February 28, 2007

Norman Gillies, 1935 – 2007

Norman Gillies, one of the best pipers of his generation, died peacefully on February 25 at his home in Ullapool, Scotland.

Gillies was born in Glasgow, and taught first taught by Iain MacPherson, and then William Fergusson and Peter R. MacLeod. During the 1950s and ’60s he competed very successfully, and gained recognition particularly for his excellence with 2/4 marches. Many referred to him as one of the finest march-players the world has known.

With pipe bands, he played in the Boys Brigade, Red Hackle, the Glasgow Transport, and was Pipe-Sergeant to “Big Donald” MacLean in the 5th/6th Highland Light Infantry. Gillies later became Pipe-Major of the 1/52 Lowland Volunteers, and in 1971 was the first civilian to complete the Army’s Pipe Majors’ Course, under Captain John A. MacLellan.

Norman Gillies moved to Ullapool in 1975, where he became the piping instructor in the schools of Wester Ross, covering the area from Gairloch to Achiltibuie. There he started the Ullapool & District Pipe Band. In his later years Gillies was a regular instructor at piping schools around the world.

We extend our deepest condolences to Norrie Gillies’s family and friends at this sad time.


  1. This is a great loss. I had the pleasure of receiving some instruction from Norrie just once. Nice guy with a great sense of humour. Thoughts go out to Alasdair and the family. He will be missed.

  2. Norrie and I competed against each other in the early 70’s, and he was great fun. A terrific piper, and wicked wit, he was one of the few Scottish pipers in those days who welcomed a Canadian piper, a pretty rare bird back then. He made Lily and me feel at home, and made us laugh a whole lot. I remember so well Norrie being a prime mover behind the impromptu cielidhs that would spring up outside the big Hotel in Braemar, with folks playing pipes, singing songs, sharing drams and shivering with the cold. A lovely guy, and as you said,one of the best march players ever.

  3. I was the leading drummer with the 1st Battalion Glasgow Highlanders when Norrie joined the unit,this would be in the late1950’s. He played for me when I entered for the World Solo Drumming. I have very good memories of back then,he was truly a fine piper. I last spoke to him at the piping concert at the 2006 Celtic Connections in Glasgow which his son played at.



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