MacDonald Dies at 60; Was Scottish Bagpiper of Note
By NICK RAVO
Angus MacDonald, whose verve and virtuosity made him one of the
world's best and best-known bagpipe players, died on June 25 in
a hospice in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he lived. He was 60.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, said a friend and fellow professional
bagpiper, Donald McBride of Edinburgh.
MacDonald served in the Scots Guards, a military unit in the British
army, for 30 years and held the rank of pipe major. He also spent several
years as the personal piper to Queen Elizabeth II and won numerous
major piping awards, including the Clasp and the Gold Medal, both of
which are sponsored by the Highland Society of London.
"He probably was one of the best this century in light music -- dance and
marching pipe music," said Paula Glendinning of Ashton, Md., a former
student of MacDonald's who is now the editor of The Voice, a bagpipe
magazine in Baltimore. She said he also won awards for his classical
music composed for the Scottish Highland bagpipes, called piobaireachd.
MacDonald was influential as a teacher, too, giving instruction and
performances in many nations. Indeed, few people have become so
identified with the bagpipe, one of the oldest instruments known to man,
dating back to the Middle East 4,000 years ago. The instrument played
today -- inimitable with its combination of shrillness backed by a deep
bass line -- is about 300 years old.
"He traveled all over the world, and that's why he is so well known," Ms.
The son of a Cameron Highlander, MacDonald was born on Oct. 20,
1938, in Glasgow, Scotland. He discovered his passion for bagpipes in
the pipe band at the Queen Victoria School in Dunblane and rose to the
position of boy pipe major.
He left school at 15 and joined the Scots Guards in 1953 as a piper. He
rose through the ranks and in 1965 became pipe major and household
piper to the Queen.
In 1974, MacDonald was reassigned to the Guards Depot piping school
at Pirbright. Four years later, he joined the Scots Guards recruiting team,
where he became something of a pied piper with his performances. He
later served as senior instructor at the Army School of Piping and piper
to the governor of Edinburgh Castle. He became a member of the Order
of the British Empire in 1983, the same year he retired.
After his retirement from the military, MacDonald taught at the Piping
Center in Glasgow, the world's foremost piping institution. He also
traveled, training pipers from Northern Ireland to Oman to Malaysia.
And he performed in many countries, including the United States, where
he had a large following.
Besides winning the Clasp and the Gold Medal, MacDonald won several
other bagpipe awards. including victories in the Grant's Scotch Whisky
Championship at Blair Castle.
MacDonald is survived by his daughter, Fiona MacDonald of London.
In a forward to the 1993 reprint of the 1927 book "The Piper in Peace
and War" by C.A. Malcolm, MacDonald said of Scottish regimental
pipers: "They have been, and still are, some of the best ambassadors this