There has been a considerable number of tributes paid to Jimmy McIntosh who passed away yesterday aged 95 and we thought it sensible to group them together so that they could be better appreciated. There are messages from former pupils and many others who knew him well throughout his long life.
Gary Hanley: ‘Good bye my old friend. You changed bagpiping in America with a steady hand and soft voice. I will miss you.’
Amy Garson: ‘Like so many others, I owe so much to Jimmy McIntosh for his support, kindness, generosity and willingness to share his knowledge of piobaireachd with me. I was on the verge of quitting piping when I attended a summer school in Timmins, Ontario, in the mid-1970s.
‘It was Jimmy’s teaching that introduced me to piobaireachd and motivated me to continue piping. Jimmy favoured teaching students in pairs, such that collectively the music that he taught would not be lost. Jimmy paired me with another young piper, Ken Garson, who later became my husband and life partner. Ken and I have remained close friends and loyal students of Jimmy for over 45 years.
‘Many times over the years, Jimmy and his wife Joyce opened their home to us and other pupils, always providing a healthy dose of kind hospitality while ensuring there was lots of time to learn and review tunes. I cannot put into words the positive impact that Jimmy had on my life and how dearly I miss him now that he has passed away. Not only have I lost a dear friend, but the world of piping has lost a great master. Get your pipes out and play a piobaireachd to honour Jimmy’s legacy! Long may it live on! Sincere condolences to his beloved wife Joyce and children Cameron, Roddy, Moira, Margaret and their families.’
Bethany Bisaillion: ‘Attending the summer schools in Timmins, Ontario, I was introduced to the teachings of Jimmy McIntosh and learned so much from him, as so many of us truly did. He gave so many of us our first piobaireachd which has never left us, and we have always played it with the pride that he instilled in us. A great man, a great player, and truly a great supporter of the pipes whose dedication will last generations.
‘Thank you Jimmy, for everything you gave us and continue to give us, and to Joyce and Cameron for being such a wonderful part of his life. I wish you all the very best.’
Bernie Leigh: ‘I knew Jimmy well and did much work for him over many years. It was always a pleasure to talk to him; a lovely man for whom I had so much respect.
‘I remember playing MacNeil of Barra’s March for Jimmy at Ligonier Games many years back. He was delighted with it and later that day asked if I’d like to join his workshops at CMU. I was quite chuffed at the prospect. Drove all night to get to the first weekend workshop… Upon arrival, I could not for the life of me find the ‘Navy’ building. Remember my frantic call Joyce? I didn’t want to be late!
‘I ended up attending GSIA, now Tepper Business School at CMU. Enjoyed every moment I was able to learn something new about a tune’s presentation from Jimmy. Joyce, prayers for you and Cameron. God speed Jimmy, you will be sorely missed.’
Ian Larg: ‘I was very sad to read this news today. I was taught by Peter Forbes, and then by Jimmy in Dundee where he was a leading light in the Tayside Pipers Society. He gave his time freely to many pupils at a class held on Wednesday nights in the home of Bob Leitch. The TPS met on Saturday nights in Broughty Ferry and the format was that those who wanted to play were given every encouragement.
‘Jimmy guided me through the junior contests, Highland games and into the daunting realms of indoor professional contests when I turned 16. We toured many games together and even provided a recital for an estate owner near Kinloch Rannoch who had arrived too late for the games. Willie Dickson, Bill Wotherspoon, Jimmy and I had travelled together from Dundee, competed at the games and we were then invited to play for the estate owner and his family who had just arrived from their London home. Great days indeed!
‘I met Jimmy on his last visit to Scotland at Fort George; a place which for which he didn’t have fond memories. I met him again at his daughter’s house in Fife where we compared notes of good and bad competition days, special tunes, etc. This was only a year or two ago and he was still playing three piobaireachd a day which was no mean feat for someone who appeared to defy the passage of time.
‘My heartfelt condolences to Joyce and the rest of Jimmy’s family. It was a pleasure to have spent so much time with him and I can still hear him sing as he taught me yet another piobaireachd. Thanks for everything.’
Andrew Carlisle: ‘What a character!? What a player!? What a scholar!? What a teacher!? The list goes on and on. Jimmy was not only a mentor to me for the last eleven years, he was one of my closest friends. A very generous and kind person that was all about trying to do best for piping and for the promotion and preservation of the playing of our ceòl mòr.
‘It was always a real pleasure to play for Jimmy. He had the unique ability to make the dots on the page sing and pass that knowledge along to his students at every level. He also wouldn’t hesitate to give me a well deserved kick up the backside! In turn, he would always play a tune or two for me on the pipes… the last time I heard him play was in May 2020… he was 94 (a month shy of 95) and picked a wee small tune to play with Patrick Og. The music pouring out of him, his high G singing and what a crunluath (better than mine, and I was 60 years his junior).
‘Just under a month ago, I had the pleasure of sharing my last visit with Carnegie Mellon graduate and good friend Nick Hudson. The 95 year old was still in good form and put the two of us through our paces. With COVID-19 restrictions, the visit itself was complicated with multiple negative tests required, but it was well worth it. We managed to play the maestro 16 tunes in the course of two days – eight big tunes each. Jimmy sang and fingered along the entire way. A lasting memory will be me hitting a wrong note in line two of the taorluath doubling of the Unjust and the eye roll I got as a result. ‘Oh deary me!’ Even at 95, his piobaireachd memory was razor sharp.
‘A real character; very quick witted. He regularly drank coffee until 5pm, followed by wine until bedtime (although it often was already ‘5 o’clock somewhere’ with Jimmy). ‘Water’s for camels’ was another common expression of his (resulting from a WW2 illness in Aden from drinking the water there – he would never drink water again). Everywhere he went, he was the life of the party, even amongst young pipers 70, 80 or even 85 years his junior.
‘Another memory was at the Atlanta workshop a few years ago – many of the piping and drumming greats were in attendance as instructors. For the instructor concert on the Saturday night, already in his 90s… he wasn’t at all shy of performing. He played Highland Wedding, Susan MacLeod and Mrs. MacPherson of Inveran along with me and Chris Apps (tunes were his suggestions)… and when there was any suggestion that some instructors were too old to play (yes, Ken Eller and Richard Parkes) – he reminded us all that he was in his 90s and if he was playing, they had zero excuse for not playing a tune… which they did and did tremendously well. His response was actually to play a full piobaireachd, Lament for Alasdair Dearg MacDonnell of Glengarry, including a crunluath-a-mach. A lot of solo piping and pipe band stars of the modern era performed that evening, Jimmy the talking point as always, leaving the audience with a standing ovation.
‘Jimmy lived, ate, slept and breathed piobaireachd! Averaging three or four full piobaireachd on his old Lawrie or Robertson bagpipe each and every day, well into his mid-90s, he must have come close to the individual that played the most piobaireachd in history. His teachings, inherited from P/M Bob Brown, P/M Bob Nicol (and earlier from P/M Willie Ross and P/M Donald MacLeod from his time in the Cameron Highlanders) will be passed down by the hundreds of pipers he has taught. He will be sorely missed by all that knew him, but his amazing legacy will live on.
‘We have lost one of our greats. Thoughts and prayers with his dear wife Joyce, sons Roddy and Cameron, daughters Margaret and Moira and all of his extended family, friends and hundreds of fellow students.’
- Space precludes the insertion of all tributes. Please read them in our Comments section.