TRIBUTES have been paid to a Barrhead musician hailed as “a pioneer of piping.”

Iain MacDonald spent 45 years as Pipe Major of the Neilston and District Pipe Band, as well as introducing many young people to the world of music.

After a period of ill health, he died last week, at the age of 70.

Born on April 23, 1950, Iain spent most of his pre-school days on Great Bernera, just off the Isle of Lewis, before moving to the mainland when he was five.

He attended Cross Arthurlie Primary and Barrhead High and later worked as a laboratory technician at Paisley Grammar School.

He went on to become head chemist in the anaesthetics department at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Barrhead News: Iain and Dougie with Prince Charles at the opening of the National Piping Centre in 1998 - Photos: Bagpipe.News/TNPCIain and Dougie with Prince Charles at the opening of the National Piping Centre in 1998 - Photos: Bagpipe.News/TNPC

Iain also taught music to pupils at schools across East Renfrewshire, including Carlibar Primary, Hillview Primary, Barrhead High and Williamwood High.

In the 1970s, he became a pioneer of piping in the folk scene, playing with the Battlefield Band, Tinkler Maidgie and Kentigern.

After taking on the role as Pipe Major of Neilston and District Pipe Band, he transformed it into one of the most widely-travelled pipe bands in the world, with engagements across Europe, China, Japan, Barbados and the Dominican Republic.

Close friend Dougie Pincock said: “Iain would go anywhere if he had the chance to play his pipes.

“He brought me into the Neilston Pipe Band. It was originally a small community pipe band but Iain came along and the dynamic changed. His appointment as Pipe Major changed the band to what it is today.

“Iain’s enthusiasm and influence extended widely to many aspects of piping in particular and traditional music generally.”

A devoted family man, Iain married Anne Walker in 1972 and they had two children, Fiona and Finlay, who were born in 1974 and 1977.

“Finlay wants us to remember a man who was never happier than when surrounded by his family and friends, playing good tunes,” Dougie added.

Barrhead News: Iain leading a ‘Come and Try’ session at Piping Live! in 2008Iain leading a ‘Come and Try’ session at Piping Live! in 2008

Matt Drennan, secretary of the Neilston War Memorial Association, described Iain as “an absolute gentleman.”

He said: “Iain was so friendly and helpful. He was always in the mood for a chat and he had some magic banter.

“These chats came with stories to tell from all over the world, as Iain had made many friends everywhere he went. He will be sadly missed by so many people.”

In a 2012 interview with the National Piping Centre’s ‘Noting the Tradition’ series, Iain recalled: “I always had the feeling that, if the instrument was played correctly, it might extend my world between Barrhead and Stornoway. Sure enough, it did.”

Barrhead News: Iain playing in NeilstonIain playing in Neilston

Iain’s funeral will take place on Friday and, although numbers will be restricted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the cortège will travel through Neilston at around 12.20pm so that people can pay their respects.

Members of Neilston and District Pipe Band will be playing outside The Killoch Bar in his honour.