September 30, 2010

John Finlay, 1932-2010

The piping community has been sadly diminished by the passing of John Finlay, of cancer, in Glasgow on Sept 13, 2010.

John was an accomplished piper who won six Grade 1 World Pipe Band Championships – five as a piper with Muirhead & Sons under Bob Hardie in the 1960s, and one as a snare drummer with Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia under Tom McAllister in the 1950s. He is the only man known to have won the World Championship as both a piper and a drummer.

He was a great friend of Bob Hardie, Andrew Macneil and Robert Reid. He and his wife Sheila took great care of Bob during the last decade of his life. John was a regular at the Worlds Pipe Band Championships and the Glenfiddich Championships at Blair Castle.

John Finlay was a solo contemporary of John D. Burgess and Willie Connell, and enjoyed success as an amateur before focusing on his love of football. His knowledge of our piping history and people was detailed and always entertaining. An old-school pipe bandsman, John loved to listen to the March Strathspey & Reel contests at the World’s. He approached all things piping with a smile and a positive outlook, and his love of piping and sense of humour will be missed by his many piping friends.

John was lovingly cared for by his wife Sheila over the past 10 months as his health deteriorated. Our thoughts and thanks go out to her and the community of friends and pipers who supported her and John in the final months.

Funeral Services will be held at the Daldowie Crematorium, Glasgow,  on Friday, September 17, at 11 am.

– contributed by Michael MacDonald, Toronto


  1. I feel very privileged to have had the chance to meet and spend some time with John. I benefitted from hearing him talk about piobaireachd, about pipers and piping in the past, and I still chuckle when I recall him talking about his views on medleys and harmonies. What a special and lovely man, – sad that he is physically gone, but very affectionately remembered in my heart. Special thoughts to his wife and family and friends.

  2. My heart pours out to Sheila Finlay , who along with caring for John for many years, took care of a great deal of Canadians over the years, particularly myself as a young man when I was over. I have wonderful memories of both John and Sheila wish Sheila great strength for now in this sad time John was a fixture at a couple of big contests each year and the times that I got to spend with him personally at the Glenfiddich these past couple of years will now become cherished memories.His opinions were strong and his humor equally as strong. My heart goes out to Sheila and family at this time. Bruce Gandy

  3. I was very sad to read that John passed. I played alongside John in the Muirhead and Sons and this sad news brought back good memories of a great band. John worked at Hoover in Cambuslang near Glasgow and through his efforts the pipers from Glasgow in the band were able to practise there during the winter months. These practices consisted solely of individual lessons from Bob Hardie who concentrated on the improvement of each piper and therefore improvement of the playing by the pipe corps. John was a very good player and Bob would send John to “get the fingers going” of the new pipers in the band such as Bob Richardson and myself. The band played at the Centennial Highland Games in Halifax Nova Scotia and we travelled from Glasgow to Halifax in our No 1 uniform during the whole trip. As a young piper I took the order literally to wear the whole uniform and I put on my feather bonnet in the airport lounge to which John who sometimes had a caustic humour asked me “What’s with the Feathery, Norrie” He was probably imagining a cone head scene on board the aircraft whereby the whole band would be seated looking like a Dan Ackroyd “Conehead” pipe band version wearing Feather Bunnets. Tommy Anderson mentioned to me that John had also played as drummer in the Renfrew Pipe Band before he went to Muirheads as a piper…now that is talent and versatility and nae bother for John. Norm / Norrie McDonald Burlington ON

  4. I am saddened to hear of the passing of John Finlay. When I was young piper in the 214 GCBB, John was an inspiration to me, and him and Sheila were always there supporting and encouraging us in our piping careers. He also supported me a few times when I got older, but that is another story! The piping world has indeed lost one of its great characters. He may be gone now, but will cerainly not be forgotten.



Forgotten Password?