As a musician and broadcaster Iain has been involved in the revival of bellows-blown bagpipes in Scotland since the early 1980s. He also plays Highland pipes and whistles, and, together, these instruments are at the heart of his new recording project Sealbh. In this he is joined by David McGuinness playing keyboards (including harpsichord and harmonium), Mairi Cambell and John Martin on fiddles, Ross Kennedy and Iain MacLeod on strings and Simon Thoumire on concertina. The repertoire is drawn mainly from traditional sources, both Highland and Lowland, with a few contemporary tunes thrown in for good measure.
Iain learnt his piping from Pipe Major Jimmy MacGregor, a former Queen’s piper on the Balmoral estate who was a huge source of musical knowledge and inspiration. In the mid-’80s he joined the Tannahill Weavers, following in the footsteps of the band’s original piper, Alan MacLeod, and in the early-’90s he teamed up with Billy Ross and Stuart Morison to form the acclaimed trio Smalltalk. His first solo album Tryst (produced by Billy Jackson) was released in 1999.
Iain also has an interest in piping history. In 1988 he completed a thesis exploring the development of the Highland bagpipe from the 1740s to 1840s, a period of cultural transition within Scotland, and he has written widely on the subject of Scotland’s ‘alternative’ piping culture, that of the bellows-blown or ‘cauld wind’ bagpipe (including a piece in Josh Dickson’s recent publication The Highland Bagpipe, published by Ashgate). As a music producer at BBC Scotland he has helped nurture emerging talent for almost 20 years, as well as finding time to perform and lecture.