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David McAskill: Aberdeen musician pipped to Opportunity Knocks title by Mary Hopkin dies aged 84

David McAskill.
David McAskill.

Musician David McAskill, one of The McAskill Brothers band which ran Mary Hopkin close on Opportunity Knocks in 1968, has died aged 84.

David, his brother Angus (Angie) and friend Jim Martin, thrilled millions of television viewers with their mix of Scottish and country and western music.

Although Mary Hopkin pipped them for first place, the performance on Hughie Green’s show allowed them to turn semi-professional.

David and Angus McAskill in the 1960s.

The band went on repeated UK tours and performed alongside the likes of the Alexander Brothers and Will Starr.

They also supported Cilla Black, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck at the Cavern club in Liverpool.

When Angie died unexpectedly aged just 38, David continued to play solo at clubs and gatherings in Aberdeen and across Aberdeenshire.

A press report about the McAskill Brothers’ appearance on Opportunity Knocks.

He came from a family steeped in musical tradition.

David’s father Christopher played the pipes and his grandfather had been piper to the Queen at Balmoral.

He was one of 12 siblings born into a farming family at Lairshill Cottages, Fintray, and grew up on farms around Kingswells.

When he left school, David joined the Gordon Highlanders. After training at Bridge of Don, he served in Germany, Cyprus and Aiden and rose to become a lance corporal.

During his army years, David taught himself to play guitar and was greatly influenced by the music of Johnny Cash.

Mr McAskill in his army days.

After he left the army, David met his future wife, Ruby Ross, and the couple married at Maryculter House on August 19, 1961, with Angie as best man.

They went on to have four of a family: Cyril, Jacqueline, Angus (Gus) and Eileen.

David McAskill in his younger years.

Both David and Angus worked as wire line operators for the GPO but gave up their jobs to start touring after the success of their television appearance.

Gus said: “In the early days of The McAskill Brothers, my uncle played accordion and my dad guitar, playing at venues in Aberdeen and right across Aberdeenshire.

“The were also known to travel to the Western Isles. After their television appearance when they turned semi-professional, they toured right across the UK.

“After Angie’s death, my dad continued to play across the North-east and also played at charity events and ceilidhs.”

David McAskill.

After his spell as a touring musician, David worked as a security guard with G4S, working mainly at Conoco’s offices. He retired 19 years ago.

His family have continued his musical legacy. Cyril played tenor drum with Culter and District Pipe Band, Gus was Pipe Major for the 47th Culter Boys’ Brigade Band and along with his nephew, Callum, played in Bucksburn and District Pipe Band.

Both keen highland dancers, Jacqueline played pipes and Eileen played drums with Deeside Ladies’ Pipe Band.

David’s sister Margaret is the only surviving sibling of the 12.

You can read the family’s announcement here.

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