This section of the website is intended to provide a brief insight into the history of The Scottish Pipe Band Association/Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association; and also to provide information about some of the key individuals who have influenced the development of the Association over the years.
The content of the section represents primarily the work of the Association's Historical Research Group. Additional historical information about individuals, events, Pipe Bands etc will be added as and when available.
The Association's History
The Association was founded initially as The Scottish Pipe Band Association (SPBA) in 1930 to meet the need for an authoritative governing body to organise and grade Pipe Bands, and to draw up rules and regulations for the effective running of Pipe Band competitions. Pipe Band competitions had been on record from as early as 1905, held in localities throughout Scotland and Ireland in particular. Competition was seen as an effective way of raising standards of performance, but there was no recognised mechanism for co-ordinating the activities or for setting standards.
The person with ideas on how improvement could be made was Pipe Major William Sloan BEM of the Maclean Pipe Band in Glasgow. On the ferry returning from the Cowal Highland Gathering in 1930, he broached the subject of a Pipe Band Association when in friendly conversation with two of his contemporaries - Pipe Majors John MacConnacher of the Anchor Mills Pipe Band in Paisley, and George McDonald of the Millhall Pipe Band from Stirlingshire, two well-known and highly esteemed Pipe Majors at that time. Both these gentlemen thought the idea highly commendable and this led to an exploratory meeting with interested Pipe Bands in Oatlands, Glasgow in October that year. Those who attended agreed unanimously that an Association should be formed forthwith and an interim Committee was appointed with William Sloan as Chairman and Donald Mclntosh of the Clan McRae Society Pipe Band as Secretary. A Constitution and Rules document was quickly drawn up and adopted unanimously; and the Association was launched in October 1930 with William Sloan as the first President and Donald Mclntosh as Honorary Secretary.
From the outset the Aims and Objects of the Association, which still stand today, were set as follows:
To promote and encourage the culture and advancement of Pipe Band Music internationally, and to sponsor a Pipe Band College;
To create and maintain a bond of fellowship with all Pipe Band personnel throughout the world without discrimination as to colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins;
To devise and operate a proper system of Pipe Band Contest Rules; and
To organise the World, European, British, Scottish and all Major Championships held within the United Kingdom.
From such small beginnings the Association has grown into the large organisation which is recognised world-wide today. Some of the important milestones which have taken place since 1930 include:
the first World Pipe Band Championships organised by the SPBA in 1947;
agreement of the SPBA Coat of Arms by the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Edinburgh, with the motto "Ceol na h-Alba" - "Music of Scotland";
formation of a Pipe Band College in 1947;
the Silver Jubilee in 1955;
publication of the first SPBA Tutor & Textbooks in 1962 and 1970;
the Golden Jubilee in 1980, when "Royal" status was conferred by Her Majesty, The Queen;
the Silver Jubilee in 1990;
introduction of the Structured Learning Programme 1990-1992;
the first Major Pipe Band Championships held outwith the UK (the European Championships in Belgium in 2003);
the 75th Anniversary in 2005;
the joint venture in 2006 with the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming, College of Piping, National Piping Centre and Piobaireachd Society to form the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board (PDQB)
approval as a Scottish Qualifications Authority Examinations Centre in 2009.
A comprehensive account of the Association's history is available in the publication "How it all began: and the first 75 years" which can be purchased from our online store. This interesting booklet was compiled by the RSPBA's Historical Research Group and published in December 2007.
Historical Research Group
The Historical Research Group, formed in 2006, comprises a small number of individuals interested in unearthing information about the Association and the Pipe Band movement in general. The Group has been gradually developing displays at RSPBA Headquarters which include a wide range of memorabilia relating to Piping, Pipe Band Drumming, Pipe Bands and key individuals who have influenced the development of the Association. The displays include historical examples of rope tension and rod tension drums, piping and drumming equipment, photographs, written articles about individuals who have been involved with the Association, a collection of DVDs and CDs containing footage and recordings of Pipe Band performances, displays of old competition trophies and a wide range of other material to reflect different stages in the Association's development. The Historical Research Group is always looking for additional contributions. If anyone has anything of interest to offer please let the Group know through RSPBA Headquarters.
Individuals who have influenced the SPBA/RSPBA
In this section of the website we are a building up a collection of articles written by the Historical Research Group about individuals who have played a major role in the development of the Association over the years. The section will be gradually expanded as and when more information and articles compiled.
Pipe Major William Sloan BEM
William Sloan BEM was one of the four founders of the SPBA. Willie, as he was known, was from Glasgow and he learned to play pipes in the Boy's Brigade. He was married to May, they had a daughter and he enjoyed playing golf. He was known universally and was at ease with people from all walks of life, including youngsters to whom he never denied a minute of his time.
From an article in "The Pipe Band" magazine, we knew that he served in the first World War and was badly wounded and invalided out of the Army after spending 18 months in hospital, but we did not know what regiment he served in or where. On asking Jeannie Campbell of the College of Piping if she had any information about him, she suggested that a look in the book "The Pipes of War", by Seton and Grant, might help. This book lists pipers who served in the Great War. It was quite a surprise to find this entry on page 146:
The Middlesex Regiment
2530. Piper William Sloan, wounded October 1916, Somme.
This was the first English regiment to have a pipe band, the men being recruited for the purpose in Glasgow.
The only problem was we did not know if this piper was our William Sloan. The story of the Pipe Band of the 16th (Public Schools) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment is interesting, if not unique, and probably deserves a separate article. After the Battle of the Somme the Battalion suffered heavy losses and was eventually disbanded, but the Pipe Band was transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and was not disbanded until the end of the war.
Research over several months revealed quite a lot of information on the Pipe Band of the 16th (Public Schools) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment but still no confirmation that 2530 William Sloan was our Willie. Then a stroke of luck - whilst Tony Harris was on a battlefield trip to Arnhem, when in casual conversation the tour guide said he had just read a book on the 16th (Public Schools) Battalion. Tony subsequently obtained a copy of this book and on page 288 was listed:
Piper William Sloane 2188. Wounded on the Somme, October 1916. Became Pipe Major and founded Scottish Pipe Band Association. Died June 22nd 1974.
The difference in Army numbers is confusing and the spelling of Sloan, sometimes with an e, has not helped, but we do feel there is no doubt we have found the right man. Ironically, two days after we had confirmed this Jeannie Campbell rang to say she had found a short article in the Piping Times also confirming this information.
After the War Willie took up a career in industry rising to a senior position. He also gathered together a group of young pipers and drummers to form his famous Maclean Pipe Band. This band was very successful, winning the World Pipe Band Championship four times. Among the players were pipers Donald MacIntosh and Robert McCreath, both office bearers in The Scottish Pipe Band Association in later years, and Dan Turrant, a fine player on the rope tension drum, regrettably killed early in the 2nd World war. The Maclean Pipe Band was said to be the first band to wear the Prince Charlie style uniform.
The Maclean Pipe Band had its origins in the Glasgow YMCA Pipe Band, of which Willie Sloan was the last Pipe Major. He was the first and only Pipe Major of the Maclean Pipe Band. The Band officially came into existence in 1921 and the first practices were held in a contractor's shed in the south side of Glasgow. The name of the Band was derived from a Dr Maclean who had been a significant financial contributor to the YMCA Pipe Band. The Band won its first World Championship at Cowal Games in 1927.
In the second World War Willie Sloan was awarded the BEM for his contribution to industrial development of a secretive nature
Willie was the first President of The Scottish Pipe Band Association, holding that 0ffice from 1931 to 1934. He was also Secretary of the Association from 1962 to 1969. In 1953 he took on the additional work of Editor of "The Pipe Band" magazine and in 1971, with PRO Charles Nicholas, the writing of a brochure covering the growth and progress of The Scottish Pipe Band Association.
THE PIPE BAND OF THE 16th (PUBLIC SCHOOLS) BATTALION OF THE MIDDLESEX REGIMENT
PERHAM DOWN, SALISBURY PLAIN, AUGUST 1915
L/Sgt Pipe Major Charles Stewart and Pipers John Grant, WILLIAM SLOAN, Fred Carruthers, Norman McDonald,
Dugald McFarlane, Henry Michelson, Thomas Latham, James Gilchrist and John Kerr
Pipe Corporal Thomas Gibson and Drummer William Sloan. Three Drummers unnamed.
Drum Major Alex Douglas (A D) Hamilton DCM
"AD" Hamilton was one of The Scottish Pipe Band Association's (SPBA) early pioneers who played a significant role in the development of Pipe Band music as we know it today. He served as a Drum Major in the Seaforth Highlanders during the First World War. On returning to civilian life he studied music and began to play in local orchestras and bands in the Glasgow area. He also became involved in tutoring Pipe Bands, having become interested in the percussion side during the mid 1920s. At the end of the 1920s he was appointed Drum Major of the 9th (Dumbartonshire) Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He also played percussion in the Glasgow City Orchestra on a full-time basis.
In 1931 he published "Drum Scores", a collection of scores for Pipe Band snare, tenor and bass drums. He also wrote a number of forward-looking articles which were published in the then "Piper & Dancing" magazine. In 1936, along with Drum Major John Seton, he was asked to assist in establishing the then SPBA's Pipe Band College (although for various reasons it was not until after the Second World War that the College was fully established). "A D" was subsequently appointed Musical Director of the SPBA and became involved in Pipe Band Drumming adjudication.
Alex Hamilton was a strong advocate of the "integrated Pipe Band", whereby the Drum Corps of a Pipe Band collectively influences and enhances the overall musical effect. In 1935 he wrote an interesting article in the "Piping and Dancing" magazine entitled "A Straight Talk to Drummers" in which he recommended the process of creating a monotone for each pipe tune before writing the drum score, as a means of identifying the rhythmic patterns from the note groupings. His argument was that rhythm is one of the most important principles of music. He was also strongly of the view that the secret of success lay in the knowledge of drum technique and the ability to play drum rudiments properly, including good roll quality. This approach, almost 75 years ago, is not significantly different to that recommended by the RSPBA for Pipe Bands participating in its Musical Appreciation and Presentation competition project.
A D Hamilton was also one of the pioneers of the concept of Pipe Band Ensemble and he lectured frequently on the subject on behalf of the SPBA. He was often seen as controversial; and many of his peers did not agree with his views. Nevertheless, the following extract from a lecture he gave in 1947 provides an interesting example of his musical perspective in a Pipe Band context:
"It is fortunate that we have a number of enthusiasts amongst us keen on a better musical combination but, on the other hand, we still have a very large proportion who might become a little more enlightened if they could be made to take a little interest in the combined effect of a pipe band and not look on the band either from a piping or drumming point of view."
"Our present method of adjudicating at a contest will never encourage collaboration between pipes and drums. A Pipe-Major judging the piping and a Drum-Major judging the drumming with no award for the best combined effort is hardly likely to improve the standard towards a more musical performance. Another obstacle in the way of a better combined effort is the present practice of awarding a drumming prize at some contests."
Another of AD's many visionary quotes is also worth noting:
"Music seems to be an ever ending subject, the more you listen the more you want to know and the older you become the more mature your outlook takes place."
Sadly Alex Hamilton passed away during the 1970s but he left a significant musical legacy, particularly in the context of Pipe Band Ensemble, which is still being discussed and built upon today.
Pipe Major John Kerr MacAllister
John Kerr MacAllister (affectionately known as JK) passed away on 6 March 2008 at the age of 85 leaving a legacy in the Pipe Band world and in the RSPBA which few will ever surpass. Born and bred in the small town of Shotts in North Lanarkshire, John was one of three sons who inherited their piping skills from their father, Pipe Major Tom MacAllister BEM. On leaving school John took up the trade of apprentice joiner before becoming a member of the Gordon Highlanders at the outbreak of World War 2.
John served in North Africa (Tunisia), Sicily and Italy with the 6th Battalion Gordon Highlanders between December 1942 and January 1945. The 6th Battalion landed at Algiers on 13 March 1943 and took part in the Battles of Banana Ridge and Longstop Hill on their way to Tunis. By 12 May 1943 Tunis had fallen and a celebration parade, headed by Massed Pipe Bands, was held in Tunis in front of General Eisenhower on 20 May 1943. A final victory parade in front of General Eisenhower took place on 4 September the same year. After the capture of Tunis the Battalion had a short unopposed landing on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria before sailing for Italy and landing unopposed on 21 January 1944 north of Anzio. In February 1944, 6th Battalion came under heavy German attack and suffered heavy losses until relieved. The Battalion continued to man the Anzio line until May/June 1944, when it took part in the Allied advance on Rome. On 8 January 1945 the Drums and Pipes led the parade through Rome to the Vatican. The Battalion then moved to Haifa, Palestine in January 1945, where it remained until it was disbanded in 1946.
During his Army career John MacAllister was a Piper in the Regimental Drums and Pipes of the Gordons. The Drums and Pipes of the Gordon Highlanders (named in that order) are reputed to be the first Army Pipe Band. The Drums being foremost in the name are claimed to reflect the fact that Drummers were an integral part of early military Regiments as a means of beating out commands, and for marching purposes. It was not until the mid 1800s that Bagpipes were recognised officially in Scottish Regiments resulting in the formation of Pipe Bands.
At this stage in his career John had not achieved the status of Pipe Major. There is, however, evidence in the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming that he attended in March 1946 a Piping Course at the then Army School at Edinburgh Castle, conducted by Pipe Major Willie Ross. The course appeared to be similar to the current Senior Pipers Course, from which Pipers achieve the recommendation to embark on the Pipe Majors' Course. The Army School list of students who attended the March 1946 Course was as follows:
PM R Batt 21G
LCpl MacAllister Trg Bn IG
PM Grant 2SG
PSgt K Roe 1SG
LSgt J Roe 1SG
Piper T Ainslie BW
Fus W Thomson RSF
Piper J Hamilton Seaforth Hldrs
Cpl J MacAllister 6th Gordon Hldrs
PM J Cockburn 2RS
Pte W Thomson RSF
Pte j G Thomson Gordon Hldrs
LCpl J Kilgour SG
Following his Army service John became an employee of the renowned Bagpipe Makers, William Sinclair of Edinburgh before returning to his trade as a joiner. During the 1950s, along with his brothers, he entered into partnership with the late Andrew Warnock of "The Pipers Cave" in Northern Ireland to develop the War-Mac Pipe Chanter using the revolutionary polypenco material. This led to a highly successful reed-making business venture in Shotts in 1970, along with brothers Tom and William, which operated under the "JWT" logo until it ceased trading during the 1990s, when the business was taken over by James W Troy & Son of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
In 1954 John took over as Pipe Major of the Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band in succession to his father. Under his leadership the Band won four World Pipe Band Championship titles consecutively from 1957 to 1960; and in 1959 he led the Band to winning all the Major Championships that year. By the time he retired from the Band in 1968 he had collected 44 first prizes, 26 of these being in Major Championships.
John also played a major and influential role in the development of The Scottish Pipe Band Association (SPBA), which also continued after the organisation became The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA). He was a strong advocate for the education and training of Pipers and Drummers. He was a major influence in the introduction of musical Medleys in Pipe Band competitions and he was a leader in the campaign which eventually saw the introduction of Ensemble adjudication at Major Pipe Band Championships. In 1955, as a member of the Advisory Board of the then SPBA Pipe Band College, along with Alex D Hamilton, William Sloan BEM and Alex Duthart, he embarked on a project to develop the Association's first Tutor and Textbook, which was eventually published in 1962 and led to the RSPBA Structured Learning programme which is in place today. In 1968 he also led the House Committee of the SPBA which carried out the alterations necessary when the Association acquired its existing Headquarters at 45 Washington Street, Glasgow.
Following his competing career John continued his Piping and Pipe Band involvement as an RSPBA Piping and Ensemble Adjudicator. During that time he also played a major role in the education and training of Adjudicators and was a leading member of the RSPBA Adjudicators' Training Group until his retiral from the Adjudicators' Panel in 1993. Shortly thereafter, in recognition of his major contribution and influence, he was appointed Honorary Vice-President of the Association by the RSPBA National Council.
Over the years John MacAllister played a leading and visionary role in the development of the RSPBA as we know it today as well as the development of Pipe Band music in general. Many individuals have benefited from his advice and guidance, including players in Pipe Bands worldwide and a significant number of the RSPBA's current Adjudicators. He has left a great legacy to the Pipe Band world which should be an inspiration to all.
Drum Major Alex Duthart
In researching the history of the development of the SPBA/RSPBA, a name which frequently comes to the fore is that of Alex Duthart, who arguably had the greatest influence on Pipe Band percussion as we know it today.
Born in 1925 in the village of Cambusnethan, near Wishaw, Alex was the son of John Duthart who played both the Bass Drum and the Snare Drum in the 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during the First World War. Taught by his father, Alex joined the Craigneuk Parish Church Juvenile Pipe Band at the age of 12. In 1942 he joined the Dalziel Highland Pipe Band under Leading Drummer Jimmy Catherwood. The Dalziel Band amalgamated with the 6th Battalion Lanarkshire Home Guard Pipe Band, the Leading Drummer of which was Gordon Jelly, another pupil of Jimmy Catherwood. Alex Duthart subsequently took over as Leading Drummer of Dalziel Highland in 1949 when Gordon Jelly departed to become Leading Drummer of the Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band. Alex won his first World Championships drumming prize in 1953. After that he left the Pipe Band scene for a time to pursue a career as a dance band drummer, before joining the Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band in 1957 as Leading Drummer under Pipe Major John MacAllister. Thereafter Alex played for Shotts and Dykehead for almost 30 years, apart from short periods with the Invergordon Distillery and Edinburgh City Police Pipe Bands. During this time he amassed an impressive array of Championship first places in Band, Drum Corps and Solo competitions. He finished his playing career with the British Caledonian Airways Pipe Band under Pipe Major Harry McNulty; and sadly, it was while playing with BCal that he died from a heart attack during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City in 1986.
Alex Duthart claimed his main influences to be Alex D Hamilton, Jimmy Catherwood (also Leading Drummer of Dalziel Highland Pipe Band), Paddy Donovan (famous Pipe Band Drummer from Dublin), and Alex McCormick of Glasgow Police Pipe Band. Few would argue, however, that he was the pioneer of a new style of Pipe Band drumming accompaniment and percussion which set the scene for a different type of "musical" focus on Pipe Bands; the introduction of medley competitions alongside the traditional March, Strathspey and Reel format; and the evolution of Ensemble adjudication at SPBA/RSPBA Major Championships.
Alex Duthart was also a key player in the development of the SPBA's education and training programme. Along with Alex Hamilton, John MacAllister and Pipe Major William Sloan BEM, he was a partner in the project which produced the Association's first Tutor & Textbook, a seven year project which was completed in 1962, as well as the second volume which was published in 1970. He also travelled the world extensively promoting Pipe Bands and Pipe Band Drumming through demonstrations, workshops and training sessions. His influence is still seen in the Drum Corps of Pipe Bands worldwide and his drum scores are still used widely by leading Pipe Bands and individuals.
Drum Major James (Jimmy) Catherwood
Dalzell Highland Pipe Band and Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band
Jimmy Catherwood was one of the most influential contributors to the development of Pipe Band drumming as we know it today. Born in 1907 in Motherwell, he joined the Motherwell Company of the Boys Brigade at the age of 12 and soon joined their Pipe Band. He received his first lessons from Jock Scott who subsequently was to emigrate to the USA, after which Jimmy was left in charge of the BB Pipe Band drum corps before three years later joining the Dalzell Highland Pipe Band. At that time the Dalzell Band was under the leadership of Pipe Major A Hastie and the Drumming Instructor was John Duthart, who had served as Bass Drummer with the 8th Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Pipe Band during the First World War. John Duthart was the father of the late and legendary Alex Duthart.
Other notables drummers to emerge from the ranks of the 8th Argyll's were Drum Major Charlie Davis of the Glasgow Corporation Transport Pipe Band and Drum Major John Seton of the City of Glasgow Police Pipe Band. John Seton was a master of the rudiments of drumming and stick control, together with the subtle use of expression and dynamics. This all helped to lay the foundation for Jimmy Catherwood's drumming and Pipe Band musicianship.
Even before the Scottish Pipe Band Association was formed in 1930, Jimmy Catherwood was a driving force in the teaching of the fundamentals of Pipe Band drumming, eventually devoting a lifetime to the Pipe Band movement and to percussion instruction. His influence is still felt today as over the years many of his pupils and members of his drum corps were to become innovative players, tutors and Adjudicators. He was renowned for his warmth of character, his wit, and his willingness to assist and discuss all forms of percussion with the beginner or the expert.
When Jimmy was appointed Leading Drummer of Dalzell Highland Pipe Band, the drum corps won every trophy available to them on the Scottish Pipe Band circuit. During his years with Dalzell, Jimmy looked for newer and varied ways to present his drum scores. He also began to take an interest in Brass and Military Band drumming, and orchestral percussion. Jimmy's spectrum of the whole musical scene was also enhanced through his close relationship with Drum Major Alex D Hamilton of Glasgow, former Drum Major in the Seaforth Highlanders Pipes and Drums. For several years Jimmy also corresponded with Dr Fritz Berger, the noted Swiss Basle Drummer and he later decided to travel to Basle to meet with him. In 1928 Dr Berger had introduced the Swiss Army drumming system, a revolutionary new drumming notation system. This showed a "single line Staff" with the Right Hand stroke (note) shown above the line and the Left Hand stroke shown below the line. Arriving back in Scotland, Jimmy introduced this system to his drummers, but it was not until 1950 that this form of drumming notation was more generally accepted in Scotland. The Scottish Pipe Band Association used the notation system in its Text Book and Tutor Volume 1, published in 1962.
Jimmy Catherwood, and a few other notable drummers of that time, always strived to compose individual scores to suit each pipe tune, incorporating the basic rudiments and also groupings of rhythmic phrases and dynamics to enhance the musical effect of the melody. This proved to generate a new era whereby drummers saw the advantages of learning notation, showing the time duration of the note values with the sub-division of the beat note and the use of embellishments and dynamics for musical effect.
Individual scores were also being written for bass and tenor drummers, and Jimmy Catherwood, under the guidance of A D Hamilton, was quick to develop the new format. Other leading drummers of the time who took advantage of this new world of Pipe Band drumming were Alex McCormick of Glasgow Police Pipe Band, Dan Turrant of the MacLean Pipe Band, Danny Faulds of Banknock & Haggs Pipe Band, and Charlie Davis of the Glasgow Corporation Transport Pipe Band. Jimmy Catherwood corresponded regularly with other similar minded drummers in other parts of the world, in particular with Fritz Berger in Switzerland and Bill Ludwig in the USA. As a result he started to include some of the new rudiments from overseas into his Pipe Band drum scores.
In 1931 Jimmy learned that the Premier drum company in England had recently produced a full set of rod tension drums (snare, bass and tenors) designed specifically for Pipe Bands. The drums could all be tensioned individually, making it much easier to tune them in unison than the old rope tension drums. The snare drums were fitted with low-profile metal counter hoops and, with higher tension now possible, crisper sounds could be produced making for cleaner and faster drumming execution. Jimmy convinced the Dalzell Pipe Band Committee that a full set of these new drums should be purchased to compete with at the World Pipe Band Championships in August that year, which at that time were part of Cowal Highland Games in Dunoon. The Committee agreed to his request and thus Dalzell Highland was the first Pipe Band to play these drums in competition. The new sound caused a sensation and Dalzell won the World Drumming Championships. Many other leading Pipe Bands were soon to follow such as the City of Glasgow Police, Glasgow Transport, MacLean and Ballochyle.
Dalzell Highland Pipe Band with the new Premier drum
Following the formation of the Scottish Pipe Band Association in 1930 Jimmy, along with others, saw the need for the formation of an SPBA Pipe Band College to help pipers, drummers and Pipe Bands to receive proper instruction in the fundamentals and to develop good technique. The SPBA towards the mid 1930s conducted its own 'Individual Solo Drumming Competition', later to become known as the World Solo Drumming Championships. In January 1937 the winner of this event was Charlie Davis, the Leading Drummer of the Glasgow Corporation Transport Pipe Band. Jimmy Catherwood was placed second playing scores composed by Paddy Donovan and Drum Major A D Hamilton. At that time the Dalzell Highland Pipe Band Drum Corps was still a major force in Pipe Band competition right up to the commencement of the 1939-45 Second World War.
After commencement of the War Jimmy remained as Leading Drummer of Dalzell Highland until 1941, when he moved to Edinburgh and subsequently joined the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band. In due course he took over as Leading Drummer of the Band from the late Drum Major John Ferguson. who had enlisted in the Army to serve with the Seaforth and later the Cameron Highlanders. It is interesting to note that when Jimmy left Dalzell, Gordon Jelly, who had been a member of the Dalzell Corps for over twelve years, took over as his successor. Gordon Jelly was later to become Leading Drummer of Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band, before emigrating to Victoria, Australia in 1952. Another young drummer to join the Dalzell corps in 1942 was the legendary Alex Duthart.
With the resurgence of interest in Pipe Bands following the War, the BBC continued with its live broadcasts of Pipe Band music on Radio Scotland, a feature which had been inaugurated in 1937 with the Glasgow and the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Bands. Recordings of Pipe Bands were also starting to be produced by the larger record companies. In 1949 the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band under Pipe Major Donald Shaw Ramsay was invited by the Universal Recording Company of London to record a series of high quality 78rpm recordings of the Band. In addition two MSR recordings of Solo Drummers accompanied by Donald Shaw Ramsay were made for posterity. The drummers selected to perform were Jimmy Catherwood of Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band, Alex Duthart of Dalzell Highland Pipe Band, Gordon Jelly of Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band and James Blackley of Edinburgh Special Constables Pipe Band.
Jimmy Catherwood retired from Edinburgh City Police in 1954 at the age of 47 and took up percussion on a full-time basis. He was appointed teacher of percussion at George Heriot's School in Edinburgh and remained in that position for many years thereafter. During that time he had countless successes with pupils competing in the Scottish Schools Combined Cadet Forces Bands and Solo Drumming events. In addition, there were College exchange visits between Scotland and the USA, arranged on a bi-annual basis and his pupils could always be relied on to shine in that field. Jimmy also made many trips to the USA accompanying his pupils and he was involved in Pipe Band drumming workshops in Canada. Throughout his life Jimmy also experimented and achieved differing Drum sounds, and he also had a hobby/business making and supplying snare, tenor and bass drum sticks made from many materials.
Jimmy Catherwood's contribution to Pipe Band Drumming and Percussion was immeasurable. He died at the age of 76 years and was laid to rest in Edinburgh on Tuesday 8 November1983, with his former Pipe Band, by then known as Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band, playing at the funeral. Many original Drum scores composed by Jimmy and other drummers of his time can be found in a presentational folder in the history display at RSPBA Headquarters.
RSPBA Historical Research Group
(with assistance from Allan Chatto, Sydney, Australia)
Pipe Major Donald Shaw Ramsay
Donald Shaw Ramsay was born in 1919, near Torphichen, between Falkirk and Bathgate. He became interested in Piping and Pipe Bands as a youngster, starting to learn the pipes at the age of 8 under Pipe Major Sandy Forrest of Torphichen and Bathgate Pipe Band. In his early years he focused on both Pipe Band work and Piobaireachd, and his potential was demonstrated clearly when at an early age he was runner-up in the Under-21 Piobaireachd Class at the Northern Meeting in Inverness.
Donald was educated at Drumbowie near Avonbridge and then at Falkirk High School. He then took up an engineering apprenticeship in Bathgate. At the age of 19 he was asked to take over as Pipe Major of a band near Falkirk, where he gained invaluable early experience. Following the outbreak of the War in September 1939, he was posted to the 10th Highland Light Infantry; and he soon became the youngest Pipe Major in the British Army and very quickly formed a competent Pipe Band for the Regiment. For the next four years, as part of the 15th Scottish Infantry Division, the 10th Battalion HLI moved around the country on training exercises and defence duties.
In June 1944 the Regiment went into action Normandy which culminated in the crossing of the Elbe and victory in Europe. During this period the 10th Battalion HLI, having been under the cover of Hochwald Forest, about two miles from the Rhine, endeavoured to cross the Rhine in tracked amphibious personnel carriers (known as buffaloes). Some of the carriers unfortunately overturned during this difficult operation; but the majority successfully made the crossing. Many were accompanied by something unique to Scottish Regiments - the sound of the bagpipes. Perched precariously at the front of each carrier was a piper, among whom was Donald Ramsay. A few weeks later after VE Day, when the 15th Scottish Infantry Division was enjoying the peace and quiet of the town of Lubeck, Donald composed the 6/8 March which has since become so popular with Pipe Bands and Scottish dance bands - "The 10th Battalion HLI Crossing the Rhine".
After leaving the Army, Donald joined Edinburgh City Police and the famous Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band. Within two years he was appointed Pipe Major in October 1949, taking over from Pipe Major Duncan Cameron. At the time the Band was going through a lean period on the competition field and Donald was given a free hand by the then Chief Constable, Sir William Morran, to initiate improvements and achieve better results. He approached the task with his characteristic professionalism. A recruiting campaign was initiated which extended well beyond the territory of Edinburgh City Police, new practice schedules were introduced, and discipline was also improved. In 1950 Pipe Major Ramsay took the Band to the World Pipe Band Championships in Dundee and led them to first place, a remarkable achievement in such a very short time. This had been the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band's first Major Championship win since 1919. Under Donald Shaw Ramsay the Band took the "Worlds" title again at Aberdeen in 1954.
Following his 1950 success, Donald then collaborated with Edinburgh businessman, Hugh MacPherson, to produce a book of pipe music, with drum scores included, entitled -"The Edcath Collection Book 1" - which was published in 1953. The name reflected the fact that Hugh MacPherson had been based in St Catherines, Ontario before he returned to Scotland to set up his highland supplies business in Haymarket, Edinburgh (i.e. a combination of the two locations). The book, and its successor - "The Edcath Collection Book 2" - proved to be favourites with the Scottish dance band scene as they included compositions by such players as Jimmy Shand and Alisdair Downie. This illustrated that Donald Ramsay was prepared to accept music which was suitable for the bagpipes from different sources. Other well known of his own compositions are "Angus MacKinnon", "Mrs Lily Christie", "Tam Bain's Lum", "Jimmy Young" and "Schiehallion".
During the 1950s Pipe Bands started to introduce Jigs and Hornpipes into their repertoire. Pipe Major Donald Shaw Ramsay was one of the first to do so. He was also a pioneer in introducing Piobaireachd into the Pipe Band repertoire and was one of the early leaders in innovative Pipe Band medley construction.
Unfortunately, however, Donald's career in Edinburgh City Police was cut short when, in March 1957, he was shot and seriously injured while on Police duty in Edinburgh. His recovery was long and slow and, on the advice of the medical staff, he was retired from the Force in 1958 and emigrated to the warmer climate of California to regain his health. However, his Pipe Band career did not end there. He took over the San Francisco Caledonian Pipe Band and took the Band to Grade 1 by 1960, for the first time during its history. He also started his own successful highland supplies business, known as Scotch House. However, his life was to change again in 1964, when Frank Thomson, the owner of the Invergordon Distillery in the north of Scotland, told Donald that he wanted to produce one of the finest Pipe Bands the country had ever seen, and asked him to come back home to set up such a Band.
As a consequence, at the end of 1964 Donald Shaw Ramsay was appointed to lead the Invergordon Distillery Pipe Band which at that time was a young Band. He recruited top pipers, and he persuaded the legendary Alex Duthart to leave Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band to head north to form a new drum corps. In September 1965, only 9 months after assuming his new role, Pipe Major Ramsay proudly accepted the Grade 1 European Pipe Band Championships award at the Shotts Highland Gathering . The same day the Band also won the European Drumming Championship Trophy. In fact the Band was placed in the prize list of every Grade 1 Major Championship during 1965, and went on to win every Major Championship except the Worlds between 1965 and 1967. At that time the World Pipe Band Championships were dominated by the famous Muirhead and Sons Pipe Band from Grangemouth.
Following his retirement from competitive playing Donald Ramsay continued his involvement in the world of Pipe Bands as a highly respected Adjudicator. Sadly he passed away in 1998, and one of his former pipers in Edinburgh City Police, Pipe Major Harry McNulty, fittingly played Donald's own composition "Schiehallion" at his funeral in Polmont, near Falkirk. Not only did Donald Ramsay win the World Pipe Band Championships on two occasions (1950 and 1954) but he was also without doubt a man of vision and one of the pioneers in shaping the development of the Pipe Band music and Pipe Band competitions we know and enjoy today.
This article has been developed from a variety of sources, including pipes|drums
Robert McCreath MBE
Robert (Bob) McCreath, although not one of the original office bearers, was one of the early individuals involved with the Scottish Pipe Band Association (SPBA), being at that time a member of the MacLean Pipe Band led by Pipe Major William Sloan BEM, whose idea it was to form the Association in 1930. Like many volunteers over the years, Robert served the Association in numerous and varied ways. He was a competitor, stewarded at competitions, compiled competition results, adjudicated and proved to be an administrator of exceptional ability. He subsequently served as Honorary Secretary of the SPBA in 1961, succeeding Donald McIntosh who was the first Honorary Secretary of the Association between 1930 and 1938, and who served a second term in the same role between 1950 and 1960. Bobs years of faithful service and diligence to the Association and its membership were fully recognised when he was appointed President of the SPBA in 1977, an office which he held until 1982. During that time he oversaw a very important milestone in the organisations history - celebration of the SPBAs Golden Jubilee in 1980 and the award of Royal status by HM The Queen the same year.
Bob McCreath was born in Hutchesontown, Glasgow on the 7th June 1907. He was the third of the ten children of James McCreath and Margaret Strickland Shaw. The family moved from Hutchesontown, first to Greenhead Street (overlooking Glasgow Green) - and then to Ledard Road, where close-by Battlefield West Church and the 158th Company of the Boys Brigade became a recreational and spiritual hub. Bob subsequently became a member of the 48th Glasgow BB Pipe Band before he progressed to the adult MacLean Pipe Band led by Pipe Major Sloan. Before the Second World War, and for a time after his return to civilian life, he worked as a butcher. He served in the RAF during the War, where he was also a piper until around 1944. He later served for many years as Band Convener in the Glasgow Battalion of the Boys Brigade. He also left butchering to take up a position with the then Glasgow Corporation in its Housing Department, where his tact, diplomacy and gentlemanly manner would no doubt have been at a premium. He remained in the Housing Department until his retirement.
Bob McCreath was known as a somewhat reserved individual, who was modest, strong and self-sufficient. Above all he was a man of conviction who was able to separate out the different aspects of his life; his job, his family life, his BB activities and his work with the SPBA. Generosity and good nature were hallmarks of his character and he was known to be the arbiter for many of the political conflicts which have been a frequent, and possibly inevitable, feature of the Association and the Pipe Band community over the years.
Bobs dedication to his many interests was recognised with the award of an MBE on 13 June 1981. He undoubtedly played a major role in shaping the RSPBA to be the organisation it is today. His legacy to the Association has not been forgotten as the Robert McCreath Room dedicated to his memory still exists at RSPBA Headquarters at Washington Street in Glasgow, a room which appropriately now houses part of the Associations historical displays. It has also come to light that a pipe tune was composed in Bob McCreaths name, another reason why he will not be forgotten in RSPBA history as a framed copy of the tune is also displayed at RSPBA Headquarters. The tune (reproduced below) was composed by Pipe Major Angus Lawrie, former member of the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band.
Prepared by the RSPBA Historical Research Group (with assistance from Douglas McCreath, Bobs nephew)
Drum Major James King
Born in 1955 in Cardenden in Fife, James King always had a passion for Pipe Band Drumming, and was taught by his father, Seamus King, who was Leading Drummer of Bowhill Colliery Pipe Band. He subsequently developed his drumming skills further through the teaching system of Ballingry School and the Dysart & Dundonald Pipe Band organisation, under the direction of Pipe Major Robert Shepherd MBE. The process resulted in a group of young school pupils progressing through the RSPBA grades from Novice Juvenile to Grade 1 as quickly as any Pipe Band in history. Dysart & Dundonald Pipe Band, led by Pipe Major Robert Shepherd MBE and Leading Drummer James King won the Grade 1 World Pipe Band Championships in 1977 and 1978. The Dysart & Dundonald Drum Corps led by James King also took the Grade 1 Drumming prize at the World Pipe Band Championships in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1980.
Dysart & Dundonald Pipe Band was famed for its unique approach to musical interpretation, for its distinctive collective Band sound and for extending the boundaries of Pipe Band medleys in both competition and concert performances. James King was influential in developing the Band's characteristic style of playing and his Drum Corps had a major influence on the Band's innovative approach to musical ensemble. He also inspired many of his young drummers to eventually progress to other bands worldwide, including Reid Maxwell who was later to become the very successful Leading Drummer of the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band and then Simon Fraser University Pipe Band in Canada. Other drummers of particular note who progressed from James King's Dysart & Dundonald Corps were Willie Bell, Gordon Lee, Eddie King, Gary Stutt, John McCormack, Peter Carter, George Mair and Gordon McLay.
In 1983 Dysart & Dundonald Pipe Band introduced Piobaireachd into its repertoire at the Ballymena Concert in Northern Ireland and there was much acclaim for James King's percussion orchestration on that memorable night. Significantly it was also to be Pipe Major Shepherd's last contribution as shortly afterwards he announced his retirement as a competing Pipe Major. James King soon followed and he subsequently joined the Polkemmet Colliery Pipe Band under Leading Drummer Jim Kilpatrick MBE. In 1986 he also spent a year with the Kansas City St Andrew Pipe Band. On returning to Scotland in 1989 he had a successful spell as Leading Drummer of Polkemmet Colliery Pipe Band under Pipe Major David Barnes, winning the Scottish and European Championships and finishing second at the World Pipe Band Championships in 1991. James then continued at the top level when in 1993 he joined the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band as Leading Drummer under Pipe Major Ian Duncan, again being a consistent prize winner at Major Championships. More recently he was Leading Drummer of the Grade 2 Lochgelly High School FP Pipe Band under Pipe Major Tom Brown, another product of the original Dysart & Dundonald system.
James King passed away at an early on 2 March 2014 after a serious illness. He left an impressive legacy to the Pipe Band world through his teaching and his contribution to the Pipe Bands in which he has been involved, the most significant being the Dysart & Dundonald Pipe Band. He also served for a period on the RSPBA Advisory Committee and on the Adjudicators' Panel; and he made an indelible mark on the history and development of Pipe Band drumming. At his funeral at Kirkcaldy Crematorium on 10 March 2014 a fitting musical tribute was paid to James in the form of a Drum Fanfare by Leading Drummers of various Pipe Bands, including Jim Kilpatrick MBE.
Pipe Major Henry (Jimmy) Graham
Henry James Law Graham (known as Jimmy Graham) departed from Gretna Green in Scotland in the mid-1920s, complete with bagpipes, to set up a new life in Melbourne, Australia. Unfortunately on arrival he found no work in his trade of stone mason but he quickly met the young lady, Nora Jepson, who was soon to become his wife, which meant that some form of employment was essential. He then learned from newspaper advertisements that there were vacancies for policemen in Sydney, New South Wales and subsequently, having passed the necessary recruitment process and medical, he embarked on a career in the NSW Police Service.
Before long Jimmy Graham found himself a member of the Sydney Thistle Highland Pipe Band, in due course becoming Pipe Major. A few of the members of the Band at this time were policemen and the Band progressed to be very successful competitively, with a strong focus in developing young people in the skills of piping and pipe band drumming.
In 1946 a group of interested players from within the ranks of the New South Wales Police Service, with the assistance of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, obtained the permission of the then Commissioner of Police, William John MacKay, to form a New South Wales Police Pipe Band. Not surprisingly the founding Pipe Major was Police Sergeant Jimmy Graham, whose skills resulted in the rapid development of the Band to competitive success, which included winning the Grade 1 Australian Pipe Band Championships in 1954 as well as many other competitions. The Band was dealt a severe blow when Jimmy Graham sadly passed away in 1956. Jimmy was succeeded as Pipe Major by his close friend, Detective Constable Angus Graham (who, although also of the Graham clan, was not related). The Band still exists and is still actively involved publicly and in the competition field, including participating in both Edinburgh Military Tattoos held in Sydney in 2005 and 2010.
Balmain Police Boys Club Pipe Band
Jimmy Graham in the centre, with son Malcolm (piper) on his left and son Duncan (drummer) on his right
Jimmy and Nora Graham were blessed with four children - two daughters (Marjorie and Ailsa) and two sons (Malcolm and Duncan). Not surprisingly Malcolm became a piper and Duncan became a drummer, both products of Balmain Police Boys Club Pipe Band. Duncan Graham progressed to become Leading Drummer of the St Mary's Pipe Band, where over the years he had a very successful competition record, winning the Australian Grade 1 Championships in 1972. Duncan also subsequently played with the City of Blacktown Pipe Band which won the Grade 2 Australian Championships in 1982.
Duncan Graham is well known in Pipe Band circles worldwide and is still actively involved in teaching and adjudicating in New South Wales. He has also been of considerable assistance to the RSPBA's Historical Research Group in recent years, including donating to the Association a limited edition replica rope tension drum used by the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot Fraser Highlanders 1776-1784 (made in England by the Premier Drum Company) which now features in the historical display at RSPBA Headquarters.
Pictured opposite is Duncan Graham in uniform for his first contest in Grade 4.
Prepared by the RSPBA Historical Research Group from information provided by Duncan Graham.
The Influence of the Boy's Brigade on Piping
The Boys Brigade was founded by William Alexander Smith in October 1883. William Smith was an officer in the 1st Lanark Rifle Volunteers and a teacher in the North Woodside Mission Sunday School in North Woodside Road, near Kelvinside in the west end of Glasgow. When he founded what became the 1st Glasgow Company of The Boys Brigade, his object was to teach boys discipline as well as religion. To this end he introduced activities familiar to the Volunteer Regiments, Military Drill, Sport, Camps and Military Bands.
By February 1885 the 1st Glasgow Company had a Flute Band of 16 boys under the instruction of Sergeant Naughton, ex-Band Sergeant of the regular Army. This was the first Boys Brigade Band but very soon there were many others. Only two years later there were 35 Bands - two Bugle, four Brass, four Pipe and 25 Drum and Fife. The number of Bands increased annually. By 1890 there were 12 Pipe Bands, by 1900, 33 Pipe Bands and by 1913 the number had increased massively to 132 Pipe Bands out of a total number of 868 Boys Brigade Bands of different types. The number of boys who were in Bands was 10,307 in 1913. The other Bands were made up of 551 Bugle, 48 Brass and 119 Drum and Fife. It was always the case that a Pipe Band was more costly in terms of both time and hard cash. A Bugle was cheaper to buy than Bagpipes and a boy could be out on parade marching and playing in a fraction of the time required to train a Piper. The Buglers' Badge was introduced in 1908, the Band Badge in 1914 and the Drummers' and Pipers' Badges in 1921. Battalion and District competitions for Bands were held from an early date.
Due to the age limits, there were in effect only five years between starting a boy and his reaching the upper age limit, so it was necessary to produce Pipers more quickly and the old methods of one-to-one instruction and spending a year or two on exercises before starting a tune were not practical. A group of boys had to be taught in a limited time, and they had to be playing the Pipes as soon as possible. The so-called half-size Pipes were used because they were less expensive to buy, lighter to carry and allowed a small boy's fingers to reach the holes on the chanter. During the years before the Second World War many Bagpipe makers advertised that they specialised in equipping Boys Brigade and Scout Pipe Bands.
Another development in 1909 was the publication by J Percy Sturrock of a tutor book aimed specifically at the Boys Brigade. Entitled 'Piping for Boys', it gave a series of six simple tunes with simple gracenote technique and advised going on to the Pipes when the six tunes had been learned. Sturrock, a former Captain in the 4th Black Watch, wrote that he had for several years, as part of the work of conducting a company of the Boys Brigade, superintended the teaching of classes of Pipe Band recruits. During this time he had ample opportunity of observing that the same difficulties and discouragements occurred to every young Piper at the same stages of his course. His book was designed so that 'even the ordinarily stupid boy' would be able to follow it without help. In his introduction he says that Piping is not only a pleasant pastime for boys, but it is a very health-giving exercise, ensuring deep breathing, straight shoulders, an erect carriage and a good physique. His advice to boys continues, 'If he should occasionally run up against some poor Sassenach who cannot endure the sound of a Pibroch, he must treat him more in sorrow than in anger, and remember that there is no law, even in Scotland, to prohibit such people from being at large. At the same time it is well to impress upon the beginner that he should respect the feelings of his neighbours, if he has any, and retire to practise at some distance from the haunts of men. This is especially important in the early stages of the recruit's career, when he will probably produce a good deal of discord before much music is forthcoming.'
The age limit of 18 in the Boys Brigade had a beneficial effect on the adult Bands, which were assured of a steady supply of Pipers and Drummers. The Volunteer (TA) Bands were especially popular with the former Boys Brigade players as they supplied instruments and uniforms. Pipe Bands were not confined to Scottish companies. The 42nd London Company was established in 1890 and had a Pipe Band from 1908. This came about after Captain Monroe of the 8th London remarked jokingly to the Captain of the 42nd after an inspection, 'a famous number but where are the Pipers?' He then promised to present the first set of Pipes as soon as a Pipe Band was formed. The Band was tutored by P/M Stewart until the First World War and afterwards by Captain C Thurston until 1935 when P/M MacDonald Murray took over. The 5th East Surrey Company started a Pipe Band in the 1930s. In the London District Display programmes, Bugle, Fife and Brass Bands predominate but in 1924 the 1st/11th Leith Pipe Band performed, playing 'The Road to the Isles'. In 1979 the 5th Croydon and the 16th/43rd Edinburgh Pipe Bands played 'Mairi's Wedding and Jock Wilson's Ball'.
An interest in Piping was not confined to Christian boys either. In 1903 the Jewish Lads Brigade (JLB) was founded in the Gorbals in Glasgow. This was based on the Boys Brigade and included many of the same activities. From the 1920s the JLB had a thriving Pipe Band and a team of Highland Dancers. The Band no longer exists but their instruments and uniforms are kept in the Jewish Archive Centre at Garnethill Synagogue in Glasgow.
The first World Pipe Band Championship was held at the Cowal Games in 1906 with one competition for Bands. The following year, 1907, a second event was introduced, a World Championship for Juvenile Bands. This was won by the 86th Glasgow Company of the Boys Brigade. Until 1925 the competition was dominated by the Boys Brigade Bands. The 6th Paisley were the winners in 1908, 1909 and 1910, the 113th Glasgow under P/M D Cameron in 1911, the 1st Cambuslang in 1912 and the 139th Glasgow under P/M Donald Cameron in 1913. Donald Cameron was employed at R G Lawrie's the Bagpipe makers. Archie MacNeill, the famous blind piper, took over from Donald Cameron in 1917 and continued to teach the 139th for the next 17 years. The Company was based at St Andrews United Free Church at the far end of Parliamentary Road but attracted boys from other parts of the city. Archie's own sons, Donald and Alex MacNeill, then aged 13 and 11, joined the Band when Archie took it on, and his nephews David and Seumas MacNeill joined later when they were old enough. Others included Donald MacLean, Thomas Pearston, John Allan McGee, Alex McKechnie, Sydney and Walter Rose, Willie Bryson, George and Alex Buchanan, George Wilkie and another pair of brothers Donald and Alex MacNeill who were not related to Archie. In order to help the Band, Archie took boys from the age of ten so that they could play a few tunes by the time they were old enough to join the Company. He would also have the boys come to his house on the other nights of the week for extra tuition and help with their Pipes, as time was limited and there were large numbers of pupils on practice nights. Drum Instructors during Archie's time were James Broadway and then Don Turrent. When the World Championship contest resumed after the War, the 139th Glasgow under P/M Archie MacNeill were the World Juvenile Champions in 1919, 1920 and 1923; and the 19th Glasgow under P/M Alex Jack were the winners in 1925. The 139th won many other Juvenile contests including the Battalion Championships and the Glasgow Contest held annually in the Winter Gardens on Glasgow Green. The prizes at the latter event were a number of paid engagements to play in the Glasgow Parks and this money was a welcome addition to the Band funds. The 139th did well in the solo contests too and Tommy Pearston, who joined the Band aged nine, was Champion Piper for four years, twice junior and twice senior. Archie MacNeill recalled that other BB bands competing at the time were the 102nd from Govan, the 40th from Springburn, the 48th, the 89th and many others.
William Fergusson was born in Arbroath in 1885 but moved to Glasgow at an early age and began his piping career in the 102nd (Govan) Boys Brigade under P/M Hutcheson. Fergusson went on to the HLI under Farquhar MacRae and then the City of Glasgow, which became the Clan MacRae Society Pipe Band. Fergusson tutored the 218th Boys Brigade in Glasgow and Eddie MacLellan was one of his pupils there. He went on to play under Willie Fergusson in the Clan MacRae then later became Pipe Major of the Glasgow Cleansing Department Pipe Band, before playing with Hoover, Toyota and Glasgow Skye. Eddie was a Tutor at the College of Piping and had many pupils, including Hugh Maclnnes who was later Pipe Major of Toyota and British Caledonian Airways Pipe Bands. The 214th BB was founded in 1924 and incorporated a Pipe Band from the beginning. Alex F Ibell, who had been taught by William Francey of the Clan MacRae Band, began tutoring the 214th Glasgow in 1928 and continued to do so for the following 40 years. One of his pupils, Alex Maclver, took over as Pipe Major of the Band after World War Two.
At the Boys Brigade Jubilee in 1933 there was a Massed Pipe Band of 637 Pipers. During the 1930s the Glasgow Battalion Championship Competition was held at one of Glasgow's public park bandstands and was followed by a Massed Band display. Competitors at the World Pipe Band Championship in 1935 included the 1st Bellshill, and the 12th, 48th, 139th and 146th Glasgow Companies. For many the Boys Brigade was the beginning of a lifetime interest in Piping and some of these players became the mainstays of the Pipe Band movement. Ian Sinclair began a long Piping career when he joined the 1st Johnstone BB in 1935 at the age of ten. He was taught by Kenneth MacKinnon of Kilbarchan. MacKinnon had been taught by Tom Park who had been a pupil of John MacDougall Gillies. Some years later MacKinnon won a composing contest judged by William Ross, the prize being a job as Pipe Major of a band in Australia. Ian recalls playing at a BB Jubilee celebration at Ibrox Park. After leaving the BB, Ian played for Paisley Shepherds and Renfrew Pipe Bands before becoming Pipe Major of the Johnstone Pipe Band. After retiring from the Band, Ian taught Piping at the College of Piping. Another well-known figure in the Pipe Band world, Sam Brown, also began his career with the 1st Johnstone, starting at the age of twelve in 1942. He too was taught by Kenneth MacKinnon. During the war Sam also played with the Home Guard and afterwards joined the Johnstone Pipe Band because Robert Reid was the Pipe Major. He then played with Chrysler, Paisley RBL and Anchor Mills Pipe Bands before becoming Pipe Major of the Knightswood Juveniles in 1972, taking them to many Championship wins. On retiral from the Band he taught young pupils and continued as a well known as a reed maker.
From 1936 bandmasters of Pipe Bands were allowed to wear a Glengarry with a special crest but it was not until 1949 that the use of the kilt for boys in BB Pipe Bands was officially approved, although many Bands after this continued to play in the normal BB uniform. In 1935 there was a discussion in the pages of the Piping and Dancing magazine on the merits of the full-size and half-size Pipes for Boys Brigade Bands. Headquarters favoured the half-size Pipes for the reasons previously stated of economy, weight and hole spacing, but many Pipe Majors favoured the full-size because of the better tone. However, few Companies had the funds to re-equip with full-size instruments.
Seumas MacNeill in the 1990s often said that hearing the modern high pitched chanters took him back to his Boys Brigade days when all the Juvenile Bands played that pitch. The boys used to listen to the adult Bands and longed for the time when they too could play the full-size chanters and produce that full rich tone instead of the shrill sound of the half-size chanter. When the Second War came many of the Boys Brigade members were called up. The 47th Aberdeen Company had practically the full Band enlisting and their places had to be filled by younger boys. In April 1943, after playing at the Battalion demonstration, the 47th were on their way home when an air raid made it necessary for them to take cover; but undaunted, they entertained their fellow Aberdonians in the shelter, and it was reported that their music in the confined space effectively drowned the noise of the explosives. They did their bit too for the war effort, with a lot of charity work and in November 1944 broadcast to the world in the Forces programme 'Strike a Home Note'. At Cowal Games in 1947 the Juvenile Champions were the 1st Bellshill and in 1948 the 6th Paisley. In 1948 and 1949 competing Bands at the World Championships included the 47th Edinburgh, 55th Edinburgh, 94th Glasgow, 6th Paisley, Hawick BB, and 24th Dundee BB.
The Hawick Boys' Brigade Pipe Band was founded in 1937 by Robert Short who remained as Instructor and Pipe Major for many years. They played at engagements throughout the North of England and South of Scotland, and in 1946 had a seven day engagement in Nottingham, commencing with a civic welcome. In May 1947 they performed with the Squandronaires Dance Orchestra and other Bands for a ten day display at Torquay, Devon. They won the Borders' Championship three times in the 1940s. The 47th Edinburgh Boys' Brigade Pipe Band, known as St Bride's, was founded in 1926. During the War years it played at many charitable functions. In 1944 it began to compete and won the Edinburgh Battalion Championships in 1947 and many other prizes. The Pipe Major at that time was George Small. During the summer months they boosted their funds by playing regularly as part of the Edinburgh Corporation 'Music in Parks' series. Another Band at this time was the 1st Auchinleck Company, formed in 1943 under the charge of Pipe Major David Kay. They won several prizes in the Ayrshire region during the 1940s.
After the second war Alexander MacKenzie Maclver returned from service with the 15th Scottish Division Royal Corps of Signals. He had been Pipe Major of the Regimental Pipe Band and then Company Sergeant Major, before being commissioned Captain. He assumed the leadership of the 214th BB Pipe Band as Pipe Major. He still had the redoubtable Alex Ibell fully committed to tutoring the incoming prospects, as well as making and repairing pipes, practice chanters, reeds and drum sticks. The background team was soon to also include Joe King, another of Alex Ibells pupils who was the man who among many things piping was the master of tone. Joe was a piper with Rutherglen Pipe band and also a staunch servant of the Renfrew Pipe Band. On his return from National Service Dan Finlay, also of Renfrew and the K.O.S.B.s, further augmented the training and coaching staff. All of these men (Ibell, MacIver, King and Finlay) would serve the 214 throughout the 1950s into the 1980s, when the company was absorbed elsewhere and its ancestral home, Gordon Park Church, was sold. The band first entered RSPBA competitions in 1951 and over the next 25 years won 11 Worlds, 16 European, 16 British, 11 Scottish and 13 Cowal Championships. In 1955 they won the British Grade 2 Championship at Renfrew. They were winners of the Glasgow Battalion Championship 27 times, 25 of these in successive years. Former members included Ian McLellan BEM, Alastair Ross, Alex Connell, Stirling McMurchie and George Seymour of the Strathclyde Police; John Findlay, Robert Wallace, Douglas Elmslie, Gordon Ferguson, James Hardie and Robert Turner of Muirheads; Hector Russell of Red Hackle; and Joe Noble of Renfrew, Toyota, British Caledonian Airways and City of Glasgow. Stephen McQuillan, a long standing stalwart of Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia Pipe Band, is now the last 214 man standing as a Grade One competitor.
The 1st St Andrews BB Pipe Band was formed in 1924 by Pipe Major Andrew Kirk who continued to be Pipe Major until 1952. Bill Watson, then aged 18, took over and was still the Pipe Major in 1981. The Band played at a National Boys Brigade display in the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1927. They competed during the years 1946 to 1948 then after a long gap resumed competing in 1970. Former Band members include Gold Medallist Dr William Wotherspoon and P/M Bill Robertson of the Royal Scots. Bands competing in the 1980s included 118th, 93rd, 182nd, 108th, 268th, 214th, 128th 278th, 212th Glasgow, 4th Paisley, 47th Culter, 22nd Paisley, 1st St Andrews, 1st Port Glasgow, 16th Edinburgh, 1st Denny and Dunipace, 7th Falkirk, 14th Paisley, Ibrox and District, Aberdeen Battallion, 1st West Kilbride, 47th Aberdeen, 8th/13th Dundee, Amsterdam BB, East Kilbride, 1st Monifieth.
The 4th Paisley Band was started in 1975 with Sam Black a member of the Pipers' Whisky band as Pipe Major and Matthew Connell as Drumming Tutor. To celebrate the Centenary, a composing competition for a new march was held during 1982. From the entries received six finalists were chosen by a panel of judges. The Strathclyde Police Pipe Band then played these six tunes on Radio Scotland and listeners were invited to vote for the winner. The winning tune was named 'The Boys' Brigade Centenary 1983' and was composed by Archie Duncan from Campbeltown, who won an inscribed Bagpipe donated by William Sinclair of Edinburgh. The tune's first official use in the Centenary celebrations was in front of an audience of 45,000 at the Centenary Salute at Ibrox Park in Glasgow on 27th August 1983. Bands competing in the 1990s included 47th Culter, 231st, 128th, 108th, 278th, 182nd Glasgow, 1st St Andrews, 6th/8th Dundee, 1st Largs, 1st Houston Boys and Girls Brigade, 1st Muirkirk and 1st Troon.
The 6th Dundee Company was formed in 1890 and originally had a Bugle Band. The Pipe Band was formed in 1914. The Pipe Major in 1989 was Dave Marr who was the son of Peter Marr, a former Pipe Major of the Band. The 47th Culter BB Pipe Band was started in 1939. It was disbanded for a time in the early 1970s then re-started by Sandy Robertson, who had tutored the Band previously, and his former pupil Jim Campbell, who was then an Officer in the Company. Sandy Robertson died in 1993, having tutored the Band for 40 years. By 1984 the Company had Novice Juvenile and Juvenile Bands and a Band of former members played in Grade 3 as Culter and District Pipe Band.
The number of competing Boys Brigade Pipe Bands have declined in recent years and, by the World Championships in 2003, the only BB bands competing were the 47th Culter and 1st Troon. Only 1st Troon was still competing in 2011.
NOTE: This history of Boys Brigade Pipe Bands was researched in 2003 by Jeannie Campbell, Curator of the Piping Museum and Library at the College of Piping. Its use by the SPBA Historical Research Group has been agreed by Robert Wallace, Principal of the College of Piping.
It is the intention of the RSPBA Historical Research Group to progressively add to the website more detailed information about specific Boys Brigade Pipe Bands and individuals who have made a significant contribution to BB Pipe Bands.
Brian Lynch's interest in Piping started through his father, who was neither a Piper nor a member of the Boy's Brigade. He was of that generation of men who had fought in World War 2 and consequently had been in close proximity to the instrument and had witnessed is emotive power.
Born in 1947, Brian's family at that time lived in Paisley, in the last old tenement down at the bottom of Springbank Road (gas lighting in house and street); and his mother was a member of the North Parish Church. The local Mossvale Church had the 15th Paisley BB company which had a Pipe Band and a Bugle Band. It was a big event locally when the Bands marched and played the company back from Gilmour St Station on their return from annual camp. There were fewer material distractions in these days, so a BB company which had a camp, football team, bands etc was generally in fairly good shape as regards membership.
When Brian was about 7 or 8, his father was working as a pool attendant in the Paisley baths at the bottom of Storie Street. On his way to work he would pass the little Church Hall there which belonged to the Orr Square Church and he could listen to the 23rd Paisley BB Pipe Band practicing inside. The Church also had a linked "Lifeboy" company and, on observing the noise and general energy emitting from these activities, he decided that some of this would be appropriate for Brian, and thus Brian started with the Lifeboys, taking the bus along with another youngster and chaperoned there and back by an elder boy (who was probably 10 years old).
In those days there were many ex-Army Pipers around who would respond when the BB needed instructors. The 23rd Paisley BB Pipe Band was regarded locally as a pretty good band by the standards of the day. At the same time Paisley had two adult Pipe Bands - the Paisley British Legion and Anchor Mills Pipe Bands. Other BB Pipe bands in Paisley at the time included the 15th Mossvale, the 4th (High Church) and the 18th Methodist Central Halls. Pipe Bands used to accompany works outings and the 23rd Paisley BB Pipe Band played from the their hall to the square at Gilmour Street Station where a special train took the Paisley Post Office workers and families to the Ayrshire coast for the day.
As all BB Pipe-Majors know, the size and success of their bands is cyclical and the 23rd Paisley BB fell away after that as boys left and went to work. The call went out to find a new Pipe Major and Angus McVicker stepped forward to try to re-establish the band. At this time the 23rd's core recruiting areas of old Paisley (Canal St etc) were being impacted by large scale redevelopment and many people were relocated to new housing schemes on the fringes of the town such as Glenburn and Foxbar. Brian Lynch started to learn when he was about 9/10 with a whitewood chanter, a Logan's Tutor along with a few of his BB friends. The drum corps evolved with training by a Mr Adam, an original band member, and also at one stage by John Noble Snr, who went on to become an RSPBA champion Drum Major.
As the players struggled to master the basics, Mr McVicker (who later returned to playing the pipes as a member of the successful Kilbarchan Pipe Band in Grades 3 and 2 in the late 1960s/early 1970s) had to give up for family reasons. Roddy McLennan (a former RBL Piper) then took over and a fairly basic BB Pipe Band was established. The band had a rope tension Bass Drum with the BB company number and crest on the front. The Snare Drums were black and among the first of the rod tension drums made by the Premier drum company. The band won the Battalion Pipe Band contest at Barshaw Park around 1961 and played all the way back down the Glasgow Road to the band hall in Storie Street. About 1961 Brian also won the Paisley Battalion junior piping contest at the BB Headquarters in Oakshaw, Paisley. Around this time he was also playing with the 2175 Rolls Royce Squadron of the Air Training Corps and the band played in the Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall in 1962. The Pipe Major of the ATC band, John Traquair, also ran the Grade 2 Paisley RBL Pipe Band which later became Paisley Pipe Band under Eric Shields, Bob Black and Eddie McAteer. This band graduated into the Chivas 100 Pipers under Eddie McAteer and then Donnie Thomson (ex 1st Port Glasgow BB).
Brian Lynch then became an apprentice with Babcock and Wilcox in Renfrew, another hot bed of local piping and drumming, where he worked alongside fellow apprentice Gregor McLeod, a Piper with Renfrew Pipe Band and ultimately Glasgow Police Pipe Band. Pipe Major Peter Bain, ex Scots Guards, also worked at Babcock and Wilcox and ran evening classes near Cessnock in Glasgow in the early 1960s where he endeavoured to teach the youngsters the basics of piobaireachd. Eddie McAteer worked the model maker at Babcock and Wilcox and the Pipe Major of the Renfrew Band worked in the pattern shop. Archie Russell (Ex Red Hackle Drum Corps) also worked in the machine shop as a rate-fixer.
After attending the BB King George Leadership course at Carronvale in Falkirk around 1965-66, Brian had one more go with the BB band and this time managed to get a mini band to play at one of the displays in 1967-68. Brian was the Pipe Major along with Jim Blair, one of his friends from the Paisley Pipe Band, Davy McGhee and a young Eric Hutchinson who was the last real "learner" in the BB band. The BB company had a piping trophy - the "Hugh McKean Memorial Pipes" - left over from when it had been a full size band in its prime. The McKean family had donated these bagpipes as the prize for an annual Solo Piping competition, in memory of their son (an ex 23rd Piper) who had carried his pipes in the War, but sadly was lost at sea in 1943 while on active service.. The bagpipes were awarded each year to the best/most promising Piper, and they had a ferrule on the base drone engraved "Hugh McKean Memorial Pipes-France, Belgium and North Africa". Eric Hutchison was the last Piper to play these pipes.
Brian then played with the Paisley Pipe Band until he joined the Merchant Navy in 1968. He played on a few occasions when home on leave but it was difficult to maintain the level of playing required so his pipes "went under the bed" for a time. His last BB camp was with the 23rd Paisley BB in Portrush in 1968, where he played for the Church parade on his own. At sea he was mostly in hot climates which the natural materials of the pipes disliked, so his pipes rarely went with him. He did, however, play on the "monkey island" on the ship's bridge as it steamed up the Bonny River in Nigeria. Piping links also existed throughout the Shell fleet as Brian sailed with the brother of Pipe Major Bob Crabb of the Scots Guards, and once sailed with (and had a few tunes with) a deck officer and drummer who was an ex-member of the Ballycoan Pipe Band from Northern Ireland.
Brian married in 1973 and his wife knew nothing about his piping skills until she found the pipes "under the bed". He played occasionally after that and in fact playing the chanter after crushing his left hand in an accident in Japan in the early 1980s was part of his rehabilitation after surgery. He left the Merchant Navy in 1985 and joined BP in Aberdeen. On posting to Shetland he played with the Lerwick Pipe Band, sometimes in extreme weather conditions when playing at the main fire festival held in January. During the period 1986-89 many good players passed through the Lerwick band, including Archie McArthur (ex-Red Hackle and an ex-Glasgow BB Piper), Gussie Angus (ex-Lochore, British Hydrocarbon Chemicals, and Muirheads - and also ex-Lerwick BB), Kenny Watson (still Pipe Major of Northern Constabulary Community Pipe Band in Inverness), Dougie Watson (ex-Scots Guards) and many others. A major problem was that the players were never all there at the same time due to work cycles.
Round about the same time Brian started to teach both his daughters to play, and his elder daughter, Dawn, has the distinction of acquiring her Brownie's music badge by playing "The Green Hills" on the chanter, assessed by Gussie Angus. The band also visited Lerwick's twin town of Moloy for their Moloydagen celebrations. Brian and his two daughters also attended the first of the RSPBA Summer Schools in Washington Street, Glasgow, where they were introduced to broader musical and intonation perspectives. Brian was subsequently invited back to the Summer School as an instructor and he did a few summers there with beginners from all over the world.
On being transferred by BP to Aberdeen, Brian played with the Kintore Pipe Band under Pipe Major Jim Coutts. From his experience of working as an offshore installation manager, Brian has a signed photograph from the then Prime Minister of Vietnam (Mr. Vo Van Kiet) showing them shaking hands after he had piped him off his helicopter onto the platform. Later he visited Vietnam on business and much to the entertainment of some Canadians in the line behind him, had to play a tune on his chanter to the Customs officers at Saigon/Ho Chi Min City to convince them to be let into the country.
Brian then joined the Grade 2 Bucksburn and District Pipe Band under Pipe Major Jim MacDonald. He played for two seasons but a combination of work shift rotations, the old hand injury and other factors caused him to step down. In the interim he helped with the Novice Juvenile band on an ad-hoc basis and, with the support of Pipe Major Ian Dallas, they took over rebuilding the Novice Juvenile band as a new generation of learners became involved. The first time out his 7 year old daughter, Hazel, was one of the Pipers. Following hard work with the youngsters they were rewarded in the early 1990s by winning the Novice Juvenile British, European and Cowal Championships as well as Champion of Champions, with 3rd place in the Scottish Championships and 2nd place at the World Championships. The band also played at concerts, castle, picnics, dinners and fund raising around the pubs at New Year, and also down Union Street in Aberdeen in support of Lieutenant General Sir Peter Graham's campaign to "Save the Gordons"
Brian then moved to an Australian Company (BHP) and commuted for a period between Aberdeen and London, which restricted his piping. He was determined to keep his hand in and he practiced in the evenings in the Board Room when everyone had gone home, played at the combined Burns Supper/Australia Day celebrations and attended practices of the City of London and Pride of Murray Pipe Bands. He also played at the post launch dinner in Ackergill Tower, near Wick in Caithness, after BHP launched the pipeline bundle for the development of the Keith Oilfield. After that he moved to the Hess Corporation based in various locations around the world and his public playing was confined primarily to a charity supporting 'pipeathon" in Union Street, Aberdeen.
Brian retired from working life in 2007 and moved to Nairn but still plays at the odd function. He has not yet ruled out the possibility of joining another Pipe Bands for one final challenge. He doubts, however, that any of this extensive journey in piping would have happened but for his father's chance encounter with the 23rd Paisley Boy's Brigade Pipe band and the patience of his early instructors in the BB family.
Prepared by the RSPBA Historical Research Group based on notes provided by Brian Lynch.
Early Civilian Pipe Bands
The RSPBA's Historical Research Group has been undertaking some research to find out which civilian Pipe Band still in existence can claim to be the oldest in the UK. When the Association published its own history in December 2007 in the booklet "How it all began; and the first 75 years", it was stated that the first two Pipe Bands outwith the regular Army were formed in 1885 - the Burgh of Govan Pipe Band (which became Glasgow Police Pipe Band and now Strathclyde Police Pipe Band) and the 9th Battalion HLI Pipe Band (The Glasgow Highlanders). It can be argued, however, that the first of these Pipe Bands, being sponsored by a Police Force, and the second, being Territorial Army, cannot accurately be claimed to be civilian Pipe Bands.
The Historical Research Group's research has revealed 3 potential contenders. Can anyone tell us different?
Colinton and Currie Pipe Band (near Edinburgh)
Colinton and Currie Pipe Band was formed in 1887. The founder members met for the first time at a wooden bench seat at the corner of Wester Hailes (now Gillespie Crossroads on the A70 near Colinton). The first Band Committee was formed at Bennet's Pub, Curriemuirend, Juniper Green (now known as Tanners). The first item on the agenda was how to raise funds. The Band only had one practice chanter between them but most members who joined could play tin whistles and soon mastered the fingering of the chanter, and then of course the bagpipes. They taught themselves how to care for their bagpipes. The Bruce family, who owned the local Brown Paper Mill at Kinleith, and numerous other prominent local people, supported the Band with generous donations to purchase instruments and equipment.
Practices were held in an old hut behind the Kinleith Arms, Juniper Green, shared with the village Brass Band. The Public House was then owned by John Hill, an ex Hearts footballer. The first uniforms were purchased from army surplus. The kilts were Black Watch, and later were changed to the Seaforth (McKenzie) tartan and then to the modern McKenzie. The cap badge, which incorporated the officer's badge of the Seaforth Highlanders, with C&CPB along the bottom, still survives.
Most of the early Pipers and drummers learned in the Army. Some were in the 4th Royal Scots and quite a few were in the Colinton Company of Volunteers. Rope tension drums were used and the Bass Drum (now in the drum display at RSPBA Headquarters) was carried all over France in the 1914-1918 war by James Ferguson, who was in the Royal Scots. James played in the Colinton and Currie Pipe Band for many years before becoming Secretary and eventually retiring from the Band around 1952. The first Pipe Major was William Thomson and his brother Andrew was Bass Drummer.
The Band played in the Edinburgh Parade to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of George V and Queen Mary. Activities were suspended during the 1914-1918 war but the Band was fully re-activated by 1921. Pipe Major Thomson, who had arrived in the district to work in the paper mill at Kinleith from Torphichen near Bathgate, retired from the Band in 1958 due to failing eyesight, although he continued to tutor young members. The Band's activities were again curtailed between 1939 and 1946 during the Second World War, as most of the members had joined up.
From 1958 the Band was led by Pipe Major Alexander Campbell who had joined in 1946 from the 4th Boys Brigade. In the early 1950s the Band found it extremely difficult to encourage young lads to join and learn the Pipes and Drums and, for the first time in the history of the Band, girls were recruited. Until then the Band had not featured prominently in the competition field, although under Pipe Sergeant John Neill Jnr, it had entered the Scottish Pipe Band Championships at Meadowbank in 1948 and given a good account. The Band started to compete again in 1959 under Pipe Major Campbell,. The first competition was the World Championships at Starks Park in Kirkcaldy, where the Band took 2nd place in the Grade 3 section. In July the same year the Band went to Gourock Highland Games and came home proud winner of the 'DARROCH JUG' for 1st prize in Grade 3; and in August the Band won 2nd prize in Grade 3 and 1st in Drumming at Cowal Games.
The Band was upgraded to Grade 2 in 1960, now under Pipe Major Angus Graham, an ex Edinburgh City Police guest Piper, when the Band won the Lothian and Borders contest at North Berwick. In 1962 Robert Peat, a local builder in Currie, took over as Pipe Major. The Leading Drummer was Ian Watt, who was then succeeded by Alistair Aitken, both of whom subsequently went on to play with the Edinburgh City Police/Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band as guest players. The present Pipe Major, Ronnie Grady, was also a member of the Band at that time before joining the Grade 1 Bilston Glen Colliery Pipe Band and thereafter the 153 RCT (TA) Pipe Band under Pipe Major Peter Snaddon.
During the late 1960s the Band competed at Grade 4 level, winning Champion of Champions in Grade 4 in 1969 which resulted in upgrading to Grade 3 in 1970. Between 1970 and 1973 the Band competed successfully in Grade 3 and, in 1973 under another new Pipe Major, James Dawson, the Band won 1st prize in Grade 3 at the RSPBA Bellahouston mini-Band competition; 1st in Grade 3 and 2nd in Grade 2 at the Lothian & Borders Branch competition at Dalkeith; 3rd prize in Grade 3 at Lanimer Day in Lanark; and 3rd prize in Grade 3 and 2nd prize in Grade 2 at Bridge of Allan Highland Games. In 1973 the Band was also well placed at Major Championships, culminating in second place in Grade 3 at the World Championships at Ayr. The Drum Corps was also successful in winning drumming prizes in minor competitions and at Major Championships. Quite an impressive collection of trophies during that time.
Colinton & Currie Pipe Band in the late 1960s
1974 saw another change in Pipe Major, with John McKernan taking over from James Dawson. Shortly thereafter John McKernan handed over control to Pipe Major Gary Newton who was subsequently replaced as Pipe Major in 2000 by Stuart Baillie. In 1999 and 2000 the Band played at the Braemar Gathering and became the proud winners of the Braemar Society Championships Shield in 2000, presented to Pipe Major Gary Newton by Her Majesty The Queen. In early 2001 the Band played at the annual flower festival in San Remo, Italy; and the same year at the local festival for the Patron Saint of Guilianova in the town of Guilianova, Italy. The Band received two first prizes and one second prize for musical content, national costume and deportment, the first time the Band had managed to bring home a trophy from abroad.
The current Pipe Major, Ronnie Grady was appointed in 2005. The Band no longer competes and now concentrates on teaching piping and Pipe Band drumming to young and old from the local communities. as well as an annual programme of performances at gala days, public parades and charity events.
Colinton & Currie Pipe Band in 2011
Wallacestone and District Pipe Band (near Falkirk)
The Wallacestone and District Pipe Band was also founded in 1887 under the leadership of Pipe Major John Wilson. The Band comprised miners who paid 5 shillings per week to get the Band up and running, most of whom came from the village of Wallacestone, situated between Polmont and Falkirk. The village is associated with the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 and Scotland's national hero, Sir William Wallace.
Band had a very successful period akin to the standing of the leading Grade 1 Pipe Bands of today. In the first Pipe Band contest held at Lanark Flower Show in 1900 the Band finished 2nd behind Stonehouse Pipe Band out of 7 entrants. In 1905 the Band won the British Championships held in the Waverley Market, Edinburgh. Success continued until 1914, when the First World War intervened and the Band suffered the passing of Pipe Major McLuckie. By 1923 his successor, Pipe Major John D Sharp had raised the standard again to win contests at Cowal Games and Bathgate, despite the Band being severely depleted during the War years. In 1926 the General Strike and the subsequent trade recession also affected the playing strength and the Band was unable to maintain its former prominence on the contest field. The Band did, however, have the honour of playing at the opening of the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow in 1938.
Wallacestone and District Pipe Band around 1900
The membership of the Band was again severely depleted during the Second World War but the survival spirit continued until the retiral of Pipe Major Sharp in 1952 after half a century with the Band, 38 years of them as Pipe Major. The leadership then passed to Pipe Major Alex Bryce, who was succeeded in 1953 by Pipe Major James Inglis, following which the Band enjoyed a period of success, winning many trophies between 1953 and 1957. During this period the Band's Drum Major was Jim Anderson, who subsequently was Convener of Central Regional Council. Between 1952 and 1960 Drum Major Anderson won the Scottish Drum Major Championships in Edinburgh, the European Championships on 3 occasions, and runner-up at the World Championships in Belfast and Paisley. He was also later a Scottish Pipe Band Association Drum Major Adjudicator.
In 1972 Pipe Major Inglis was succeeded by Pipe Major Tom Anderson, who had previously played with Muirhead and Sons Pipe Band; and in 1979 he was joined as Leading Drummer by Peter Anderson, also from Muirhead and Sons Pipe Band. Success swiftly followed and the Band won Champion of Champions in Grade 2 in 1980.
Wallacestone and District Grade 2
In 1980 the Band also recorded its first album for a Breton record company. The Band was promoted to Grade 1 and then entered a period of slight decline in a grade where it was more difficult to achieve the same level of success as in Grade 2. A re-building job was undertaken by Pipe Major Anderson and the Band consolidated its position again in Grade 2. The Band then enhanced its international reputation, being twinned with the Breton Band Bagad Quimper. In 1984 the Band played at the Cannes Music Festival and there was also a visit to Galicia in Spain as well as the Lorient Festival in Brittany. Various events also took place to celebrate the Band's Centenary in 1987.
Wallacestone and District Centenary
The Band still continues to compete in Grade 4A and, although in process of another period of re-building, continues to undertake the effective teaching of Piping and Pipe Band Drumming.
Accrington Pipe Band (Lancashire in England)
The main contender for the oldest civilian Pipe Band still in existence would appear to be the Accrington Pipe Band in Lancashire, England. The Accrington Pipe Band was founded in 1885 in the Ex-Servicemen's Club, Abbey Street, Accrington. The first members of the Band were James MacBean (gamekeeper at Dunkenhalgh Hall and also Piper to the Accrington Borough Caledonian Society); Sam Dawson (ex-Piper in the Scottish Rifles); and the Shannon brothers (both Irish Pipers). Later recruits to the original Band were Pipe Major Bill Killeya (ex-Piper in the Royal Scots Fusiliers) and Drummer W Duckworth. During the 1890s the Band membership increased through teaching and appointing new recruits; and the Band was invited to become the St John Ambulance Brigade Band, with the title SJAB Accrington Corps Pipe Band. The Band played at all parade and functions of the Brigade and at local celebrations for Queen Victoria's Golden and Diamond Jubilees, and the coronations of Edward and George V. Shortly after the South African War, Pipe Major Killeya left the Band and was succeeded by Pipe Major Harold Martin.
Band membership was depleted in 1914 due to the First World War but it survived and by 1920 was led by Pipe Major J D MacDonald. The same year Roger Colbridge Jnr became Drum Major. The unveiling of the Mercer Park War Memorial in Clayton-le-Moors was the Band's first major parade at that time. During the late 1920s the Band was given billiard table cloth by E G Rileys (the famous billiard table manufacturers of Accrington) to make into doublets to improve the Band's uniform.
Accrington Pipe Band 1932
In 1938 Pipe Major MacDonald went to live in Chatburn and was replaced as Pipe Major by Ian Colbridge. The Band's activities were subsequently suspended for the duration of the Second World War and, on becoming active again, an annual grant was negotiated from the St John Ambulance Brigade to assist with the cost of uniforms and instruments.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s there was a complete change of the Drum Corps. In 1954 the Band was re-equipped with new uniforms and in 1960 acquired feather bonnets.
Accrington Pipe Band 1952
In February 1970 John Tinnion took over as Pipe Major following the death of Ian Colbridge. The early 1970s saw the start of a lean period for the Band as some of the players had to move elsewhere due to their jobs. In 1976 a new teaching programme was introduced, led by Alan Bleasdale (ex-Pipe Major of the Furthergate Pipe Band) and by 1978 the membership was back in a healthy state. Since that time the Band has continued to exist, playing at local events, galas, processions and St John Ambulance parades. New membership continues to be encouraged and there remains the commitment to continue to sustain the Band and claim to be the oldest civilian Pipe Band in the UK.
On the strength of the foregoing it would appear that the Accrington Pipe Band can claim to be the oldest civilian Pipe Band still in existence in the UK. Can anyone tell us different?
The Clan MacRae Society Pipe Band
The Clan MacRae Society Pipe Band was founded in January 1914 by the late Pipe Major Farquhar MacRae, who was for nearly 30 years previously Pipe Major of the 7th Battalion (Blythswood) Highland Light Infantry. He resigned from the Territorials after the Annual Camp of 1913 and, along with the majority of his Band, he formed the City of Glasgow Pipe Band as it was then called. Bearing in mind that the 7th HLI won the World Pipe Band Championship at the Cowal Gathering in Dunoon in 1913, it will be realised that the playing of the newly formed Clan MacRae Society Pipe Band would be of a very high standard, and so it proved as they gained 2nd prize at the Glasgow Corporation contest in the Spring of 1914. Soon afterwards on the 4th of August the call to War came and was heard, so that the Band was dismembered until 1920, when it was re-united under Pipe Major William Fergusson (Pipe Major Farquhar MacRae having passed away in 1916).
Pipe Major Fergusson succeeded Pipe Major MacRae in the 7th HLI and served in Gallipoli, Palestine and France, and was also in charge of the 52nd Divisional Pipe Band in Egypt. Unassuming to a degree, his practical and theoretical knowledge of the elements essential to the success of a Pipe Band were second to none, and the superiority of his Band in the 1920s was greatly due to the fine spirit of emulation which he instilled into his Pipers and Drummers. A good player himself, he was a composer of outstanding merit and the beautiful melodies of his tunes are still unsurpassed. The excellence of the Band at this stage is clearly established in reading the World Championship results from 1921 to 1927 - first on four occasions and second on three occasions. In addition they gained the Sir Harry Lauder Shield for Bands of not more than 12 players on five occasions - 4 first places and one second.
Following a very severe accident at his employment Pipe Major Fergusson was forced to give up active participation in the Band and he was succeeded by Hamish McColl MM, who had been a member of the Band since its inception and who had also been in the 7th HLI for a number of years previously. In the Army during the War, Hamish McColl had been appointed Pipe Major and for gallantry in the field had been awarded the Military Medal. Pipe Major McColl continued the good work of Pipe Major Fergusson but resigned after about 18 months, being succeeded in turn by John Findlay Nicoll, who had joined the Band in 1920 and whose previous service had been with the 6th HLI. The Band had a very successful period, gaining the World Championship on 3 successive years (1932, 1933 and 1934) and the Championship of the Scottish Pipe Band Association in the years 1933, 1934 and 1935; but it was becoming increasingly clear that the high standard set by the Band was being emulated by other competing Bands and that much of the previous leeway had been made up so that it was much more difficult for one Band to lead conspicuously as in the 1920s. Nevertheless the MacRaes continued to secure a good share of prizes right up to the time of the Second World War when for a second time the Band became disrupted through the absence of its members with the Forces. On resuming in early 1946 after a suspended period of over 6 years, the advantage gained by Bands which had managed to keep going during the War years was difficult to overcome, but the MacRaes continued to get into the prize lists. In 1947 at Murrayfield, at the first World Pipe Band Championships promoted by the SPBA, the Band gained 2nd place. After 1946 the Band gained 24 first and 17 second prizes.
In 1950 Pipe Major Nicoll was forced to relinquish his post on account of ill-health and was again succeeded by a member of the Band in the person of Alexander Macleod, a pupil of Pipe Major Fergusson. Pipe Major Macleod, of Ross-shire extraction, was like his predecessor in the Band unassuming and modest to an extraordinary degree.
In addition to the usual local contests the Band competed in contests at Aberdeen, Morecambe (2), Belfast (2) and Douglas, Isle of Man (7) - indeed wherever there were contests there were the MacRaes. It is interesting to learn that Tenor Drummer Charles McIntosh had been a member of the Band since 1920 and like Johnny Walker was still going strong. He was the doyen and hero of all Tenor Drummers. He served in the First World War in the 7th HLI and 52nd Divisional Pipe Band under Pipe Major Fergusson.
The Band was made up entirely of a cross section of working men and owing to this was seldom able to accept engagements except in the evening or Saturday afternoons. They were the only private Band who had been able to maintain their high position over the period of 40 years against all comers.
The grand total of 87 first prizes and well over 50 second prizes had been gained by the Band. They were Champions of the World on eight occasions and winners of the Supreme Championship at Cowal (Argyll Shield) on nine occasions.
This article was written by Donald McIntosh (now deceased) of the Clan MacRae Society Pipe Band, and has been reproduced by the RSPBA Historical Research Group. Donald McIntosh was the first Secretary of the Scottish Pipe Band Association when it was formed in 1930.
The Empress Pipe Band
The Clyde Industrial Training Ship Association was formed in 1868 by a small number of influential Glasgow people. The purpose of the Association was to provide care for homeless young boys, petty offenders, truants and those thought to be at risk of involvement in crime. In 1869 the Association was given an old Royal Navy ship - HMS Cumberland - which was fitted out as a training ship and moored off Rhu, near Helensburgh. HMS Cumberland, built in 1842 at Chatham, was a 2,214-ton, 180 feet long, two-deck man of war with 70 guns, three masts and a crew of 620. In 1854 she operated in the Baltic Sea during the Crimean War and she was involved in the attack on Bomarsund, Finland in August that year.
When HMS Cumberland sailed into Rothesay Bay in 1869 she was reported as a wonderful and magnificent sight. In the first year 174 boys were placed on board, mostly from the Glasgow area. Within five years 300 boys were on board, all young offenders. The boys were dressed in smart naval uniforms and they spent all their time on board apart from shore duties and leave. On board ship they undertook school lessons and physical training, all designed to develop them into responsible adults. Unfortunately HMS Cumberland was completely destroyed by a fire in 1889, a spectacle which attracted huge numbers of onshore spectators. Some of the boys were suspected of starting the fire and five were tried for the crime, but nothing could be proved.
In the same year HMS Cumberland was replaced by another vessel, a 3,318 wooden battleship named "The Empress". The ship had originally been known as "HMS Revenge" and her previous roles had included Flagship of the Channel Fleet in 1863, Second Flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet in 1865, and Flagship at Queenston in 1873, as well as coastguard duty at Pembroke and Devonport. The replacement ship remained moored off Rhu and by 1901 she was licensed to have 400 boys on board. She continued the role of her predecessor as a Clyde Training Ship before being sold in 1923. During that time efforts were made to change the image from a means of reforming young offenders to that of educating children of poor parentage. Nevertheless it remained a hard life for the boys and from all accounts discipline was very strict. They also came from a generation when the majority of them were small in stature, having been poorly fed during their early life. Life on the ships with better food and exercise helped improve their general health. Little seems to be known about what happened to them when they left the ship, but it is thought that over 60% joined the Merchant Navy and that some may have progressed to the Armed Forces during the War years. The Royal Navy, however, did not favour natural progression of the trainees to their ranks in normal circumstances as their background was not considered to be suitable.
Captain Deveran, who was Captain of both ships, lived on board The Empress with his family although he also had a residence on the mainland. He was reputed to be well liked by the boys and he corresponded with many of them after they left the ships. During his time on both ships there were no deaths apart from his own dog. When the officers in charge of The Empress came ashore they lived with their families in a row of houses in Rhu village named "Cumberland Terrace" after the original ship. Many of the boys on The Empress came to Helensburgh frequently to collect provisions, including supplies of bread and rolls from local baker, Lauchlan Maclachlan. The transporting of such supplies from shore to ship was carried out with military precision, a spectacle enjoyed by many summer visitors. On other occasions tourists gave the boys cigarettes and sweets when they circulated the ship on sight-seeing boat trips.
In the late 1890s a piper named John Wallace took up employment as an instructor on The Empress. John Wallace had previously been Pipe Major and piping instructor at Dr Guthrie's Industrial School at Liberton in Edinburgh. Born in Edinburgh, he had served in the Argylls where he was tutored by Pipe Major Robert Meldrum. He was later a pupil of John MacDougall Gilles and became a successful competitive solo piper which included winning the Gold Medal Piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1901. Within the short space of six months from joining The Empress, John Wallace turned out an Empress Juvenile Pipe Band of good standard. The Pipe Band became available for local functions and could often be seen playing on the cast iron bandstand, the base for which still exists in Kidston Park in Helensburgh. The Band also played at Inveraray Highland Games. There is evidence that the Band continued to exist at least until 1914.
The Empress Pipe Band 1907
Duncan Fraser of Greenock made bagpipes for many customers in the area and it is likely that the company supplied bagpipes for the boys on the training ship. At that time a full set of bagpipes mounted with ivory cost around £4 per set. As the pictures show, however, it is likely that all the boys played half-size bagpipes.
The Empress Pipe Band 1914
John Wallace remained in employment on The Empress for only a few years and it was rumoured that he lost his job on account of frequent absences whilst competing at Highland Games. Nonetheless he left a legacy to the ship and the Pipe Band by composing a Hornpipe with the title "CTS Empress". Other tunes attributed to John Wallace are "The Henderson March", "The Heights of Dargai", "The Circassian Circle" and "The Dancing of the Fingers".
The Hornpipe CTS Empress
Another interesting link with The Empress was a legendary figure in Scottish piping, Archie McNeill, who was known as the Blind Piper. Archie was born in Govan. His father came from Ghia and Archie learned to play the bagpipes when his family moved to Rhu. When Archie was ten years old he has an accident which led him to become progressively blind, even more so after the age of 18. When living in Rhu he met John Wallace who became one of his first piping instructors during the time the latter was employed on The Empress. Archie himself subsequently became a piping instructor and some of his pupils went on to become some of the best known pipers in the country. His teaching led him to become a progenitor of the College of Piping and his system of tuition was to become the basis for the College's Tutor 1. For much of his life he was employed as a brush maker with the Blind Asylum. He was also a prolific and highly regarded composer and his well-known tunes include "The Detroit Highlanders", "David Ross of Rosehall", "The Islay Ball", "Verna Leith's Wedding March" and "Gareloch", but the most notable being "Donald MacLean's Farewell to Oban".
Archie McNeill was renowned as a strict instructor who, although blind, had perfect hearing. He was also very proficient in the playing of Piobaireachd. In 1917 he became Pipe Major of the 139th Glasgow Boy's Brigade Pipe Band and continued to teach the 139th for 17 years thereafter. The Company was based at St Andrews United Free Church in Parliamentary Road, Glasgow but attracted boys from other parts of the city. Archie's own sons, Donald and Alex, then aged 13 and 11 respectively, joined the Band when Archie assumed command, and his nephews David and Seumas MacNeill both joined later when they were old enough. In order to help the Band, Archie took boys from the age of ten so that they could play a few tunes by the time they were old enough to join the Company. He would also have the boys come to his house for extra tuition, as time was limited on practice nights due to the large numbers in the band.
Drum Instructors during Archie's time were James Broadway and then Don Turrent. When the World Championship contest resumed at Cowal Games after the First World War, the 139th Glasgow BB under Pipe Major Archie MacNeill were World Juvenile Champions in 1919, 1920 and 1923. The 139th won many other Juvenile contests including the Battalion Championships and the Glasgow Contest held annually in the Winter Gardens on Glasgow Green. The prizes at the latter event were a number of paid engagements to play in the Glasgow Parks to enhance the Band funds.
After the Second World War Archie worked at the Henderson Bagpipes Workshop, where he tested the quality of drones and chanters. He also wrote for "The Piping Times". In his later years he continued to teach and play, and he made several trips to Canada to visit his son Alex, who by that time was a leading piper of the day and who competed successfully against the great John Wilson of Edinburgh and Toronto when he was in his prime. Archie spent his final years in Helensburgh and died in 1962.
Prepared by the RSPBA Historical Research Group from information provided by Hector Russell and Jeannie Campbell
Ladies Pipe Bands
The Dagenham Girl Pipers Pipe Band
Claimed to be the world's first female Pipe Band, the Dagenham Girl Pipers Pipe Band was founded by the Rev. J W Graves BD, the first congregational minister in the town of Dagenham, a large suburb of East London. Rev Graves arrived in Dagenham in March 1930 to take on the role of congregationalist minister at Osborne Hall on the newly built Becontree Estate, after some years living in Canada. The 50-year-old had a lifelong fascination for Bagpipes, and decided he would form his very own Pipe Band.
He chose 12 girls from his Sunday school, all around the age of 11, and hired Pipe Major G Douglas Taylor of the King's Own Scottish Borderers to teach them piping, drumming, and Highland Dancing. It was important that the girls looked the part, so Rev Graves' wife, May, managed to produce a set of uniforms complete with kilts, tartan socks, velvet jackets, and tam-o-shanters. After 18 months' intensive training, the pipers were ready to play their first public performance. Taken to an outdoor stage near the Osborne Hall, they performed to an audience of journalists.
Leading Drummer, Pipe Major, Pipe Sergeant and Bass Drummer
In 1932 the Band took the Lord Mayor of London Show by storm. One newspaper wrote at the time: "Girl Pipers of Dagenham, we salute you. Marching through the sanded streets of an historical city you succeeded more forcibly than any other feature in portraying the spirit of the age. You were like a fresh breeze from the mountains."
The Dagenham Girl Pipers on Parade
The following year, as demand grew, Rev Graves resigned as pastor, and turned the Band into a full-time professional organisation. He appointed himself as manager and made the girls, many of whom had now reached school leaving age, paid employees (with a wage of £5 per week). By 1936 the pipers, who were not allowed drink, smoke, or wear too much makeup, were fulfilling 400 engagements each year. At particularly busy times there were four separate Bands all doing separate tours. In 1937 Rev Graves' first ever recruit, Edith Turnbull, became Pipe-Major, and another original member, Peggy Iris was appointed Assistant Pipe-Major. In August that same year they headed to Berlin and played in front of Adolf Hitler, who declared that he wished Germany had a Band just like them. The pipers were touring Germany's Black Forest two weeks before World War II broke out.
Edith Turnbull and Peggy Iris
During the War the Band played for War charities and entertained the troops, sometimes in War zones as far away as West Africa and the Middle East. After the conflict came to an end, the girls re-formed, as many of them had left the group to help the War effort. Their popularity continued to soar with tours in America, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and Europe, and numerous television appearances.
Rev Graves retired in 1948, and was replaced by David Land, who ran a theatrical company in Broad Street, Dagenham (and was later known for nurturing the careers of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber). David Land managed the Dagenham Girl Pipers until his death in 1995. As the band headed into the 1960s the costs of running a large company rose considerably, and it was decided that the group should revert back to its original amateur status. From the 1980s onwards the Dagenham Girl Pipers struggled to attract the massive crowds they once enjoyed, but continue to play at functions and concerts around the country. The Band is still together and remains a much loved and respected part of the community. The modern version of the Dagenham Girl Pipers still plays at events, but on a part-time basis. Their agent is Brook Land, son of David Land who took over as manager when Reverend Graves retired.
The Reverend Joseph Waddington Graves was no ordinary minister. He was a man with a strong personality. When he and his family arrived in Dagenham, he was in his fiftieth year. In his early years he had been buried alive, survived being knifed in a New York doss-house and had survived a plane-crash. His earlier jobs included being jewelry store detective, a bronco-buster in Saskatchewan and a medium for a professional hypnotist. He had risen from the rank of private to captain in the Canadian Forces, and he had qualified for his Bachelor of Divinity degree at Yale University. On arrival in England, he had served as the warden of the tough Browning Settlement in London.
Pipe Major Douglas Taylor of the King's Own Scottish Borderers ran a Highland dance and piping academy in Hertfordshire. At first Pipe Major Taylor was doubtful about teaching girls to play the Bagpipes. He eventually was persuaded by Rev Graves to teach piping to a dozen girls. The first practice meeting for the youngsters was on Saturday 4 October 1930. This day was an important one for 11-year-old Peggy Iris, whose own destiny was shaped by that first introduction to the Bagpipes as her role within the Dagenham Girl Pipers was to become a lifelong profession.
Peggy Iris and another girl piper, Edith Turnbull, having been tutored by Pipe-Major Taylor, took on the job of instructing the younger recruits, which by the time War was declared in 1939, numbered 53 members, divided into four groups. During a medical check in 1938 prior to flying off to appear at the New York World Fair, doctors reckoned the girls were so fit, they would live to a reach a ripe old age. Jokingly, they pledged to meet at noon on 1st January 2000 on the steps of Dagenham's Civic Centre. 62 years later 20 pipers fulfilled their extraordinary promise and enjoyed the Millennium reunion.
Researched by the RSPBA Historical Research Group from various publications about the Dagenham Girl Pipers