J. Duncan McGillivray, 1930-2013

Published: February 28, 2013
(Page 1 of 1)

The Ontario piping scene has been saddened and diminished by the passing of one of its administrative stalwarts of the 1970s and ’80s.

Little did Duncan McGillivray – “Dunc” to all who knew him – realize when his son Jim followed the whim of an 11-year-old in 1967 and started to learn the pipes that the life of the entire family would soon be enveloped Ontario Highland games circuit.

One turn on the bass drum at a practice with the Kitchener Legion band in the late ’60s made it clear to Dunc that if he was going to contribute it would not be as a musician. By the early 1970s he had begun stewarding at the games for the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, back when the summer games circuit numbered 15 or more contests. By then, his wife Grace had followed him into stewarding. Daughter Melanie was a Grade 1 side drummer, while Jim played both the band and solo piping circuit.  

In the mid-1970s Dunc was appointed the PPBSO’s first Chief Steward, a position he defined and excelled at for the next 15 years. He was known not only for his efficiency in the job, but for his good humour and his judgment in knowing when circumstances demanded that rules be bent for the sake of compassion and good will. His work on the Intercontinental Pipe Band Championships at the CNE in Toronto made him good friends in the RSPBA as well, and he was always quick to remind the Scots of his family’s roots on Mull and their pioneering settlement of Bruce County, Ontario, in the 1850s.

Dunc and Grace retired from the scene in 1991, coincidentally, the same year Melanie retired from the drumming scene and Jim bade farewell to solo piping competition. However, Dunc was not forgotten, and as recently as last year his visits to Georgetown or Fergus Highland Games would elicit a steady stream of handshakes and good wishes from old friends.  

Many pipers might know his name from a 6/8 march written by his son back in 1991. The then-nameless tune was first entered in the Spitfire” composing competition, where it placed second to a strathspey written by P-M Angus MacDonald. “In retrospect, that was a blessing,” recalls Jim McGillivray. “The tune was quickly becoming popular, so I named it after my father, which turned out to be more meaningful to me than winning any composing competition.” The tune, “Duncan McGillivray, Chief Steward,” has become a staple among pipers and pipe bands around the world.

Grace McGillivray passed away in 2004. Duncan is survived by son Jim, daughter Mel, and grandchildren Neil and Anne. A memorial service will be held at Henry Walser Funeral Home in Kitchener on Saturday, March 2, at 11 am, with visitation at 10 am.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0
  1. Lornescots

    Sorry to hear the sad news regarding the passing of your Dad. I remember those good times in Guelph years ago with your Mum and Dad. It was my pleasure to know them. Alistair Hill

  2. DonMole

    Jim and Mel, I remember your dad as a good friend, out- going, cheerful, and a great contributor to the smooth running of the highland games in the the 60s and70s. He and I had many good times together and I will miss him greatly.

The new pipes|drums app offers the same publication with a streamlined experience. Get the latest news optimized for your smartphone.
Download on the App Store

Get it on Google Play
October 23, 1962Archie MacNeill dies, age 83, Glasgow.
  • One last time
    Fri, 14 Oct 2016
    “The pipes will fall in front of the band.” So ordered Queen Victoria way back when, and so it has been ever since. Except at the march past of the 2016 World Pipe Band Championships when the last band on, … Continue reading → …
Read more »
UPCOMING EVENTS November 5, 2016Niagara SessionsNiagara Falls

November 18, 2016Balmoral ClassicMcGonigle Theater, Central Catholic H.S., Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

November 19, 201621st Annual George Sherriff Memorial InvitationalSt. Paul's United Church, Hamilton, Ontario

May 20, 2017British Pipe Band ChampionshipsPaisley, Scotland

June 10, 2017UK Pipe Band ChampionshipsBelfast

Pipers: When selecting and setting reeds (chanter & drone) always take time. There is no such thing as a “plug & play” reed – just ask any professional. We are always making the slightest of adjustments to achieve the maximum from the instrument.
Murray Henderson, Kirriemuir, Scotland