After our recent appeal for information about Donald Morrison, Piobaireachd Society Treasurer and solo judge Roddy Livingstone has kindly forwarded this article. Roddy writes: ‘Re your recent reference to Donald Morrison on Piping Press, I attach some scans from the ‘Highland Piping Society of Canterbury’ (Christchurch, NZ) history of their first 50 years published a few years ago. In the same book, there is also a brief reference to Sam Young attending lessons with Bob Nicol alongside Donald Morrison during his time in Scotland in the 70s.’
Following a three-day visit to Christchurch by Angus MacAulay, Alastair Munro and Donald Gannaway were instrumental in introducing piobaireachd classes into the Society in 1981.
They started with eight learners and nine ‘stage two’ students, using St Andrew’s College facilities. This was to be the beginning of a number of classes. Later on, Alastair had a senior class while Marion McVean, Ross Wilson and Neville Burney shared a junjor group of sixteen students. These classes fluctuated over the years depending on the number of interested pipers.
Donald Morrison’s recital and teach-in was another sponsorship by the Comunn na Piobaireachd [NZ]. Donald’s May 1978 recital took place at Canterbury University’s Ngaio Marsh Theatre with Bill Boyle and Airdrie Stewart as his supporting pipers. (Airdrie replaced Frank Annan at very short notice, Frank having sliced a finger open that afternoon.)
Donald held a two-day master class at Flock Hill over a weekend, and it was voted a great success by those who attended. At that time Donald was regarded as one of Scotland’s leading pipers and teachers.
Retiring from band work in 1970, Donald Morrison then concentrated on his solo playing and had considerable success on the circuit as a piobaireachd player. He also won high regard overseas as both teacher and recitalist.
At the time of Donald Morrison’s first visit to New Zealand in 1978, he was recognised as one of Scotland’s foremost pipers. Born in South Uist in 1927, he received early piping tuition from his father and elder brother. In 1946, the Queen’s Piper [sic], RB Nicol of Balmoral, held classes on the island and Donald attended.
He continued to learn piobaireachd from Bob Nicol for many years. After National Service in the Merchant Navy he joined the Aberdeen Police and became a member of its pipe band under Pipe Major Neville McKay. When Neville retired and returned to New Zealand in 1953, Donald became pipe major.
Donald retired from the pipe band in 1970 and concentrated on his solo piping with a string of successes: the Gold Medal at Inverness, the Dunvegan Medal and Silver Chanter at Skye, the Gold Medal at Braemar four times, and the Bratach Gorm at London.
Following his retirement from the police in 1982, Donald Morrison was sought-after as a teacher and recitalist in Canada, USA, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. He gave two recitals for the Piping Society, in 1978 and 1986.
During Donald’s second visit to New Zealand in May 1986 there was criticism about his performance in the Limes Room. Unfortunately, as was learnt, Donald was a very sick man and died of cancer two years later.