Iain MacPherson MM, the Man and His Pipes

Several readers contacted Piping Press after our article on the pipes belonging to the late Iain MacPherson, brother of the more famous Donald, but an expert piper in his own right.

Piping historian Jeannie Campbell, who knew Iain well, was the first to get in touch. In addition to her comments, we are grateful to Jeannie for supplying the pictures of Iain:

‘Iain MacPherson’s pipes were Kintail, mounted with imitation silver and imitation ivory. During his time teaching abroad he acted as an unofficial agent for Greig Sharp of Kintail, and several times he sold the pipes he took with him, and on returning Greig would give him another set.

‘The last set was so good that he decided to keep them. I made the maroon velvet cover with gold fringe for him (pictured above). The pipes were inherited by his son Iain and were later in the possession of Iain junior’s widow, Iain’s daughter in law. I was in contact with her concerning the pipes when she was considering selling them.

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‘Prior to playing Kintail, Iain played a set made by his brother Willie who worked at RG Lawrie’s. Iain decided to leave them uncombed. They were ivory mounted with silver slides and the silver discs on the drone tops were half crowns hammered flat. He sold this set in Alaska.

‘Iain MacPherson was born in Glasgow in 1920. After tuition from his father and playing with the Glasgow Shepherds, he joined the Highland Light Infantry TA before the war and served throughout the conflict, being awarded the Military Medal.

‘He had one course of instruction from P/M Willie Ross at the Army School. After the war he served with the Parachute Regt. as Pipe Sergeant under Pipe Major George Stoddart. He only competed seriously in 1954 when, at the Argyllshire Gathering, he was 2nd in the March, and at the Northern Meeting, where he was 4th in the Gold Medal and 3rd in the March.

Iain’s Kintail pipes

‘In 1971 he played in the light music at the Argyllshire Gathering for only the second time and was placed 5th in the March. He was the Schools Instructor in Glasgow for many years until 1985 when he began travelling extensively to teach abroad. He settled in Alaska before moving to Tulsa where he died in 1995.’

Stuart Shedden: ‘I was taught by Iain’s brother Alastair and then later by Donald. Alastair tells the story that he got together with his brother Iain to make a set of pipes each for themselves. On at least one set, half crowns were used as silver ring caps. 

‘Alastair sold his set but Iain kept the set made by them both. Occasionally towards the end of my lesson, Iain would come to the house for a tune. This would be late 70s, early 80s. I remember the bagpipe well,  as the timber was plain and uncombed. 

‘The set mentioned in the article are combed. This could have been done at a later date or might be a different set entirely. Perhaps other readers could shed more light.’

Chris Knight: ‘Iain passed in Tulsa, OK.  Here’s a link to death notice: https://sites.rootsweb.com/~okcreek/obits/obit/macpherson_iain.htm. I and a few others may recall this day as Iain was judging at the Tulsa Highland Games when he had heart failure and was taken from the games to the hospital.’

Teddy Krogh in Alaska: ‘Despite Iain passing before I even started learning bagpipes, I’ve felt a connection to him through his student and my early instructor Joe Albrecht. Joe started learning bagpipes from Iain and many of Iain’s teachings have been passed on to me via Joe. Iain’s impact on piping in our great state is still felt to this day – some 40 years after his time here.

‘The story goes that he was tapped to judge here at one of our early Highland games in the 1980s. He loved the state and its scenery so much that he ended up staying and living here for a few years. During his time in Alaska he taught students and brought some real high quality piping here.

‘I have also heard he left Alaska just as abruptly as he came. One day he came back from judging events in the Midwest. He had met a woman during these travels, married her, and lived near Oklahoma City for the remainder of his days.

‘I am sure he had a few sets of pipes, but growing up I was always told that he played a ‘garden variety Kintail set’ and that it was nothing more than a mid-range set, something off the store shelf.

P/Sgt Iain playing with the 5th Para band in 1947, P/M George Stoddart, D/M Tam Pentland

‘I’m told that this set was really nothing too special or fancy, but he set them up so well that they always sounded amazing. The lesson growing up was that a good player can make a decent set into a solid instrument. If this story is true, I would suspect that those Kintails were brought down to Oklahoma and played there until his passing.

‘I have been trying to accumulate music Iain wrote and even travelled to Oklahoma City to track down tunes he might have written during his time there. The goal is to hopefully get 100 of his tunes and publish them somewhere along with whatever I can muster up about him as a biography. I have at least 64 complete compositions right now but have some snippets and cassette recordings of him going through some incomplete tunes too. I know there are more out there…somewhere.’


3 thoughts on “Iain MacPherson MM, the Man and His Pipes

  1. Great article. I would like an update about the book of Ian’s tunes that is being compiled, has it been published yet? If so, where can I find it?

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