Obituary: Angus MacInnes Lawrie

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Angus Lawrie was a member of the Mid-Argyll team in 1961.

Angus Lawrie died December 7. He was 88 years old, having been born in Oban on June 25, 1930.

Angus proudly came from Oban. He was educated at Rockfield Primary, and then at the Oban High School.

His father, Kenny, was an accomplished piper, and his uncle, Angus, founded Oban Pipe Band.

Angus was devoted to his parents (Kenny and Cathy), and was part of a close family (sisters Ina and Mary, and brothers Ewan and Kenny).

On leaving school, Angus did a variety of jobs: his first job at 13 was as a slaughterer in the Oban abattoir- a very tough introduction to working life. Angus subsequently worked as a porter in the Regent and Columba Hotels.

Angus was drafted to undertake his National Service, where he served in the Black Watch. He joined the Black Watch Pipe Band, while his shinty skills saw him play in the British Army hockey team.

After completing National Service, Angus returned to Oban and spent several years working in the hotels and as a woodsman, which he credited for giving him his formidable stamina and arm strength.

He joined the 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Territorial Regiment – playing in both the Oban Pipe Band and 8th Argyll Pipe Bands with his cousin ‘Big Ronnie’.

As a young man, Angus was a gifted athlete: he had lightning speed of action and thought- which made him a great shinty and football player. Shinty was his passion, and he became a star player in the famous Oban Celtic team of the 1950s and Mid Argyll in the late 1950s and 1960s. He was a deadly first forward, winning every national medal and cup available as a member of Oban Celtic and then Mid-Argyll.

He co-founded the Glasgow Police shinty and football teams. He only gave up playing shinty when he was 52. He was honoured by the shinty world in 2011, on the 50th anniversary of the famous Mid-Argyll victory in the Celtic Cup.

In terms of career, Angus will be best remembered for his time in the police. It was in 1954 that Angus joined the police in Glasgow– serving for 30 years. Angus was commended for his courageous conduct on nine occasions. By all accounts he was ‘very good at catching a thief’.

Working in the Glasgow police would change his life – not least of course because that was how he met his wife to be Doreen. Doreen also worked for the police – as a telephonist – and it was a cheeky conversation from a police box one day that started the romance.

Love found its way and the two were married in the congregation church in Cathcart on November 22, 1958. They would go on to enjoy some 60 years of happy marriage, be blessed with two boys (Kenny and Ian), three grandchildren (Martin, Ann-Marie and Christine), and three great-grandchildren (Isla, Fergus and Evelina).

Family was very much Angus’s life. He was very proud of all of them, and indeed lived for them. Home for the Lawries would be Cathcart for the boys’ schooling, and then Houston, Largs and finally Doonfoot for the past 10 years, where Angus and Doreen lived very happily.

Angus excelled at many things in his life. In addition to his exploits on the shinty field, he was also a shooter with a keen eye. He was a skilled marksman in the army, and later joined the police shooting team.

As a golfer- he hit an incredibly long ball- and won the Scottish police golf championship at Dalmahoy. And for many years in his retirement enjoyed his golf- not giving up until he was 85. In his 80s he could still out-drive most young men (and the local golf professional) – with that legendary shinty swing and forearm strength.

However, Angus will perhaps best be remembered for his contribution to piping- as a piper, pipe major, instructor, composer and pipe-bag maker.

Angus became an accomplished solo player, and was particularly proud of winning the local gold medal at the Argyllshire Gathering, 30 years after his father.

In the police service, he joined the famous Grade 1 City of Glasgow Police Pipe Band – at a time when they toured the world and made several excellent recordings. They were rarely off the TV at New Year.

After a brief interlude, Angus rejoined the band – which had become the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band – during their heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s. He was a member of the famous world championship-winning Strathclyde Pipe Band for the first four of the six world titles they won in a row.

Travelling far with the award-winning bands, Angus was also an accomplished Highland dancer- performing the Argyll broadswords on stage and television for kings and queens, and international audiences from Europe to North America. And how many pipers have appeared in
a James Bond movie?

After retiring as a police officer, Angus became pipe-major of the Grade 1 Britoil in the 1980s. Angus then became pipe-major of Johnstone, which at the time was a Grade 3 band. He was particularly proud that his grandson Martin also played in the band.

When Angus retired, he was the first piper to advertise in the yellow pages – and we can but imagine the number of occasions both happy and sad at which he has piped. Angus played at many concerts – playing with great pride alongside son Ian on the accordion and, later, grandson Martin on the pipes.

Angus also established a very successful business making pipe bags. His sheepskin pipe bags for a time were among the most widely played – particularly by the top pipers of the day. He was also the largest supplier of bags to the trade, and the British Army. He also made bags for several continental styles of pipes.

Angus was a prolific composer and penned more than 350 tunes, perhaps the most well-known of which are the 4/4 march, The 1976 Police Tattoo, the hornpipe Old Toasty (Ronald Lawrie’s father’s nickname), and the march, Dugald Gillespie. Angus’s compositions were always melodic, with a high degree of skill shown in crafting well-balanced tunes.

He had exacting standards, rejecting many compositions he was not entirely happy with. He won many of the composing competitions he entered. And he composed not only ‘ceol beg’ music, but also some fine piobaireachds.

Angus published a collection of some of his music, The Oban Connection, in the 1980s, with many compositions published in more than a dozen other pipe music collections, including that of the Argylls, on which he reflected that his father (also a former member of the Argylls) would have been particularly proud.

Many of Angus’s tunes have been extensively played and recorded throughout the world by pipers, pipe bands and folk music groups. An omnibus collection of Angus’s music – Highland Memorial – will be published next year.

In short, Angus liked people and enjoyed life. He was a very kind and generous man. Many of his friends and family have been bestowed the special gift of a tune composed for them by Angus. His music will outlive us all.