Stuart Letford recalls the life of a former LBPS Convenor

Nigel was a leading light in the bellows piping revival. He was 73 and had been fighting cancer for a few years. He died on the evening of New Year’s Day in an Edinburgh hospice where he had only just been admitted.

Nigel was the proprietor of Garvie Bagpipes of Pathhead in Midlothian, Scotland. His business was formerly based just off Easter Road in Edinburgh. The company ceased trading one week before Christmas.

Born in London, England, Nigel moved with his wife, Heather, to Lochaber in Scotland in the early 1980s. Professionally, he worked in accountancy and in the navy before, in 1985, enrolling in a two-year musical instrument repair course at Stevenson College in Edinburgh. He then started making bagpipes professionally in 1987 and never looked back.

Although he made bagpipes, Nigel would not have considered himself as first and foremost a piper; his musical interests as far as playing was concerned were focused on chiefly playing cittern and on Indian music. He was a frequent visitor to Thailand, where he met his partner Penn, and to India; He recorded two CDs with the two musicians he met in there together with Ross Anslie.

Nigel was Convenor – Chairman, as it was then, – of the Lowland & Border Pipers’ Society from June 2003 till November 2006. Current Convenor, Stuart Letford, said: “We knew Nigel hadn’t been well these last few years. He will be remembered for his enthusiasm, his depth of knowledge about reeds and tuning etc, and the quality of his instruments.”

Finlay MacDonald, Director of Piping at the National Piping Centre and who has played Nigel’s instruments for many years, said: “Nigel was a great innovator, a brilliant musician and pipe maker, but most of all a great friend.“I used to love going to visit Nigel at his workshop of a Saturday morning, spending the day foutering with pipes, talking about music and writing tunes. We’d inevitably end up in the pub playing tunes and having great craic for hours on end. That’s what I’ll remember most about Nigel; his generosity of spirit and infectious enthusiasm for life.”

Stuart Letford, LBPS Convenor


(This is an edited version of the piece published at https://Bagpipe.News, January 3, 2021)