Piper to the principal of Glasgow University

Born: May 3, 1954;

Died: August 9, 2016

DONALD Campbell, who has died aged 62, worked in the Library of Glasgow University and held the post, with much distinction, of piper to the principal of the university. Indeed, the bagpipes were his life-defining passion and he and his brother Alastair (Tony Blair’s former spin doctor) memorably led the procession at the memorial service for Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader in Glasgow, pictured.

Mr Campbell was an-ever present figure at all important ceremonies at the university – playing at dinners, ceremonies and graduations.

Mr Campbell’s brother Alastair told The Herald yesterday: “We were incredibly close and there was a special bond between us – we lived through so many crises. Donald had no interest in my principal interests – politics and sport – but we always supported each other. Donald faced the problems of his mental illness with immense courage. He never complained.”

Donald Lachlan Cameron Campbell was the son of a veterinary surgeon who came from Tiree while his mother was from Ayrshire. His father practised in Yorkshire and the surrounding area and Mr Campbell attended the City of Leicester Boys School. He did not show much love for his lessons but displayed a great interest in the bagpipes. Despite living in England he retained his Scottish roots and was initially taught the pipes by his father and later by Tony Wilson, a former Scots Guardsman who led the pipers on Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre.

Mr Campbell became a highly proficient and enthusiastic piper with a broad knowledge of the history of the instrument. He competed at a high level and was an esteemed teacher.

It was his passion for the pipes that led him to join the Scots Guards so that he could join the regimental pipe band. With the band of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards he saw service in Northern Ireland and toured the world and performed at the Edinburgh Tattoo.

In the early 1970s while in Northern Ireland he was hospitalised as his behaviour had become somewhat erratic – with lengthy periods of silence.
His mental illness was diagnosed when he was in his early twenties and necessitated his leaving the army. Mr Campbell was to remain a proud and avid supporter of the Scots Guards Association all his life.

He recuperated back in Leicester with his parents but decided to make his home in Scotland and lived for the rest of his life in Glasgow. Despite his illness he held a job with Glasgow University which he did with much dedication. “He adored the university and all its people,” Alastair recalled.
Mr Campbell was part of the university’s security team, mainly working at the control point in the university library. He was a popular figure and would gently chide students who put their feet on a library table asking them “to kindly use the carpets”.

But it was as the principal’s official piper for which Mr Campbell is fondly remembered throughout the university: the position brought him into contact with many of the staff and students. He was “one of life’s good guys” a former colleague has written.

Alastair added in his conversation with The Herald: “Since Donald’s death I have had scores of photographs of students at their graduation with him – all with lovely comments about Donald. His farewell party last year after 27 years was held in the library and was a splendid evening with various colleagues attending: such was the warmth and esteem in which he was held.”

Mr Campbell proved a fine ambassador for the pipes and taught foreign students at the university and gave lessons to pupils in Tiree by Skype and went to the Hebrides four times a year to give classes in person.

Alastair recalls a piobaireachd competition. “Donald’s mind was wandering, and the judges smiled as he stopped prematurely. He simply said, ‘Bugger it – I was away with the fairies there.’ He saluted and left the stage.”

Last year the two brothers led the procession into Glasgow University’s Bute Hall at the memorial service of the former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy. It was a particularly poignant occasion as Mr Kennedy (a former rector of Glasgow University) had intended to be present at Mr Campbell’s farewell party.

In 2009 Mr Campbell appeared on STV’s Made in Scotland with Alistair. It was part of the Homecoming programme to promote Scotland and Donald helped his brother to brush up on his piping skills before he played with the Lochaber Pipe Band.

Also that year Donald Campbell contributed to a CD, A Piper’s Tapestry, which included his composition, 9/8 Marches: Donald Campbell – Black Isle – Banks of the Lossie.

Mr Campbell was briefly married and he is survived by his two brothers, Graeme and Alastair, and his sister Liz.