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Updated 10/23/2019


Lullaby from R. B. Nicol

Robert Bell “Bob” Nicol was born on December 26 1905 in the parish of Durris in Lower Deeside. His father, from Banchory in Aberdeenshire, was a fishing ghillie on the Dee and his mother was from Moidart, and a Gaelic speaker. He began piping at the age of seven. He was first taught by a piper MacKellar, a pupil of John MacDougall Gillies. When MacKellar was killed in the First World War, Nicol received instruction from Charles Ewen in Aberdeen.

He was appointed piper to Lord Cowdray, Dunecht before moving to Balmoral as piper to King George V in 1924. He lost an eye in a shooting accident in 1926 when he was only 20 years old. The king was anxious that Nicol receive the best piping tuition and the same year, after consultation, he was sent to Inverness for a month, to John MacDonald. Along with Bob Brown, the visits continued every year until 1939.  During this period Nicol became one of the outstanding players, winning all the top honors including the gold medal at Inverness and Oban in 1930 and the Clasp in 1932. His medal tune at Inverness was “Lament for Donal Ban MacCrimmon”, a tune he was later to play at the graveside of both John MacDonald and Bob Brown.

During the war he served as Pipe Major in the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders and ran a piobaireachd class for the 15th Scottish Division. A very good and firm teacher dedicated to keeping the traditional piobaireachd alive, he taught at schools in America and Brittany.

At Balmoral, at least in his later years, his employment was as a fishing ghillie on the Abergeldie beat of the Dee.

After the death of his mother he and his sister moved to Mill of Cosh, Girnock near Ballater and later to Blacksmith’s Cottages, Birkhill Retirement Home. He died an April 4, 1978 aged 72.