P/M Iain Morrison Tribute

It is worth spending some time reading the wide ranging tributes to Iain that have been submitted since his death was announced on Friday, writes the Editor. I think everyone who knew him would echo the sentiments shared.

I have put together this short pictorial tribute which has images from his career, through his Army days, on the boards, and there’s one at the end with him with his pupil James MacKenzie, when James won the Silver Medal at Inverness a couple of years ago:

Iain’s teaching abilities can never be underestimated. It was he who polished the playing of Alasdair Gillies that led to that great player’s unprecedented run of success.

A few other facts about Iain’s piping life have come back to me or have been brought to my attention by readers. He first learned the pipes from Donald MacLeod, no not our one, but Donald ‘Swank’ MacLeod, a retired Pipe Major of the Seaforth Highlanders and a veteran of WW1.

P/M Donald ‘Swank’ MacLeod

It was ‘Swank’ MacLeod who helped compile the Seaforth Highlanders Collection of Bagpipe Music first published in 1936 and his name should not be confused with the more famous Donald MacLeod who was a teenager when the Seaforth book was first published.

But back to Iain. After P/M MacLeod I believe he had tuition from Boxer Doyle, Angus MacLeod, Donald’s brother, and an expert piper in his own right. Boxer persuaded Donald to take Iain on.

Iain told me himself that he did not have many formal lessons in light music from Donald, but he had listened to him and with this guidance, the rhythms and phrasing just came naturally to him. Much of his piobaireachd was by cassette tape, though he would make a point of visiting the maestro whenever he could. He soaked up everything from ‘the wee man’.

He became devoted to Donald’s way of playing and would often compete with new tunes the great composer was producing at this time.

Reader Patrick Molard has dug out a recording of Iain from the 1971 Argyllshire Gathering. It is of Donald playing Jeannie Carruthers, Susan MacLeod (this must have been one of the first airings of the tune), and Cabar Feidh (reel), twice through.

There are few blemishes in the 25 year old Iain’s playing but you can detect the seedcorn of brilliance. Patrick tells me that he did the recording at the games field after lugging an old reel-to-reel machine up the road from his digs. Well done Patrick! Half a century later, here is his recording:

I’ll leave you with one of the comments posted over the last couple of days which speaks to us all. It is from Alastair McInnes: ‘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.’

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