John MacFadyen


1926 – 1979

Highland bagpipes

Champion piper, renowned teacher, compiler of two excellent collections of ceòl beag and, with P/M Donald MacLeod, successful partner in Grainger and Campbell pipe makers. John was also a skilled administrator with high powered positions in the Piobaireachd Society, College of Piping and the Scottish Pipers’ Association.

The editor of the Piping Press has kindly provided the following information and the accompanying photographs:

John MacFadyen was born in Glasgow in 1926 to island parents. His father Duncan was from Mull and his mother from Tiree. Duncan encouraged all his offspring onto the pipes. John’s brothers Duncan, Iain and sister Freena, were all outstanding pipers.

John was taught by his father and later Roddy MacDonald, South Uist and Glasgow Police, and also by RU Brown Balmoral.

As a boy he played with the Glasgow Shepherds band, a band that would also include Donald MacPherson and John Weatherston in its ranks.

But John was primarily a soloist and his record in competition is formidable: He won the Gold Medal at Oban in 1960 (two years after his younger brother Iain, and thus the subject of much brotherly joshing), the Inverness Gold Medal in 1966, the Clasp the same year – and in 1968 and ’69, the Open Piobaireachd at Oban in ’67, 68, and 1970, and the Bratach Gorm in London a remarkable five years in succession from 1966-1970.

He published two excellent collections of light music, Book 1 in 1966 and Book 2 in 1973.

John pioneered teaching at summer schools in North America and encouraged many of his pupils to come to Scotland to compete. Some, such as Bill Livingstone, did, with great success.

John was always involved in the College of Piping in his lifetime both in teaching and administration.

Donald MacLeod and John were partners in Grainger & Campbell bagpipemakers in Argyle Street, Glasgow. Donald continued to run the business when John died.

John retired from competing quite early in his career. He was friendly with Neil Fraser and Alasdair Milne (BBC). They formed the John MacFadyen Memorial Trust after his death. It ran recitals and talks for a number of years before being wound up circa 2008.

John died in 1979 and is buried on Skye


The following tracks are from the vinyl long play record STC 6001 recorded c. 1958 in Glasgow and released by the Gaelfonn label.

MacIntosh’s Lament


A pibroch in “The complete and original form”. The liner notes also state:

MACINTOSH’S LAMENT probably the greatest piping classic. In 1526 after their good chief LAUCHLAN MACINTOSH was assassinated, the Clan Chattan suffered a period of great stress and sorrow. Deep mourning at the loss of their wise and honest leader is beautifully expressed in this famous lament composed by the clan piper of that time. It is said that members of the clan who emigrated to the southern states of USA passed the melody to negroes who re-adapted it to the lyric of one of their spirituals. Later this adaptation was taken by a famous composer as the theme of a symphony largo dedicated to America.

Braes of Lochiel / Inbhercharron Gathering / Cameron MacFadyen / Duart Castle


71st Highlander’s Farewell to Edinburgh / Pipe-Major Gray’s Farewell to the Glasgow Police

Oran Mor Mhicleoid / Caledonian Canal / The Blackbird

A dram afore ye go

In the Radio Times we read that John played on the Scottish Home Service on 30 September 1954, 10 August 1956,  23 October 1958, 30 December 1959, 3 May 1962, 6 November 1964, 28 October 1965, 23 June 1966 and 

On St Andrews Day, 30th Nov 1978, he was heard on BBC Radio 3 when he gave a performance of ‘The Lament for Mary MacLeod’.

John MacFadyen can also be heard on this BBC recording: