Tributes have been paid to a young Perthshire piper who died suddenly after being taken ill the day before he was due to move in with his fiancée.

Alex Duncan passed away on Saturday, September 12, at the age of just 26.

The cause of his death is not yet known, but Alex first reported feeling unwell three weeks ago.

After waking up, appearing yellow and jaundiced, Alex was taken to the HDU at Kirkcaldy and was later transferred to the ICU at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. His provisional diagnosis was haemolytic anaemia but, despite the medical team’s desperate 14-day fight, his life support machine was switched off on Saturday evening.

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Alex, who previously suffered a blood clot on his brain, was taken to hospital the day before he was due to move in with fiancée Freya, whom he had proposed to on a visit to Budapest on the eve of lockdown.

Family members were horrified that despite going into hospital and a determined battle by doctors to save him, Alex, from Burrelton, rapidly

deteriorated. After his passing, the Duncan family - father Ian Duncan, mum Chris Ross, sisters Tina and Siân - and Freya put up a message on social media, which said: “We wish to thank all our family, friends and fellow musicians for their many messages and thoughts at this tragic and difficult time.

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“Each message has been a comfort to us and a realisation of how many kind folk Alex befriended in his short life.”

The family shared a video from January 2013, three months before Alex, at the age of 18, reported a headache which turned out to be a blood clot in his brain.

The team at Ninewells Hospital helped Alex gradually recover. But there was no definitive diagnosis to give particular cause for concern for the future.

The family tribute continued: “Alex then lived a busy and happy eight years; he graduated from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen with a Bachelor of Nursing degree then worked as a staff nurse at the Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy and Queen Margaret’s Hospital, Dunfermline.

“He met Freya, the love of his life, whom he proposed to just six months ago during a family weekend trip to Budapest just before lockdown; Alex and Freya had just bought their first house and Alex had accepted a new post at work.

The family added: “Throughout this Alex was tolerant and brave, he was also scared as he ‘did not want to die’.

“He said: ‘If only love was enough, it would save me’.”

Alex had pipe music all around him, with his dad describing it as “his great joy”.

Alex Duncan and Lt Col The Earl of Kinnoull, who was informing Alex he had won the 2018 Award for Best Dressed Highlander at the 2018 Annual Atholl Highlanders Parade. Pic by CPR Photography (Davy Nelson)

Ian’s brother and Alex’s uncle was the late, great Gordon Duncan of Pitlochry and international piping fame.

Family friend Gary West, presenter of BBC Radio Scotland’s Pipeline programme and professor at Edinburgh University, paid tribute to Alex, who he had known since he was born.

He said: “The loss of Alex Duncan last weekend at the age of 26, following a short illness, has been keenly felt throughout the world of piping, and far beyond.

“Many pipe bands benefitted from his talents through his short life including local Perthshire bands such as Coupar Angus and District, the Vale of Atholl and Pitlochry and Blair Atholl, and Alex was also very proud indeed to have been invited at a young age to join the Atholl Highlanders’, the private army of the Duke of Atholl.

“Further afield he also contributed to the success of top flight bands including the Lothian and Borders Police, joining several family members in their ranks.

“Alex’s talents also gained him a highly valued place in the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland, as well as the Perth-based Gordon Duncan Experience project, named in memory of his late uncle, one of the most revered pipers of his generation.”

Alex Duncan, when he piped with the Pitlochry and Blair Atholl Pipe Band, pictured around 2010

On behalf of the Pitlochry and Blair Atholl Pipe Band committee, Sharon Kelly said everyone was “devastated” to hear of Alex’s death.

She wrote: “It has been a pleasure to see Alex grow from the talented young piper in our band to the gentleman he became, reaching the very top level of pipebands.

“He followed our progress keenly. He will be very sadly missed.”

Outside of Perthshire, the young talent had been involved with Grampian Police, Fife Police, The Pipers Trail (Pipe Band of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo) and the Scottish Music Parade.