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Donald Barr: A tribute from Moray

By Alistair Whitfield

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Tributes are being paid to Donald Barr – an educator, musician and a champion of Scottish culture – who passed away last week.

Donald Barr had a lifelong love of music.
Donald Barr had a lifelong love of music.

Donald taught at both Buckie High School and Speyside High School during his career.

In addition, he directed the Buckie Choral Union and founded both the Strathspey and the Badenoch Fiddlers.

A committed Scottish nationalist, he also stood for parliament for the Inverness constituency at the October 1974 general election.

Moray councillor Graham Leadbitter (Elgin South, SNP), described him as “a giant of the Independence movement”.

He added: “Like many I had the privilege to hear Donald play fiddle as well as share his passion for local history. These are passions he spent much of his life sharing with others, leaving an enormous cultural legacy.

“He will be sorely missed.”

An article from 1988 in the Northern Scot about Donald and the Buckie Choral Union.
An article from 1988 in the Northern Scot about Donald and the Buckie Choral Union.

Born on February 2, 1941, Donald was raised in Paisley, alongside his brothers, Norman and Brian.

His love of music was apparent from early childhood and went on to learn to play the viola, violin and the piano.

After studying at the The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, or the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama as it was known then, he qualified as a music teacher.

Donald was a gifted orator, a storyteller and a pillar of the Church of Scotland, serving as an Elder in both Keith and Badenoch.

Meanwhile his love of nature and Scottish history led him to write a book, 'The Spey from Source to Sea', in conjunction with his brother Brian.

Also included amongst his many and varied interests were mountain climbing and St Mirren football team.

A local hero in Pennan
A local hero in Pennan

To quote the man himself: “If asked about any genuine achievements, I would cite a rock climb in Torridon named after me and conducting a performance of Verdi’s Requiem with a choir of 140 and professional orchestra of 60 in Buckie’s Fishermen’s Hall when, close to the end, I did an almighty rallentando which no other conductor has thought of doing.

“Biggest out-there decision in life? A joint meeting of the SNP parliamentary group and its national executive at which we decided to bring down the then Labour government.

“Biggest out-there regret in life? See above. It opened-up the way for 13 years of Margaret Thatcher.

“I have two sons from my first marriage – one a scientist in the USA, the other deputy director of the Scottish Poetry Library – as well as a daughter, whose French mum died of cancer shortly after she was born and is a social worker.

“Morag and I knew each other as teenagers in Newtonmore. We had not seen each other for 50 years until we met up at the Clan MacPherson Museum, she as curator, me as aspiring joint author of ‘The Spey Source to Sea’.

“We married in St Bride’s Church and had a short but respectable time together afterwards.

Happiest decision in life? See above.“

Out and about in the Scottish countryside he loved.
Out and about in the Scottish countryside he loved.

Donald Barr passed away on Wednesday, April 10 at the age of 83.

He was a loving husband to Morag, and a devoted father to Douglas, Alasdair, Elise, and stepfather to Kerry. He also cherished his grandchildren: Callum, Rowan, Brady, Martha, Harry, Eva, and Jamie.

His family wish to thank the staff at Mains House Care Home in Netownmore for their outstanding care over the past few years and particularly in his last days of life.

Donald taught music at Lossiemouth and Speyside High Schools.
Donald taught music at Lossiemouth and Speyside High Schools.

A service will be held on Thursday, April 25 at 11am in St Bride's Parish Church in Newtonmore.

This will be live-streamed at jrrfunerals.co.uk/obituaries

The service will be be followed by afternoon tea at the nearby Balavil Hotel on Main Street.

The family invites folk to wear something tartan in recognition of Donald's love for Scotland.

They add that a more joyful celebration of his life will be held in Moray at some point over the next few months.

A website in Donald’s memory has been set up HERE. Donations can be made through it to Traditional Arts & Culture Scotland (TRACS) and the Scottish Poetry Library.


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