James McIntosh

James McIntosh, MBE

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James McIntosh, MBE 1925-2021
It is with sincere regret we announce the passing of one of the most influential bagpipers of the 20th century, Jimmy McIntosh MBE. He died in his 96th year on February 8, 2021, at his home in Anderson, South Carolina after being cared for in his final days by his wife Joyce, son Cameron and the wonderful staff of Kindred Hospice, specifically Michelle and Hope. He had suffered from congestive heart failure for some time.

He is survived by his loving wife, Joyce; his children Roderick (Jamie), Moira (Dave), Margaret (Jim), all living in Scotland, and Cameron, living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His younger brother, Alexander (Lorna) lives in Scotland, and his younger sister Anne (Bill) lives in Australia. He is also loving grandfather of Stewart McIntosh, the late Kirsty McIntosh, Jennifer and Danny Yule, and Jamie, Laurie, and Annie Carruthers.

Jimmy was born and brought up in Broughty Ferry near Dundee, Scotland, and was sent off to the Army when only 14. Prior to this, his strict father had, however, organized piping lessons for him at the age of 11, and these were to pay off for Boy McIntosh once in the Cameron Highlanders. Too young for active service during WW2, he was eventually posted to the Far East where he came into contact with Lt Col David Murray. Theirs was to be a lifelong friendship. He stayed in the army for 10 years.

After leaving the Cameron Highlanders, he returned to the Dundee area and joined the MacKenzie Pipe Band, and a few years later became pipe-major of the Grade 2 City of Dundee, a band that beat several Grade 1 bands at his last contest with them at Dunblane, Scotland. In 1957, McIntosh was asked to lead a new band with a big sponsorship from the National Cash Register Corporation, which had operations in Scotland.
After success in Grade 2, including winning the Scottish Pipe Band Association’s Open Quartet Competition, the Grade 2 NCR Pipe Band was on the brink of being promoted to Grade 1 when McIntosh rediscovered piobaireachd. The decision to leave pipe bands would change his life, and the lives of hundreds of other pipers, forever.
He was accepted as a pupil of R.U. Brown, official piper to the Queen at Balmoral Castle, and had regular tuition from the piobaireachd master. When Bob Brown died, Jimmy took instruction from Brown’s counterpart and gamekeeping colleague, RB Nicol, the other half of the ‘Bobs of Balmoral’. He engrossed himself in the study of ceol mor, and developed a passion for the nuance of the music as taught by these two legendary pupils of John MacDonald of Inverness.

At 46 years old, and relatively new to solo piping after a hiatus of 20+ years, he turned his late-blooming career into competitive success. In 1971, Jimmy McIntosh won the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting playing “Tulloch Ard.”
In 1974, he was the overall winner of the first Grant’s Invitational Solo Piping Championship (later the Glenfiddich). He would also win the Dunvegan / Portree Gold Medal (1975) and Portree Clasp (1976), and the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1978 with “The Big Spree.” That year he returned to the Grant’s Invitational but had a turn of lightheadedness during the event. By choice, it would turn out to be his final competitive appearance. Years later he said that he regretted retiring so early.
With growing numbers of competitors at the major contests, Jimmy recognized the need for a body to represent solo pipers, and in 1976 founded the Competing Pipers’ Association. His friendship with Lt Col Murray bore fruit when the latter, now Northern Meeting Piping Convenor, agreed to hold the first CPA Silver Medal competition at Inverness in 1977.

While he was a competing piper of the first order, it was as a teacher that he gained his greatest renown. He resolutely passed along the knowledge of piobaireachd that he gained primarily from Robert Bell Nicol and Robert Urquhart Brown – the Bobs of Balmoral – to students around the world, leading several pipers to their own greatness
In the tradition of the Bobs, John MacDonald , and his other teachers, the great Donald MacLeod, and Willie Ross, Jimmy devoted himself to teaching. He was invited to North America as an instructor at a summer piping school in Timmins, Ontario. He soon established his own “Balmoral” schools of piping, first in the southeastern United States, and under his tutelage, many successful pipers were produced.
Around the same time, Jimmy played a major role in the development of a new solo pipe chanter with David Naill Bagpipe Makers. The chanter caught on quickly, and for at least 10 years became the instrument of choice with most solo pipers.

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 for two terms, and instituting a whole raft of judging and competing criteria in the process. He also developed a comprehensive exam program for would-be adjudicators of piping. He continued to do well in his bagpipe reedmaking business and his growing band of pupils picked up prizes wherever they competed. These included Mike Rogers, Jack Lee, Mike Cusack, Amy Garson, Nick Hudson, Andrew Carlisle Bruce Gandy, Murray Henderson, and Tom Speirs top prize-winners all.

In the early 1990s, Jimmy worked with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to establish its first bachelor’s degree in piping, at the time the only degree course of its kind in the world. He and his wife, Joyce (nee MacFarlane) – herself a very accomplished piper whom he met at one of his piping schools – then lived in the Pittsburgh area, where they would stay for many years with Jimmy serving as a professor of music at Carnegie Mellon. After he retired and gave way to his successor, Alasdair Gillies, and latterly to Andrew Carlisle, the McIntoshes moved to South Carolina in 2011.
In 1994, James McIntosh was awarded the MBE for services to piping. He travelled to Buckingham Palace to accept the award from Queen Elizabeth II. And in 2002 he received the Balvenie Medal for services to piping, presented at Blair Atholl Castle.

In 2014, at the age of 89, he published Ceol Mor for the Great Highland Bagpipe Presented in the Balmoral Tradition, a well-received 144-page book that paid homage to his teachings from the Bobs of Balmoral and their interpretation and analysis of more than 70 piobaireachds.

Worldwide travel, teaching and judging spanned the past two decades but Jimmy always tried to play his pipes every day and well into his 90s was still having a daily tune. Some of his last recordings can be found on the Piping Press Audio Archive.

His knowledge and love of our great music will live on in each of his students. But he was far more than a teacher. Jimmy has been a friend, mentor, father-figure, grandfather-figure, role model, sage and savant. He always had a vision for the future of piping. He is leaving us such a rich legacy. It is up to us to carry on whatever we have learned from this amazing human being. I’m sure you will join with me in feeling grateful to have known Jimmy McIntosh, MBE.

In lieu of flowers, please consider sending a memorial contribution to the James H. McIntosh, MBE Cultural Fund.

Please make checks payable to “Charlotte Stephenson” and write “James H. McIntosh, MBE Cultural Fund on the memo line.

Mail to:
Charlotte Stephenson
c/o James H. McIntosh, MBE Cultural Fund
110 Crescent Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15228

The donations will fund top-notch piobaireachd tuition to a deserving young person each year.

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Sheila MacDonald

Posted at 09:27am
So sorry to learn of the passing of Jimmy. I met him in the let 70s when he would come to teach at the Calgary School of Piping here in Alberta. He was such a kind and generous teacher. His generosity was shown to me by taking the time to find a set of bagpipes for me in Scotland and bringing them back to Canada for me. He and Murry Henderson had taken such care to bring me my Lawrie Pipes - exactly what I had said to him. "Mr Mcintosh - for my pipes I'd like a 2nd hand set - very plain and simple - not all fancy!" I play these pipes to this day! I had run into him about 15 years later at the Highland Games on the West Coast (Vancouver) where he was judging. I approached him tentatively from behind in the awards tent when he was finally not surrounded by people. I thought Id have to reintroduce myself. I said, "Mr McIntosh?" from behind him. Imagine my surprise when he said "Sheila MacDonald" with a huge smile on his face as he turned! This was followed by a huge hug and all the years disappeared! A lovely and world class man and piper!
Sheila MacDonald, Edmonton Alberta Canada

Darryl McLeod

Posted at 09:19am
It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed since I first met Jimmy McIntosh. My two sons, David and Michael, were first starting out on the bagpipes, and shortly after moving to South Carolina Jimmy called to offer to teach them. What a blessing this turned out to be, for our entire family. Jimmy worked his magic, and at the conclusion of each lesson you could see the look of joy on my sons' faces, as they had just received an approving nod from the master. Through his interminable encouragement and passion for the music, Jimmy had a way of nurturing self confidence that was so important to my teenage boys. I will always be grateful for that. His musical legacy will live on with each note played by his many students around the world.
I always enjoyed the time we spent together, brief as it was, listening to the stories, learning about the history, enjoying the music. He cared about people, and his zest for life was infectious. When I think of Jimmy, I'll remember a kind and gentle man with a twinkle in his eye, warm smile, hardy laugh, firm handshake, delightful sense of humor, and a beautiful spirit. Our loss is heaven's gain.
Heartfelt condolences to Joyce and Cameron. May the Lord comfort you and give you peace.

Darryl McLeod

Linda Rosenstock

Posted at 07:22pm
So sorry to learn of Jimmy’s passing. He certainly made a positive difference in so many lives and will be sorely missed. I’ll always remember his visits to Verner.
My deepest sympathy, Linda Rosenstock

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