Iain MacMillan


Born: 20 October, 1938, in Dundee.

Died: 8 May 2006, in Dundee, aged 67.

ON 8 August, 1969, photographer Iain MacMillan clambered 10ft up a ladder in the middle of north London's Abbey Road and snapped a picture that would become a rock icon.

It was Paul McCartney who suggested the shot, which he sketched out on a piece of paper, during a lunch break outside the EMI studies. The four Beatles would be on the zebra crossing, with an extended perspective of the road diminishing in the background.

MacMillan decided the best result would be achieved if he sat on a step ladder, which they placed in the middle of the road while a couple of helpful policemen stopped the traffic.

He had little time to get it right, and he shot just six frames. But the photograph, which became the cover of the Beatles Abbey Road album, became an unforgettable image, a milestone of popular culture.

Iain Stewart Macmillan was born in Dundee on 20 October, 1938, and died in the city on 8 May, in the Roxburgh House nursing home, of cancer.

The only child of Stewart and Margaret Macmillan, he was educated at Dundee High. After leaving school he became a trainee manager in the jute industry, but then opted to study photography at a polytechnic.

After a spell as a ship's photographer on a cruise liner he went freelance, doing technical photography and commercial work.

In 1966, The Book of London featured his photographs of daily life in the capital. It was after he approached a gallery in London with a view to having his work shown that he met and became friends with conceptual artist Yoko Ono, which led to him meeting Lennon, and the Abbey Road commission.

Abbey Road was the Beatles' final album. Its cover became wrapped up in a bizarre rumour among Beatles fans that Paul McCartney had died.

The photograph was said to show Ringo Starr dressed in a black frock coat as the funeral director, George Harrison in denims as the gravedigger, John Lennon in a white suit as the minister and Paul McCartney, shoeless and out of step with the other three. In Italy the dead are placed in their coffins without their shoes.

Another sign was a Volkswagen Beetle car in the shot with the number plate including 28 IF - supposedly a clue that Paul would have been 28 if he had lived.

MacMillan later told friends that he was concentrating on getting a photograph where all four were crossing with their legs in a perfect "V" formation. The album cover continues to inspire many imitations, not only by rock bands but also advertisements - and recently the TV series Grumpy old Men.

Thousands of Beatles fans continue to make the pilgrimage to Abbey Road, and photograph themselves on the same spot.

MacMillan went on to work with John Lennon and Yoko Ono on various projects, photographing the wedding cake for the Wedding Album. He merged their photographs for the picture single Happy Xmas (War Is Over).

In 1993 McCartney invited him back to Abbey Road to shoot the cover of his album, named, appropriately, Paul is Live.

MacMillan's caring and friendly nature endeared him to many and, apart from the Beatles, he made friends with the likes of May Pang, Lennon's girlfriend between 1973 and 1975, the rock musician Van Morrison and the Scottish poet and musician Ivor Cutler.

McCartney sent a note to him at the Roxburgh House home shortly before his death, and May Pang telephoned from New York.