, 2007 #

  3. Cracking photo. Farewell to Nigg was the opener to the first medley i played. Still love playing the tune nowadays. No wonder it’s called farewell to Nigg, we used to play it like you couldn’t wait to get shot of the place!

    Comment by Greigc1 — July 3, 2007 #

  4. Thanks, Greig. A memorable title, too! M.

    Comment by mike — July 3, 2007 #

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