Pipe Major Iain Morrison 1945 – 2020

It is with great regret that we report the passing of P/M Iain Morrison, Back, isle of Lewis, one of the finest pipers of the 20th century. Iain had not been in good health in the recent past having had spells in hospital in Glasgow and Inverness. After a recent relapse, he was being cared for in hospital in Stornoway but sadly passed away this afternoon.

A pupil of Pipe Major Donald MacLeod from boyhood, Iain joined the Queen’s Own Highlanders as a boy soldier travelling the world but at the same time competing for all the top prizes when service allowed.

He won the Gold Medal at Inverness in 1969 playing the Lament for the Viscount of Dundee. His greatest years on the boards were in 1981-1982 when he won just about every contest he entered including the Clasp at Inverness, the Silver Chanter and the Glenfiddich Championship.

His playing was characterised by a superb musicality seldom equalled and never bettered, except perhaps by his mentor, P/M MacLeod.

It was in Donald’s memory that Iain instituted the prestigious Donald MacLeod Memorial competition, a competition designed to bring the very best pipers to his native isle for the benefit of the piping community there, and also for young players, keen as he was that a high standard of piping be maintained on the island.

Iain was, for a while, also an instructor in schools on Lewis and had many excellent pupils who all bore his musical hallmark.

Piping has lost a master player, a man who truly had the gift. It was great privilege to know him and to have heard him play. I am sure the piping world would like to join me in offering sincere condolences to Flora and family in their grief. RW

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29 thoughts on “Pipe Major Iain Morrison 1945 – 2020

  1. Copenhagen, Denmark 1981.
    I was 19 years old then. Iain playing on his standard army set with the very personal drone sound. You felt like you had a cheese bell over your head no matter where you sat in the room. I learned: It is not the mounting that creates the great sound! The sound from him was everywhere. When he came walking towards you it was a fantastic surrealistic audiovisual experience. In a way, he sounded like a pipe band. All tunes sounded different to you when he played them. In expression, rhythm and speed. And his little paraphrases here and there had an amazing effect on the individual tune. You left the recital intoxicated by kartarsis. His sound and phrasing are my guiding star.

  2. So saddened to hear about Iain’s
    Passing I knew Iain way back in 1964 when he was stationed at Dreghorn Barracks.
    Sending my condolonces to his Wife and family

  3. So sorry to hear of Iain’s passing.
    I can remember the first time I heard him compete. He was playing wee Donald’s tune Susan Macleod. Absolutely stunning; so musical. There was only going to be one winner.
    My condolences to Flora and family,

  4. I knew Iain and Flora from the Pipe Band Queens Own Highlanders, a lovely genuine couple, my condolences to Flora and family at this sad time from Marcelle Ross

  5. Was one of my instructors at Dreghorn when I was 15 in 1971. Remember him writing a tune for his daughter Samantha? A lullaby.
    Great player and a great instructor/ teacher.
    RIP sir GBNF
    Campbell Baxter
    Ex Scots DG

  6. Pipe Major Iain Morrison was one of our greatest pipers and had a musical comprehension second to none. The inspiration he managed to give was great and selfless. Iain was a true Highland Gentleman. RIP.

  7. Very sorry to hear about the passing of one of our greats! An absolute professional in everything he did for our art. Such a musical player. Iain was very renowned for his stylistic (and in my opinion, very musical) rounder reel playing, and it certainly rubbed off on me… and I know it did previously on my Pipe Major Richard Parkes – as you will hear with many Field Marshal medleys over the decades.
    No matter if it was for piobaireachd or light music, any time you saw Iain on the judging bench, it was almost an instinctive to try to play even better. An absolute pleasure to have been able to play before this legend of piping.
    Condolences to Iain Jr and all the family at this sad time.

  8. A very sad loss to the piping world. Iain was one of the most musical players I have had the privilege of hearing. Condolences to the family circle.

  9. So sorry to hear of Iain Murdo’s passing; he was not only a great piper, if not the greatest!, certainly of the last couple of centuries. He was an unassuming, humble individual that we had the pleasure of entertaining in our home here in Australia on two occasions along with Kathleen Macdonald, when one of the local identities with Skye ancestry remarked with “we have been invaded by the Lewis ‘Musical Mafia’. A great loss and especially to Flora and family who we will be in touch with soon. Our son Murdo and Alister MacInnes spent a year under his piping instruction and they valued it all and they have never looked back. Piping owes Iain a great debe and he has left a great legacy. A grat privilege to have had you as a friend.

  10. So sorry to hear this sad news, Ian lived just across the street from my wife Peggy’s cousin Bella-Maggie in Back Lewis. While there on holiday many many years ago, Bella told my piping wife who their neighbour was and she got soo excited at the chance to maybe meet him! On that visit it wasn’t to be, he was off judging. On subsequent visits unfortunately the stars never lined up, he was in such demand.
    Our thoughts and Condolences go out to Flora, family and friends.
    RIP Ian Murdo.

  11. Immensely saddened by this news. As a child I spent every summer in Out End Coll, Lewis, and had a couple of spells at Back Primary School. Iain was one of my childhood friends and I visited both his parent’s house (Swedish Houses) many times and, more frequently, his grand parents house (Tigh Haffey) in Out End Coll which was literally across the road from my grand parents. Amongst the many escapades that unfetterd island kids get up to, we often played a game we called stones (clachan) which consisted of the players trying to throw stones (large seaside cobbles) into small holes cut in the turf – a bit like French boules. Spent many happy days in Iain’s company squabbling & competing as kids do. As a child Iain was a smashing accordion player and I loved to hear him play, something he was always happy to do. I always enjoyed his playing immensely and thought he sounded just like the wireless. I have to say I was less than pleased when his father insisted that he practised his chanter. Fortunately his father’s wishes prevailed and he went on to become what every one knows – a fine world class piper. A lovely guy who made his mark on the World and he will be fondly and forever remembered by those who were fortunate enough to know him.

  12. So so sad at this news. I echo all these previous comments. He was indeed a superbly musical piper. I shall never forget his playing of the Lament for the Earl of Antrim in a little town called Towoomba , two hours inland from Brisbane. My thoughts are with Flora and children. He was so proud of his family. Rest in peace, good and faithful servant. Will we ever hear his like again?

  13. I and many others will never forget the fun we had, especially the early days when we were all in the Highland Pipers Society together, Iain’s dad used to come along with him and was of the same ilk, a proper gentleman. One of our greatest musicians and influences.

  14. I was principal teacher in the Nicolson Institute where Iain taught piping. A real honour to work with a fab instructor. He was so encouraging and we had so many great pipers. The SQA never questioned Iain and asked for his advice. We will miss him but what a legacy he left. My thoughts and sympathy for Flora and the family.x

  15. I first met Ian as a young soldier in Kirknewton outside of Edinburgh prior to the Battalion going to Hong Kong, I was just on the chanter at the time and he went through a good few tunes with me, he was a brilliant player and always generous with his time, I later joined the Pipes & Drums of the 1st Bn, Queen’s Own Highlanders RIP Iain

  16. I’m sure we all have standout moments in our piping lives. Iain playing ‘Donald MacLean of Lewis’ at a SPA recital c1978 has always been a ‘that’s how it should be done’ moment for me. Sorry to hear the news

  17. Never met Pipe Major Morrison myself but when young Iain spoke of his father it was with much love and affection. Condolences to all the family

  18. Rest in peace Ian a real pipers piper and one of the best a have ever met from the little drummer boy your at rest

  19. I know Iain Jr very well. I never had the pleasure of meeting his father, but how Iain spoke of and idolises him shows how special a man he has been. Thoughts to all the family, such sad news.

  20. Murdo MacLeod and I were privileged to receive lessons, lore and unsurpassed hospitality at 56 Back during 1988 and a few times since; memories that remain treasured. Such a talented, modest and generous Gael, he was committed to passing on the teaching of ‘the wee man’. Mission accomplished. RIP Iain Murdo.

  21. Iain was an outstanding player and his Gaelic heritage shone through in all aspects of his playing. I am stunned at the loss of my close friend and at the moment I feel as if I’ve lost the other half of the bookend which we formed in support and promotion of the memory and music of Donald MacLeod.

  22. Sad news the world of piping has lost a grest son of the art and a magnificent performance was alwsys to be expected and avhieved
    RIP Iain and condolences to his family

  23. My Next door neighhbour in Back
    The Very Best neighbour a man could have …
    … I’m Desperately sorry to hear this

    Thoughts are with Flora, Catherine, Donalda & Iain x

  24. Both Elizabeth and myself are gutted to hear this sad news. I was only speaking with him a couple of weekend ago. We had a very close friendship. A wonderfull man and a superb piper..
    our condolences go to Flora and the family.
    Sam Young

  25. Condolences to all the family at this was time,Ian was a total gentleman and will be early missed
    RIP ian.

  26. His playing was totally absorbing I never heard anything like it. A great loss and one of the few who had wee Donald’s lineage

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