Duncan, “the Farmer,” as he is now known in Glengarry was born and raised on the family farm in Glen Roy. He is the son of John Sander and Ella McDonald. His family was noted for its support of Celtic music and traditions. Duncan came from a musical family of accomplished violinists. His uncles Leo, Charles and Angus entertained in Glengarry until they moved to Detroit where they became very active in the Cape Breton Club.
It was their love of violin music that first inspired Duncan’s early musical interest. At age 11, Duncan received his first violin. This was followed by violin lessons from Agnes Valade, the noted teacher of the day. From the start, Duncan preferred the Celtic style—the music of his ancestors. At a very young age, Duncan played at many social gatherings – house parties, concerts, Green Valley Pavillion and the St. Finnan’s Orchestra. Father McPhail was a great mentor for Duncan. In the ’50s, he competed at fiddle competitions in Cornwall, Ottawa, Williamstown and Alexandria. He placed first in several. Everyone develops his own style and Duncan developed his.
He spent five years in Pembroke where he became involved in the Pembroke Celtic music scene at the Old Time Fiddlers’ Competitions. While in Woodstock and Fredricton, he played with such notables as Johnnie Mooring and Don Brown, a Cape Breton fiddler who played for some time with Scotty Fitzgerald. While in Fredricton, Duncan played at various outings which included functions at the St. Andrew’s Society at the University of New Brunswick and the Fredricton Playhouse.
In 1977, he was one of the founding members of the Glengarry Strathspey and Reel Society and was an active and valued member. As such, he performed locally and in the various appearances in Ontario, Cape Breton and the United States and was also part of their recordings. Duncan continued his unwavering support of the group adding considerably to the vitality of the music. Duncan was also an active and committed member of the Cape Breton Fiddle Session in Ottawa as well as an Ottawa small Celtic fiddle group known as the Glenbretons.
Duncan has been playing violin for over 65 years. Although he now resides in Nova Scotia, he still loves to return to Glengarry to play at the Games in Maxville or meet up with old friends for a “fiddle session.”