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Broughty Ferry born piper Jimmy McIntosh MBE dies at home in USA, aged 95

Jimmy McIntosh
Jimmy McIntosh

Broughty Ferry born Jimmy McIntosh MBE, who was regarded as one of the most influential pipers of the 20th century, has died at his home in South Carolina, USA, aged 95 after being cared for in his final days by his wife Joyce and son Cameron.

Named after his grandfather who was a whaler from Broughty Ferry, Jimmy, a former president of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, was born and brought up in Broughty Ferry before joining the army aged just 14.

Prior to this, his strict father had organised piping lessons for him and these were to pay off during his time with the Cameron Highlanders when he received further lessons from Pipe Major Donald MacLeod at Fort George and from Pipe Major Willie Ross at Edinburgh Castle.

Jimmy McIntosh

Too young for active service during the Second World War, Jimmy was eventually posted to the Far East where he came into contact with Lt Col David Murray who became a lifelong friend.

Becoming disillusioned with the army after the war, Jimmy bought himself out and secured a job at the NCR factory in Dundee – becoming a pipe major and going on to world success in Grade 2.

When talking to a Dundee friend, Peter Forbes, Jimmy was persuaded to have another go at solo competing, something he had not done since his army days.

From 1965 he had lessons from RU Brown, Balmoral. This was to be a transformational experience for him and thereafter he dedicated himself to the study of ceòl mòr, driving the long, lonely miles north via Glenshee for his regular lessons.

When Bob Brown died, Jimmy took instruction from his counterpart and gamekeeping colleague, RB Nicol, the other half of the ‘Bobs of Balmoral’.

It was not long before Jimmy started having real piobaireachd success and he took the gold medal at Inverness in 1971 (Tulloch Ard) and Oban in 1978 (The Big Spree).

He went on to win many more titles and has the distinction of being the first winner of what was then the Grant’s Championship at Blair Castle.

With growing numbers of competitors at the major contests, Jimmy recognised the need for a body to represent solo pipers, and in 1976 founded the Competing Pipers’ Association.

Jimmy McIntosh

His friendship with Lt Col Murray bore fruit when the latter, now Northern Meting Piping Convenor, agreed to hold the first CPA Silver Medal competition at Inverness in 1977.

Jimmy retired not long after and decided to dedicate the remainder of his life to passing on the teaching of the two Bobs.

His reed making business was thriving and in 1977 he had been invited to help develop the new Naill chanter.

It became the choice of the leading players at that time.

Jimmy always loved travelling and was in constant teaching demand all over the world but particularly in North America.

He was spending so much time there that he eventually decided, in 1982, to emigrate to the US.

He had a huge and immediate impact on piping there, rising to the office of President of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association and instituting a whole raft of judging and competing criteria in the process.

He continued to do well in business and his growing band of pupils picked up prizes wherever they competed.

Jimmy McIntosh

Jimmy was instrumental in establishing the first piping professorship in the world at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It was here that he had met and married his wife Joyce.

Worldwide travel, teaching and judging spanned the next decades but Jimmy always tried to play his pipes every day and well into his 90s was still having a tune.

In 2014 Jimmy produced his own piobaireachd book, ‘Ceol Mor – In the Balmoral Tradition’, a very well received publication, faithful to his teaching.

Last year Jimmy completed his memoirs.

Jimmy McIntosh

He was honoured by The Queen with the presentation of the MBE in 1994 and in 2002 was awarded the Balvenie Medal. Both were for services to piping.

Jimmy  is survived by his loving wife, Joyce, his children Roddy, Moira and Margaret, living in Scotland and Cameron, living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He is also survived by his younger brother Alex in Scotland and younger sister Anne in Australia. He is the proud grandfather of Stewart McIntosh, the late Kirsty McIntosh, Jennifer and Danny Yule, and Jamie, Laurie and Annie Carruthers.

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