Obituary: George Brown, piper, 83

George Brown
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GEORGE Brown, a bagpiper who regularly played on the Royal Mile to raise money for cancer research, has died aged 83.

For many years, the skirl of George’s bagpipes kept locals and tourists entertained. As well as playing traditional Scottish music, he was also campaigning to raise money and awareness for ovarian cancer research.

Affectionately known as ‘the High Street piper’, George was regularly spotted on the Royal Mile in Highland dress, with his war medals proudly on display.

He grew up in Edinburgh and emigrated to Australia in his 20s but had spent the last five summers campaigning and playing on the Royal Mile.

George split his time between Edinburgh, Liverpool – where his sister May lives – and Australia. He died shortly after returning to Adelaide last week, on the eve of his 84th birthday.

He began raising money for cancer research after his youngest daughter, Catriona, was diagnosed with the illness. She lost her battle against cancer two years ago.

His commitment to raising awareness of ovarian cancer helped save the lives of two tourists he had met in Edinburgh.

His niece, Ursula Sarsfield, said: “He had two different people come back to him after meeting him on the Royal Mile to say that they had been diagnosed.

“They went to their doctor after talking to him and reading his leaflet, and then they came back to George and said ‘you have potentially saved our lives’.”

George joined the Merchant Navy when he was 13, travelling the world. At 17, he was a radio officer on a landing craft during Operation Overlord, the Normandy landings in 1944.

He met his wife Nan, an Australian, while travelling on a ship to South Africa. They married in Melbourne.

The couple came to Scotland and then joined a scientific expedition led by Sir Vivian Fuchs to Antarctica. Two and a half years later, they moved to Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory. George took up a job as director and official radio officer at the Royal Flying Doctor service, where he remained for 27 years, acting as a host to Prince Philip on two occasions and the Queen on another. While living in Alice Springs, George and Nan had two daughters – Fiona and Catriona.

He had owned a flat on the Royal Mile for the past 20 years and spent his last five summers there.

Ursula added: “He always classed himself as being from Edinburgh, and I think his time playing the bagpipes there kept him going.

“He was always a very sociable person, he loved meeting other people, learning about them and sharing life experiences.”

George’s funeral will take place on Friday in Adelaide. His ashes will be scattered in Edinburgh, Alice Springs and Grytviken, in the South Atlantic.