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Bagpipe histories in the rest of Canada

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  • Bagpipe histories in the rest of Canada

    Hello folks, Since I have covered a lot of the piping history from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland's west coast and now PEI, I was wondering if anyone has written histories of piping in other parts of Canada? Places like Glengarry County, the Red River Colony and Selkirk in Manitoba, pockets of Scots in Alberta, etc. I have seen the books on pipers of BC , but for the most of part these deal with individual pipers and bands. Perhaps Canada's east coast and Glengarry County , (and perhaps parts of Quebec) were the only areas of really significant Highland immigration. Just curious... thanks Barry

  • #2
    That's a great topic, Barry. The west coast bands of the NW Canada and US, as well as those further inland, are often left out by some historians. When I was researching for my book, "Clan Band:...", on the history of Clan Macleay Pipe Band, founded in 1912 (possibly earlier), there appeared a number of references to a mixture of bands, instructors, etc., floating around between Canada (especially BC, Alberta, etc.), Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. For instance, Portland had, in the c'20s-40s, a Canadian Legion band. I will look back through my notes, particularly one from a Sutherland, to see if there is anything helpful to your question. Cheers, Michael


    • #3
      I had been thinking about asking you about if you would cover just that sometime (next book perhaps?). I know the Glengarry Pioneer Museum has an old set of pipes (circa early 1800's) that supposedly were played in the Battle of Waterloo. Or so I heard long ago when they had them hung up in the Star Inn. Currently, they are put away in an archive somewhere. I keep bothering them about putting it on display again. My dad's family were from Glengarry and I would be very interested in knowing more on the piping history of the county.
      My uncle also played with the Glengarry pipe band. I could send you a picture that I recently got a copy of from the museum dated 1928. I might also be able to ask his daughter more about his piping career too. According to family tradition, my dad also played drums with the same band, although when I am not certain (but would like to find out if possible) I still have his drum that he used. I think I posted a picture of it here somewhere. Most of my dad's family were fiddlers but the music still runs deep...
      Good Luck on your research!!


      • #4
        I have a spiral bound manuscript called ‘Piping in Glengarry’ which was a 1975 student project. Margaret Bennett’s book The Last Stronghold touches on piping in a region of Newfoundland (I believe you had some tunes from there in your play it like you sing it books). The website of the Saskatchewan pipe band association has a lot of information on early piping in that province.


        • #5

          Greetings to Barry, and to All,

          These now many... many... Donkey's Years ago...
          I was graced with spending an evening's rehearsal
          with the pipe band in Stratford, Ontario. (Late 70s.)

          I have often wondered... about both their then past
          history... and... as was their then contemplation... to
          move from their military reserve status... to a regular
          civvy pipe band... exactly how that all went for them...
          and where... and how... they finally landed... (??)

          Just some stray thoughts... for your... or for anyone
          else's... spare Time... :-)

          Regards to All,


          My friends all know,
          With what a brave carouse...


          • #6
            When I wrote "Clan Band:..." on the history of our band (and it was, surprisingly, published), I wondered why more bands do not memorialize their history. Not necessarily for publishing, but to have for future members and others. I also donated my book to the Oregon Historical Society, which had almost nothing on our band, which had been in consistent existence since 1912. Perhaps someone, down the road, will add to it! But at least there is a history now available, albeit I wish I had more memories from the "old timers".


            • #7
              Thanks everyone, a few leads there. I am surprised nothing more substantial was written about the Glengarry community. Almost al of the Glengarry Fencibles, (who saw service in Ireland) left Scotland for Canada. The old pipes from Waterloo would be interesting to see (any photos around) It may be that the set was played in the Glengarry Fencibles , since some of the men from the various Fencible regiments opted for service in on elf the main Highland regiments Irvin don the continent. Sullivan's Ross story has a bit of info but there must be more laying about in attics etc, Barry


              • #8
                I believe that Colin MacLellan had a chance to play, or at least examine, the "Waterloo Pipes" when he lived in Eastern Ontario several decades ago. A set of pipes believed to have been played at Culloden came with some early immigrants to Glengarry County who settled in Williamstown. They are now in Prince Edward Island. Of course, the county was founded by Loyalist Scots in 1784 who even encouraged compatriots from Nova Scotia to join them by the early nineteenth century. Members of the Northwest Company fur-trade consortium (recruited in Glengarry County) took lessons from a piper (Robert Gunn?) at the Red River Settlement during the winter of 1814-15 and then promptly destroyed the settlement because it was viewed as a threat to their trading interests. While the history of piping in Glengarry County is long and rich, it is buried deeply within the archival records.

                Ancient Highland Bagpipes Display — The Scottish Society of Ottawa (


                • #9
                  Jim McGillivray and Barry Ewen would definitely be two to talk to about piping in the Windsor/Detroit area. ​
                  Before you start fixing problems with your reeds, check to see if the bag or stocks are leaking.


                  • #10
                    I intend in the next couple years to finally write an article about the piper who played on the Red River, but predated the Red River Colony by about a decade (George McKay), but there is next to nothing out there about him now as far as I can tell. I'd really like to know more about your piping acquaintance/colleague who was a descendant of Colin Fraser the HBC piper.
                    Check out the latest episode of my podcast if you want to hear to some historic piping tunes. You can find it on any of your favorite podcast listeners or here: