National Piping Centre celebrates Duncan Johnstone and his music

Duncan was born in Glasgow in 1925 and died in 1999.

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The National Piping Centre will premiere a night of musical entertainment to celebrate the life and works of legendary piper Duncan Johnstone this weekend.

On Saturday, April 10, the online concert will showcase Duncan’s music with performances from some of the most well-recognised pipers and musicians on the Scottish music scene.

As an extraordinary piper, teacher and composer, Duncan not only taught many of the top pipers of today, but his work also continues to capture the attention of many other musicians across the traditional music scene.

The incredible line-up of performers includes Roddy MacLeod MBE, one of Duncan’s most well-known pupils, and John Dew, the last overall winner of the Duncan Johnstone Memorial Piping Competition in 2019.

The National Piping Centre’s director of piping, Finlay MacDonald, who was also a pupil of Johnstone, has put together a band with award-winning fiddler Marie Fielding, founding member of Capercaillie and director of Celtic Connections Donald Shaw and guitarist Steve Byrnes (Kate Rusby Band/Treacherous Orchestra).

This top line-up will play an array of Duncan’s best-loved tunes throughout the night, showcasing why his music continues to inspire future generations.

Dougie Pincock, former piper with the Battlefield Band and director of The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, will also perform from his home in Plockton, as well as discussing his years of tutelage with the great man himself.

Alongside the evening showcasing some fantastic music, viewers will also enjoy interviews with students of Duncan and fans of his music worldwide.

Finlay said: ‘We wanted to make sure that we continue to honour and celebrate Duncan’s contribution to the piping world.

‘This event showcases the depth and breadth of his music, but also gives us an opportunity to hear more about the man himself through those who had a personal connection to him and have been influenced by his work.’

Duncan was born in Glasgow in 1925 and died in 1999. His mother was from Benbecula and his father from Barra. He was nine years of age when he was encouraged by his father — also a piper — to go with a friend for lessons from Glasgow policeman Angus Campbell from Ballachulish. Duncan won his first chanter competition in 1938.

He joined the St Francis Boys Guild Band and on leaving school he began an apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker. When he was old enough, he joined the Royal Navy, spending a large part of the last year of the Second World War minesweeping in the eastern Mediterranean.

At the end of hostilities Duncan returned to Glasgow where he completed his apprenticeship and resumed lessons with Angus Campbell. He was later passed on to ‘wee’ Donald MacLean and Roddy MacDonald, both of whom were living in Glasgow.

Through these teachers and regular visits to his father’s home island, Duncan began to absorb the west coast musical influences he was to become famous for.

The event was recorded at The National Piping Centre in early March in strict adherence to all social distancing and Covid safe guidelines.

It will be available to watch back for one week, until Saturday, April 17. Tickets are £10 and can be bought from: