January 13, 2022

John MacDonald, Toronto, 1942-2022

John MacDonald at Blair Castle in 2016, the year his son Ian won both Highland Society of London Gold Medals.

John MacDonald, the much respected and popular Toronto-based piper, died on January 13, 2022, just shy of his eightieth birthday. His health had been in decline for several years, and after a brief stay in hospital he succumbed peacefully at home with family.

Born John Robert MacDonald in Toronto on February 1, 1942, he was a constant presence on the Ontario piping and drumming scene for more than 60 years.

He started the pipes at age 12 with his uncle, Archie Finlayson, and joined the 48th Highlanders of Canada, where he played with both the Cadet program and eventually the big band, which was the most prominent and successful competing bands in Canada from the 1940s through the ’70s.

He became a Toronto Police officer in 1967, and pipe-major became Toronto Police Pipe Band in 1974, leading the competing and then non-competing bands for another 21 years.

After Jake Watson took the competing band to Grade 1 status, John MacDonald’s son, Ian K. MacDonald, became pipe-major in 1995 and John MacDonald became pipe-major of the organization’s Grade 2 band for several years before retiring from competition, and from active police duty, concluding as a staff sergeant in the Toronto Police Service Public Affairs unit.

MacDonald also played with the Grade 2 Glenmore Pipe Band under Pipe-Major Chris Anderson in the late 1970s and early ’80s, where his sons, Ian and Craig, were introduced to piping.

He was a frequent judge of both solo piping and bands at Ontario competitions for more than 30 years, eventually reducing his presence in sync with his retirement as a police officer, often electing to spend time in Florida with his other strong hobby, golf.

John MacDonald was an accomplished piping teacher, working with many students from their start. His most well-known pupils were his aforementioned, Ian a Double Highland Society of London Gold Medallist (2016) and currently one of the world’s greatest solo competitors, and Craig, also a successful competitor at the professional solo and Grade 1 band levels.

He is pre-deceased by his wife, Karen, who died in 2019.

Our sympathies go out to John MacDonald’s family and many friends throughout the piping, drumming and police community at this sad time.



  1. I am very sorry to hear this news. I had the honour to play with John in Glenmore and then again with Toronto Police in the mid 80’s. I enjoyed every minute of my time playing with John. He was a great leader, a gentlemen, and one of the nicest people in the pipe band world. My heartfelt condolences to Craig, Ian and Kathy. Kindest regards, Greg Dinsdale

  2. Fine and true words Greg. John made huge contributions to Ontario piping, teaching untold numbers of pipers, and doing it very well. A fine man and a true lover of the bagpipe.



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