February 28, 2011

David Duncan, 1920-2011

David “DC” Duncan, a legendary figure in the northeast of Scotland’s piping and drumming community, died on February 2, 2011, in his ninety-first year.

Duncan completed the Pipe-Majors Course at Edinburgh Castle under Willie Ross and became a Pipe-Major with the 1st-6th Battalion Gordon Highlanders, serving in El-Alamein, Egypt and Palestine in World War II, when he was wounded three times in action. The third time he was hurt while in a vehicle, suffering shrapnel wounds. Two other soldiers were killed. Davie Duncan’s right arm was nearly amputated before another surgeon recognized him as a leading piper and saved the arm.

Davie Duncan was a founding member of the Bucksburn & District organization in 1947, a band he was inspired to form after facing a friendly ribbing from Pipe-Major John K. McAllister of Shotts & Dykehead fame, who ridiculed him that the Aberdeen area had no top-grade band.

At the time, D.C. Duncan was heavily involved with the Aberdeen Battalion Boys Brigade Pipe Band, first as a young player and then as Pipe-Major and instructor. He would lead that band for 40 years, working with young students, many of whom would graduate to play with Bucksburn, of which he was also Pipe-Major.

Duncan brought in Shotts & Dykehead Leading Drummer Gordon Jelly in the 1940s and ’50s to teach drummers in both organizations, and Jelly even played with Bucksburn before leaving Scotland for Australia.

Bucksburn & District was a presence in Grade 1 in Scotland throughout the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, and the band’s highest achievement likely came in 1960 with a third-prize in Grade 1 at the World Pipe Band Championships in Inverness, Scotland. Davie Duncan took his Boys Brigade band to a win in Grade 4 at the 1981 World’s at Hazelhead Park in Aberdeen.

“D.C. Duncan is legendary within pipe band circles far beyond the northeast of Scotland,” said Gus McAskill, president of Bucksburn & District. “As founding Pipe-Major he already has his place in history. He leaves behind a great legacy and will long be remembered for his superb vision and all that he did to improve Bucksburn’s status in the top flight of pipe banding.”

Of Davie Duncan, Graham Gauld, vice-chairman of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s North of Scotland Branch, said: “Pipe Major D.C. Duncan was for long time designated Senior Pipe-Major acting as ‘Musical Director’ in all branch ceremonies and parades. This position was earned through respect of fellow bandsmen and his acknowledged musical prowess. Given his military background he was ideally qualified in all respects and was regarded as a strict disciplinarian and for his professional approach in all that he was associated with.”

 D.C. Duncan was awarded an Honorary Life Membership with the North of Scotland Branch for his “unstinting efforts for the North of Scotland Branch.”

A boot-maker by trade, he also made hide pipe bags that he supplied to many bands. D.D. Duncan is survived by his daughters, Shonagh and Shelagh. To the family and many friends of D.C. Duncan, we express or condolences at this sad time.


  1. Davie passed on his skills to all his pupils, but I don’t believe any of us will ever reach the level that he achieved, his band management, piping skills, knowledge of the instrument, and the ability to set up the band under difficult conditions was second to none. He was and always will be the number one Pipe Major. Rest In peace Davie



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