Gordon Duncan

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Gordon Duncan
Born(1964-05-14)14 May 1964
Turriff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Died14 December 2005(2005-12-14) (aged 41)
Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland
Instrumentsbagpipes, low whistle

Gordon Duncan (14 May 1964 – 14 December 2005) was a bagpiper, low whistle player and composer, born in Turriff, Aberdeenshire.

Early life[edit]

Duncan was born in Turriff, Aberdeenshire on 14 May 1964 to tenant farmer Jock Duncan, well known as a bothy ballad singer, and his wife Frances.[1] Soon after Gordon's birth, Jock joined the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and moved to Pitlochry after a brief spell in Thurso.[1] Initially taught by his father, Gordon began his piping career at the age of 10, winning many junior competitions under the tuition of Walter Drysdale,[1] but started to lose interest in competition piping by the age of 18, at which point he was an apprentice joiner.[2]


He attracted attention from folk bands, touring the US and Europe with the Tannahill Weavers, Wolfstone and Ceolbeg and became associated with Dougie MacLean, playing low whistle on his albums.[2][3] He began composing soon afterwards, having travelled across Europe and been exposed to other traditions, especially Breton music.[2]

He was a very influential piper who broke the boundaries of traditional piping music.[4] He was a member of the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band and also performed with the Atholl Highlanders, as well as being signed by Greentrax as a solo artist.[2][5]

Duncan created a new style of idiosyncratic bagpipe music.[1] He also incorporated the bagpipes into a rendition of AC/DC's Thunderstruck.[2] His work was heard at T in the Park, Celtic Connections, Celtic Colours in Canada, the Lorient festival in Brittany, where he was the two-time winner of the MacAllan Trophy and the Fleadh Cheoil in Ireland.[6][7]

He worked as a refuse collector and was known to scribble compositions on cigarette packets whilst at work.[1]


Duncan composed over one hundred tunes in his lifetime, with perhaps his most famous work, Andy Renwick's Ferret, being performed and recorded internationally.[2][5][6]

He arranged music for the Vale of Atholl and ScottishPower pipe bands.[8][9]


On 14 December 2005, Duncan was found dead at his home in Perthshire following a long struggle with alcoholism.[1] His funeral was held at Pitlochry Church of Scotland and was attended by hundreds of pipers.[5][7] He is survived by his mother and father, brother and two sisters, as well as his son, Gordon, and his wife, Mary.[1]

In 2007, A National Treasure concert was staged in Perth by the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust, and for the following four years, with the BBC airing the 2011 concert.[7][10][11][12] In January 2016, a gig was at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall as part of Celtic Connections.[13]


He recorded three solo albums, and a further album was compiled after his death from previously recorded material.[8][14][15]

  • Just for Seumas (1994)
  • Circular Breath (1997)
  • Thunderstruck (2003)
  • Just for Gordon (2007)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gilchrist, Jim (20 December 2005). "Obituary: Gordon Duncan". The Scotsman. p. 33. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Adams, Rob (22 December 2005). "Gordon Duncan; Renowned musician and composer". The Herald. Glasgow. p. 16. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  3. ^ Adams, Rob (13 December 1990). "THEATRE / Brand new bag; Rob Adams reports on attempts to breathe new life into an ancient tradition". The Independent. London. p. 14.
  4. ^ "Young pipers heading off in new directions". The Scotsman. 15 August 2005. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Funeral of renowned piper who died at 41". Aberdeen Evening Express. 21 December 2005. p. 18.
  6. ^ a b McDonald, Graham (20 June 2001). "Night with piper far from highland fling". Canberra Times. Australia. p. 8.
  7. ^ a b c English, Spaul (31 December 2011). "Just for Gordon Sunday, BBC Alba, Pipers' Champion; Piper was Regarded as One of the Most Innovative Performers and Composers". Daily Record. pp. 16–17.
  8. ^ a b "Gordon Duncan: 1964–2006.(Obituary)". Sing Out!. 22 March 2006. Archived from the original on 29 June 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014 – via HighBeam. (Subscription required (help)).
  9. ^ "Gordon Duncan". Allmusic. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  10. ^ Gilchrist, Jim (20 September 2012). "Review : Folk, Jazz, Etc : Blowing up a storm in celebration of piper Duncan's legacy". The Scotsman. p. 10. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  11. ^ Adams, Rob (26 September 2011). "A National Treasure V, Perth Concert Hall". The Herald. Glasgow. p. 17. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  12. ^ "The Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust". The Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  13. ^ "Celtic Connections 2016: Director Donald Shaw picks 10 highlights". BBC News. 14 January 2016.
  14. ^ "Just For Gordon (CD)". Foot Stompin' Celtic Music. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  15. ^ "Gordon Duncan". Retrieved 13 April 2013.

External links[edit]