Obituary: Dugald Gillespie, Islay

Want to read more?

We value our content and access to our full site is only available with a  subscription. Your subscription entitles you to 7-day-a-week access to our website, plus a full digital copy of that week’s paper to read on your pc/mac or mobile device.  In addition, your subscription includes access to digital archive copies from 2006 onwards.

Just want to read one issue? No problem you can subscribe for just one week (or longer if you wish).

Already a subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Dugald Gillespie, known as Dougie, was a popular singer in Gaeldom for many years.

He was born in Portnahaven, Islay, and was educated there, leaving Islay at the age of 15 to start an engineering apprenticeship.

He met his future wife, Marie, at the Highlander’s Institute and after two years at sea with Ellerman Lines, travelling the world, Dougie and Marie got married in Riddrie, Glasgow.

They had three children – Sheena, a radiographer, Neil, an opera singer, and Mairi, a teacher.

After joining the City of Glasgow Police in 1960, Dougie started to sing with the Police Male Voice Choir, enjoying some interesting trips abroad and also making successful recordings.

This ignited his passion for singing and in 1981, at Lochaber, he joined the ranks of Islay’s national Mod Gold medallists, including his great friends Donald Macleod and Ian Carmichael.

His friend Willie Cameron said: ‘I remember when he won the Gold Medal at Fort William in 1981 and the great ceilidh that followed.

‘He was also a regular at the mid-week Park Bar Ceilidh, alternating with Ian Carmichael and many cracking nights there. Many nights at The Dorchester Hotel also.

‘There were three national Mod Gold medallists from Portnahaven, Islay – Mary C MacNiven and Donald M MacLeod and Dougie Gillespie.

‘Dougie was also a past president of The Islay Association.’

Working through the police ranks and promoted to Inspector, Dougie was asked to head the unit which drew together the members of Strathclyde Police Pipe Band, and he was thrilled to be in charge throughout the boys’ record-breaking run of six consecutive world titles.

Willie  said: ‘Angus Lawrie composed a lovely tune for Dougie entitled simply, Dugald Gillespie. It appears in the Gordon Highlanders’ collection and was often used in compilations.

‘Dougie was one of the most in-demand and popular singers for the Highland Annual Gatherings’ busy scene of ceilidhs, formal and informal. Dougie was always in demand for many decades.

‘The Glasgow Highland associations (of which there were many) held six-monthly ceilidh dances a year. The night usually featured a male and female Gaelic singer, a piper and box player.

‘I played at many of them and Dougie was without doubt the most popular/ regular singer at these functions.’

At the same time as heading up the unit which drew together the members of Strathclyde Police Pipe Band, Marie and Dougie had moved to Garrowhill, and enjoyed many years of playing and socialising at Garrowhill Bowling Green, where they made many life-long friends. He was also an elder at Mure Memorial Church in Garrowhill.

They enjoyed numerous trips to London to visit Neil and his partner Michael, to Holland to visit Mairi and her husband Jamie, and to Islay to visit Sheena and her husband Douglas. By this time they had been delighted to welcome their first grandchildren, Gregor and Euan.

Sadly Marie’s health deteriorated and she passed away in October 2009. She never got to meet Mairi’s daughter Katie, who came along in 2010, but Dougie spent many happy times with them, both in Holland and Scotland.

After Marie’s death Dougie’s enthusiasm for singing waned and he rarely sang in public. The ceilidh crowd at Kilmeny were delighted last year, however, when he joined Neil in a duet, and proved that he still ‘had it’!

Dougie had only very recently returned to live in Portnahaven, when he discovered his heart was failing.

He passed away peacefully in his sleep on September 2 at the age of 87, and was laid to rest with Marie, at Nerabus, ‘beside the sound of the sea’.

He will be missed by the family and all who knew him, but remembered with love and affection.