Piper, author, illustrator and retired surgeon Norman Matheson MBE has died aged 89.
Born in Inverness, Norman – whose book was prefaced by the words of Prince Charles – spent his formative years in Avonside where he had his early education.
His father was a garage manager in Inverness and his mother a district nurse in the village.
Medicine and music
Norman was educated at Robert Gordon’s College, Aberdeen, and studied at Aberdeen University before entering the medical profession.
The highly respected medic then specialised in general surgery but also committed himself to research.
While at school Norman took an interest in the bagpipes soon becoming a promising young piper.
He played at Highland gatherings and at 19 attended Kennethmont Games near Huntly where he featured in the prize lists.
This was where he first met Bob Nicol one of the pipers who became known as ‘The Bobs of Balmoral’.
Bob invited Norman to attend piping lessons and their association would last for 28 years.
The pair struck a chord immediately: Bob, a fishing ghillie employed at Balmoral estate, and Norman, who loved field sports.
Bob Brown, the other ‘Bob’, was a stalker on the same estate.
Excellence in all things
Norman sought to be excellent in everything that he did.
His pursuit of piobaireachd – the playing of pipes – was unrelenting and thorough.
He lugged a weighty reel-to-reel tape machine with him studiously recording tune after tune with Nicol.
This study led to him taking the top prize for piobaireachd at the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society’s annual competition.
The shaping of a great man
Norman became very respected in General Surgery.
His tutor was Consultant Surgeon Hugh Freeman Dudley, a giant of surgical medicine.
These two teachers, Dudley and Nicol, helped shape Norman into an exceptional person.
In 1970 Nicol introduced Norman to judging.
In time he became recognised as a highly esteemed judge of piobaireachd both locally and nationally.
After 40 years of judging at Braemar Norman received an honoured life membership of the Braemar Royal Highland Society.
And in 2016, at Ballater Highland Games Prince Charles recognised his long service to piping on Deeside with a presentation.
He retired from surgery in 1992 and lived at Milltimber where he created a much-admired woodland rhododendron garden which featured on BBC television’s ‘Beechgrove Garden’.
Norman was also interested in art.
During his time at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary he went on to become the driving force behind a special project to cheer up the corridors and public areas with paintings and drawings.
Grampian Hospitals Art Trust became known nationally as a flagship organisation of its type.
In recognition of his voluntary contribution, Norman was awarded the MBE in 1998.
However, during retirement he had fun as a cartoonist, illustrating children’s books, including Robert Wallace’s book, ‘Young MacCrimmon and the Silver Chanter’.
He also wrote and illustrated ‘A Speyside Odyssey’ and ‘Speyside Memories’, the former carrying a foreword from HRH Prince Charles.
Norman was pre-deceased by his son Malcolm and his wife.
He is survived by daughters Fiona and Catriona and his daughter-in-law Gillian, and their families.
Norman Matheson was an outstanding servant to the medical profession and indeed a servant to the study of piobaireachd.
Through these interests he touched the lives of a lot of people in different ways.
I will remember him fondly and will recall with pleasure the many times we shared the bench at the Games on good days and bad.