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.
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.
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