Colin Campbell, 1934-2021


Colin Campbell died in Trianaid Care Home on Benbecula on Sunday. He was 87. His funeral will take place 11:00 on Thursday (27th) at the island’s Nunton Cemetery. Restrictions are still in place.

Born in Norfolk, England, John Colin Fincastle Campbell of Kinloch was commissioned into The Black Watch as a piper in 1954. His father was Walter Angus Campbell of Kinloch near Blairgowrie. Campbell rose to the rank of Major and had been an instructor at Sandhurst just before his retirement in 1971.

We are not certain as to who gave Campbell his early lessons but during the 1960s he received instruction from Pipe Major Donald MacLeod when the two were stationed at the depot at Fort George. Campbell and two other officers were known to play each lunchtime there.

Colin Campbell was a regular columnist for the Scots Independent newspaper. In his February 2011 column he recounted his time at Fort George: “I had the great privilege of serving alongside the late and still sadly missed Pipe Major Donald MacLeod of the Seaforth Highlanders at Fort George. My office, such as it was, was a flight of stairs below the wee room where he, as Pipe Major instructing the young pipers of the Highland regiments, would while away his non-instructing hours practising for yet another of his legendary appearances in successful pursuit of Gold Medals, Clasps and the other highest accolades of the great piping competitions of the day at Oban, Cowal and the Northern Meeting.

“Listening recently to a splendid rendition of Lament for Captain MacDougall on Radio Scotland’s Sunday afternoon piping programme put me in mind of Wee Donald’s patience and persistence as an instructor, when I myself was an aspiring, if unpromising, piobaireachd player trying to master that same tune. After an all too short year in that team at Fort George I was called away to more mundane military duties; but on leaving the Fort I was presented, by himself and his pipers and drummers, with two notable mementos: the first a collection of ceòl mòr published by the Piobaireachd Society and the second, and far more precious one as far as I was concerned, a manuscript written and signed in his own hand bearing his latest composition entitled, Captain Colin Campbell*. I still treasure both gifts.”

As well as writing a column for the Scots Independent, Campbell compiled its crossword for many years. His last one appeared in the August 2015 edition.

Colin Campbell lived for many years on the Hebridean island of Benbecula where his brother, James who had also been an army officer, settled. The two lived near to one another at Island Flodda, the small tidal island to the north of Benbecula, and both spoke Gaelic. James died in 2019. Colin was known to drive a very old van and would invariably be seen donned in his Wellington boots.

Colin Campbell was well liked throughout his life. It was he who instigated the Black Watch’s regimental collection in the 1990s. We extend our sincere condolences to his family and to all who knew him.

* The strathspey appears in Book 3 of Pipe Major Donald MacLeod’s collection. The tune was composed when Campbell was commanding the Highland Brigade Junior Soldiers Wing at Fort George. After penning the tune, MacLeod signed it off, “with respect and admiration.” The tune also appears in the Scots Guards (Volume II) and in A Collection of Pipe Music of the Black Watch.