On March 29, 2014, the piping world has lost one of its finest composers with the passing of Ian P. Duncan from respiratory problems at age 80 on March 28.
Ian Duncan was born in Motherwell, Scotland, in 1934. He began piping at Dalziel High School where the janitor, a former Black Watch Pipe-Sergeant, was Pipe-Major of the school band. The band never competed but playing in the band was invaluable experience for a young piper, and Ian became Pipe-Sergeant in 1952 at the age of 18.
Around the same time, Ian joined the Grade 2 Wishaw Highland Pipe Band, where he began to hone his skills at a competitive bandsman.
It was here that he had his first real attempt at composing pipe tunes, entering a tune competition held in Ibrox in 1953 and gaining second prize.
Ian joined Clyde Alloy Works as a young apprentice and in 1958 did his National Service in the RAMC. Being in the Medical Corps prevented him from pursuing his piping experience within the army.
Returning to work after his National Service, he was given a job in the steel works at the famous Ravenscraig site located between Motherwell and Wishaw. He became a Training Officer there, a post he held until the closure of the works.
In 1966, he joined Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band under P-M J.K. McAllister. In 1968 Tom McAllister Jr. became P-M and Ian was with the band when they won three Grade 1 World Championships under him.
During this time they also won three Scottish, four British, three European, three Cowal and three RSPBA Champion of Champions titles. He played in the band when it won the Intercontinental Competition in Toronto in 1978. He left Shotts at the end of that season and to become P-M of the Grade 3 Larkhall British Legion Pipe Band.
Four years later, he became Pipe-Major of the Tennant Caledonian Brewers Pipe Band based in Glasgow, and this was his final pipe and involvement.
During this whole period Ian became famous for his compositions of light music for pipes. Some of these are now well-established classics. The strong melodies of such greats as “Cullen Bay,” “Flora Duncan,” and “Pipe-Sgt. John Barclay” have found favour with folk groups, pipers, and pipe bands alike.
Ian published his first book of tunes in 1998. The Cullen Bay Collection contains many of his own compositions as well as contributions from piping friends.
He continued to compose during his lengthy retirement from active playing right up until his passing.
Ian P. Duncan’s funeral will take place on Friday April 7th at Holytown Crematorium near Motherwell at noon.