Iain MacKintosh was born on July 20, 1932. His father was from the Outer Hebrides, a watchmaker and goldsmith who owned a pawnshop in Glasgow, his mother came from Northern Ireland. At the age of seven he started learning the Highland pipes and played in a pipe band in his youth. His mother died when he was twelve, and he and his three sisters were brought up by his grandmother. After grammar school, he started his working life as an apprentice watchmaker and goldsmith and later took over his father's business. After doing his time in the British Army where he saw service in the Near East he married Sadie; the couple had two daughters, Isla and Fiona.