Memories of My Father, Donald Morrison, Part 2

Donald’s daughter Sheona MacDonald, Aberdeen, has agreed to share with us her memories of her father and also his extensive archive of photographs, letters and newspaper clippings. We will publish what we can over the coming weeks. Mrs MacDonald has also kindly given permission for her father’s book of tunes to be published for download. Again this will be available via the Piping Press Shop in due course. The above picture shows her father, far left, at Braemar Gathering in 1958. He is pictured with, (l-r): Donald MacLean. Lewis, William M MacDonald, Inverness, and Jimmy McGregor, Glenalmond.

Dad made many appearances on Radio Scotland in the 1960s. These broadcasts from the Beechgrove Studios in Aberdeen went out live and mum was tasked with recording them on a Grundig reel to reel tape machine, the microphone aimed at the radio. My sister and I had to keep as quiet as mice for the duration.

In my trawl of the many items now in my possession I have come across these ancient tapes which have hopefully endured and will be suitable for transfer to a more current format.

By Sheona MacDonald

Piping took dad on many overseas travels. He visited South Africa in the 60s, changing his normal bag for a hide one to prevent the sheepskin bag going hard with the heat.

Trips to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia to pass on his knowledge followed over the years. I recall him having an issue on one of his travels as his pipes were mistaken for something else more sinister when going through an X-ray scanner!

After retiring from the police, most of his time was devoted to teaching and he took pride in the progression of his pupils from the Aberdeen area. 

Dad was never one to turn down an opportunity to play, many brides have been piped out of church, and too many haggis to mention have been consumed after being piped in by him. In 1968 Dad even made it to an oil rig in the North Sea on New Year’s Day, piping in the New Year for the workforce.

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He dabbled in many forms of the instrument and became interested in the Breton and Northumbrian pipes and was fascinated by the history of these and other bagpipes from around the world.

His interest in music was diverse and he played with a country and western band in the early 70s. I also recall someone visiting with a French horn and playing this alongside his pipes!

As well as seeking perfection in playing, letters from Sheriff JP Grant, Rothiemurchus, Seton Gordon and many other notables, confirm dad’s desire to keep the teachings of John MacDonald, Inverness, teaching he learned via the ‘two Bobs’ alive in his own rendition of tunes.

I am sifting through the mountains of paperwork, photos and I am in awe at the amount of books dad had. Some are so old with annotations and notes added. I have had to order some archival storage for these to preserve them. He appears to have kept every copy that was printed of the Piping Times.

Newspaper clipping from Donald’s papers. The caption reads: The News of the World Trophy is the centre of interest for this colourful group at Inverness yesterday. Left to right: Pipe Major Walter Leslie of Forfar Burgh Pipe Band, Pipe Major William Kinnear of Kinning Park Pipe Band, Glasgow, Pipe Major John Notman of the Edinburgh Corporation Transport Pipe Band, Pipe Major Donald Morrison of the Aberdeen City Police Pipe Band, Pipe Mjor James Thomson of the Patna and District Pipe Band, Ayrshire…..

He strove to keep old tunes from being lost and of course composition of new tunes were important to him. I have come across many tunes scribbled on bits of paper, which I am in the process of cataloguing, some are just a few notes, others fully completed with ‘March’ or ‘Jig’ being their only title. 

I’m sure there were many more great tunes to be shared and played when dad left us; perhaps some of those bits of paper contain one of these.

My father’s health began to deteriorate in the mid 1980s. He suffered a problem with his heart and this led to his doctor confirming in 1987 that, as well as his cardiac issue, he had terminal cancer.

I remember him giving this awful news to my sister and I. His reaction was that he still had so much to do.

He wanted to get a book of his tunes published and he strove to do this. He told me that he felt he was rushing to get the book out and wished he had more time to do it.

In his papers are other projects which are sadly unfinished. Dad died at home on 18th March 1988 aged 60. His funeral is a bit of a blur. There were a lot of people there to pay their respects. I’m sure Hugh MacCallum piped at the graveside.

  • Read the first part of this history here.

3 thoughts on “Memories of My Father, Donald Morrison, Part 2

  1. An excellent article, bringing back many happy memories of my father’s young brother, Donald, and indeed of my grandfather. The house in Locheynort was a hive of piping activity in my boyhood, with my grandfather, Donald, my father Aonghus Mor and Aonghus beag all striving to out-do each other in educating us youngsters in the finer points. Looking forward to the next article.
    D I Morrison.

  2. I was in the police band with Donald in the late 1950s and was .always fascinated by the sheer quality of his finger work. This evidence compiled by his daughter, Sheona, will be of great interest to all in the world of piping.

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