I recently reported that on a trip to Iona and its abbey I spotted this memorial bench (right in picture above) dedicated to a Dominic McGowan, writes the Editor.
I thought this could be the same Dominic McGowan who died at a tragically young age and for whom Duncan Johnstone wrote his melodic and poignant 6/8 march. The dates fitted and I remembered him telling me about the origins of the tune.
My hunch proved correct. Dominic’s father Andrew got in touch: ‘The photograph of the memorial bench for Dominic is at St. Oran’s Chapel on Iona. Dominic was one of my children. He died in 1982.
‘His ashes are not far from where the bench sits. His brother and sister were pupils of Duncan at the time. We are forever grateful to him for composing the tune in memory of Dominic. My thanks for putting the photos of the bench online. I appreciate it.
‘Attached is a photo of Dominic [above, with Abbey and bench in background]. He was six years old when this was taken.
‘I came across Piping Press while I was browsing online and decided to have a look in because I saw the reference to the isle of Mull. When I came across your photos of Iona with Dominic’s bench I was very impressed.
‘It was such a nice gesture I just had to contact you and thank you for it. It was very touching to say the least.
I don’t know if you knew that Dominic was profoundly mentally and physically handicapped. He was very special.
‘There is comfort in knowing that his name will be spoken for a long time to come thanks to Duncan Johnstone. I’m very grateful to Duncan for the tune. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of immortality.
‘As for my other children’s time with Duncan, Andrew and Ann both found him to be an excellent tutor. Not only that, they found him to be very a friendly sociable person and easy to get on with, not forgetting that they always felt relaxed in his company. Both of them learned a lot musically from Duncan during the time they were his pupils.
‘The evening Duncan presented us with the tune for Dominic we will never forget. He would have understood the grief that we were going through at that time regarding the passing of one of our children.
‘When he gave us the tune we were so overwhelmed that for a few moments we were speechless. I don’t think we could have thanked him enough for such a kind gesture.
‘I am sure he knew that we appreciated what he had given us. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say Duncan’s composition ensures Dominic’s memory endures. I would like to finish by saying that Duncan Johnstone wasn’t just a nice man, he was a nice human being.’
- Duncan’s tune can be found in ‘His Complete Compositions’ book. Unfortunately it would appear the book is out of print. If anyone has information please forward.