December 31, 2008

Duncan Gibson, 1951-2008

Duncan Gibson, the well known and popular Ontario bass drummer, died in Hamilton, Ontario, on December 1, 2008, after a two-year battle with cancer.
Born in Motherwell, Scotland, on May 6, 1951, Gibson played bass for many years with the Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band. Along the way he received numerous awards for his work, including the “Best Bass” prize at the North American Championships many times.
While Duncan Gibson was perhaps best known for his work with the Toronto Police, he played with the Grade 1 McNish Pipe Band in the 1970s and the Bruce County and Clan MacFarlane pipe bands in the 1980s. He moved to the Toronto Police when Clan MacFarlane and the Metro Toronto Police bands merged in the early 1990s.
He joined the Grade 1 Peel Regional Police in 2002 and played with that band until he returned to Toronto Police is 2005 after the two bands essentially traded drum sections. He returned to finish his playing career with the Niagara Regional Police in 2008.
Duncan Gibson will be remembered for many stories, among them competing with one arm in a sling while playing bass with Clan MacFarlane because he had fallen on hedge trimmers. James MacHattie’s composition, “One Stick Duncan,” was named for him after he was awarded the Best Bass prize at the Champion Supreme Hamilton (Ontario) Games in 2005, even though he dropped a stick in the third part of the opening march.
Until he became ill, was in high demand as an instructor. For several years he taught bass drum at the Midwest Highland Arts Fund’s Winter Storm event in Kansas City, Missouri, also participating in the annual concert.
A special prize in his name is already being considered for at least one major competition.
On behalf of the world community of pipers and drummers, we extend our sympathies to Duncan Gibson’s family and many friends at this sad time.


  1. Duncan’s skills went far beyond bass drumming though. I remember one sub-zero Santa Claus Parade in Brampton with Toronto Police… Thanks to Bill Shikatani we were all a little fortified” against the cold… Part way through

  2. I am also sad to hear of Dunc’s passing. I was very fortunate to have played with Duncan in the Clan Macfarlane bass section and through his instruction and encouragement, I was able to suceed in competition. Duncan was the smoothest player i had ever seen and when he flourished.. he was just brilliant My first contest with The Clan was at Georgetown and I thought that would be cut. Having finished tuning, the lads formed up ready to march to the line. I stood back and watched as Duncan looked at me with that infectious smile and said better grab your jacket

  3. Although many of us knew of Duncan’s failing health, his passing is so very hard to accept. As a musical influence, Duncan was one of the founding fathers of the Ontario style of bass drumming. His feel for the music, his precise timing, tuning, and visual meter were, simply, masterful. I owe a lot to Duncan. We were band mates in Niagara Regional Police. He was a mentor, a gentleman, and a true friend. He always had a kind word, or a substantive comment…even when we were ‘pitted’ against each other in competition. Working with Duncan at Winter Storm last year was one of the most memorable and honored moments of my playing career. My deepest condolences to Duncan’s family, and to his many friends. Rest in peace old friend. Mike Cole

  4. This is a very sad loss to me and my entire family, My dad was taught the the pipes by Duncan’s father and he was a great friend of our family, in fact my dad use to take Duncan fishing with him when he was a kid. The one thing I remember about Dunc most of all was that he was always joking and always smiling and a great supporter to me as an up and coming piper. One memory that I have of Dunc was years ago at the Highland Ball my dad brought Duncan a bottle of scotch for helping him with his small legion pipeband up north, the two of them polished off the bottle that night and later Duncan was found passed out in the elevator with the doors opening and closing on him and there he lay with a huge grin on his face ( my dad never made it to the elevator). You will be missed Duncan, Donald and Steven Tripp & family

  5. I am truly saddened to learn of Duncan’s passing, and send my condolences to his family and many, many friends. I count as one of my blessings the opportunity to (finally) play in a band with him when he rejoined the Toronto Police. As Steve Tripp notes, when I think of Duncan, I think of the smile and laugh and alllll the jokes and kidding around. Another wonderful human being taken to a better place – Godspeed, Duncan, and thanks for all the great music and laughs.

  6. Duncan – a class musician and a first class guy who loved to laugh and more important make others laugh around him. My condolences to his family ,friends, bandmembers past and present and students. Godspeed Duncan

  7. When I was 12 I decided I wanted to start playing tenor drum. My papa (Jackie Fair) was excited, but said that I needed to get a current teacher. He suggested I go see Duncan Gibson. I started in January, by April I was playing at Alma with Niagara Regional Police Gr. 2…all a credit to Duncan. Over many years Duncan was my mentor; my buddy. He always looked out for me, and was always patient. In Scotland I’d be silly, and he’d put up with it. Together we won the Best Bass at the Worlds in Grade 2…we both cried! Even when we played in different corps, we were still friends. I am so glad that I had the pleasure to be taught by such a great drummer. Dunc will be missed so much. But there are so many memories I have of him!

  8. I was fortunate to be able to play in the same band as Duncan 3 times, with Clan MacFarlane, Toronto Police and Niagara Police. He was quick with a joke any time things needed lightening up. He always spoke his mind, if he thought something was good, he said it, and if he thought something was shite, he said that too!! He will certainly be missed by all in NRP. I will miss his trips to the Alma 7-11 on Sunday mornings! Dave Goodall

  9. When I was 16 I was lucky enough to play for the resurrected Bruce County Pipe Band as a rhythm tenor drummer. The bass drummer in the band was Duncan and he and I had a blast together in that band. He went on after that to play with the Clan and I became P/M Bill McLeod’s bass drummer. It wasn’t until later in life that I actually began to understand the profound influence Duncan had on me as a musician. I have never, and likely never will hear or see a bass drummer lay down the foundation of a strathspey for a band the way that Duncan could do it. Smooth as silk and always great sounding. Time will heal the pain we feel now, but the memories he has left us with will always bring a smile to our faces. His motion will live on forever. HOSS

  10. Lovely sentiments Craig, I’m sure Dunc is happy to hear them, up there in … ‘The Big Band in the Skye’. His style was as you say, so smooth, and always with beautiful tone and that is something I’ve tried to copy since the Seventies. Back then the expectation of seeing the ‘Clan’ at a competition was heightened by hearing them coming closer and closer to the field playing nice big 6/8’s and feeling Dunc’s’ Bass reverberate through your body. Our private joke was … Why do play Bass in a Pipe Band Jimmy ? “…… Well Dunc it’s the only place I could STICK ! ….. boom ! boom !” I am heart felt sorry to have lost such a Bass Drumming Icon and personal friend. Goodbye old friend. Jim Murdoch “

  11. My thoughts are with Duncan’s family. I had the priviledge of meeting him at Winter Storm. He was a great guy and a great inspiration. R.I.P Duncan. Fiona Rae

  12. Jim Kilpatrick… Like everybody who knew Duncan, I am very sad to hear that the great man is no longer with us. He touched so many peoples lives and has been a great inspiration to many bass and tenor drummers all over the world. My thoughts go out to Duncan’s wife, family and friends.

  13. I played beside Duncan for many years in the Clan, Toronto and Niagara. I had the good fortune to experience his leadership, musicianship and his friendship for years. We shared many experiences over the years as I was his side kick for a long time. We enjoyed our company in the inner circle together being the bass section. Many a contest we would look at each other which meant this is going well! What a way to communicate. Off the field we knew we did the best we could. We spent many a time on sober and not so sober! I will not expand! He taught me well to be able to play bass in his style. That was Duncan full of confidence and a positivie win or lose and a teacher through and through. We have lost a great man on the bass drum. I had the good fortune to visit him before his departure and we talked about good times. His sense of humor came through loud and clear! God speed Duncan! You will always be part of my memories when I listen to our recordings and look at pictures of the bands together we played! Dave Derma



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