Police Pipe Bands

Edinburgh City Police / Lothian and Borders Police

The winding up of the Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band at the end of March 2013 saw the demise of one of the most famous, successful and influential Pipe Bands of all time. The origins of the Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band can be traced as far back as February 1882, when the idea of a Police Band was discussed and recommended at a meeting of the Lord Provost’s Committee of Edinburgh City Council. The recommendation was supported by the then Chief Constable, William Henderson, musicians were recruited and a Band was formed later that year.

Initially the Band was not a Pipe Band, but a Military or Brass Band of some description, possibly along the same lines as existed in the City of Glasgow Police at that time. Significantly, however, at the same time a Corps of around eight Pipers was also created, which was led for around seven years by Pipe Major, Constable A Findlay. Little is known about Pipe Major Findlay other than that he was a popular subject for postcards during the period, in which he was referred to only as a “Highland Piper”. He also appears to have been the composer of a Bagpipe March “Lieutenant McLennan’s Farewell to Edinburgh City Police” which marked the retirement of the father of Pipe Major G S McLennan. The tune was subsequently published in Book 8 of Logan’s Collection of Highland Bagpipe Music. Another member of the original Edinburgh City Police Pipers has been identified as Constable William Campbell Purdie who was born in Reay, Caithness in 1855 and emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts in 1886.

The Edinburgh City Police Pipers

The earliest record found of a public performance was a concert at the Waverley Market in Edinburgh on Saturday 2 June 1883, where the “Edinburgh City Police Pipers” played 4 sets and “met with a cordial reception”. By May 1890, the Police Pipers had a new Pipe Major, Constable Alexander Hamilton, who was a native of Bower Madden in Caithness. His time in charge was to be short and he left the Police a few years later and moved to Glasgow, where he was employed in the Gas Works at Provan. The large number of officers involved in the main Police Band, around 45 musicians, was to prove unsustainable in a small city Police Force and the Band ceased to exist around 1891, when the Music Committee of Edinburgh City Council suggested that a town Band be established in its place. The piper’s uniforms were advertised for sale, but appear never to have been sold, as they would prove to be on show again a decade later.

The year 1900 saw the appointment of a new Chief Constable, Roderick Ross, who had been Chief Constable of the Bradford City Police but was a Highlander, born in West Helmsdale, Sutherland. His arrival was soon followed by the formation of the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band, under the leadership of Pipe Major Norman Graham. Pipe Major Graham had been a member of the Edinburgh City Police Pipers in the 1880s. The Band wore the Red Ross tartan in honour of the Chief Constable. Although there is no record of any major prizes being won during his time in charge, photographs show that Pipe Major Graham had assembled a good sized band with an impressive Pipe Corps of twelve players. Pipe Major Graham was also well travelled, attending the Celtic Congress at Caernarfon, Wales, along with his Pipe Sergeant as part of a Scottish delegation in 1904. When Pipe Major Graham died in 1910, the leadership of the band was passed to his Pipe Sergeant, Hugh Calder, who was a Police Inspector at that time. Hugh Calder was also a Highlander, from the Assynt area of Sutherland. He led the Band to its first World Championship title at Cowal Games in 1919, winning the Argyle Shield. This was the first time a Police Pipe Band had triumphed and the win was followed by Pipe Major John McDonald’s Glasgow Police Pipe Band the following year. Hugh Calder had previously won the Harry Lauder Shield twice at the same contest. He progressed to the rank of Superintendent by the time he retired from the Police Service 10 years later. He must also have had close connections with the well known piper and composer, Roderick Campbell, who wrote the classic pipe march “Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band”. Roderick Campbell also wrote a March and a Strathspey in honour of Hugh Calder and his wife, which were later published in Book 1 of Pipe Major Willie Ross’s Collection in 1925.

Over the next 15 years the leadership of the Band saw several changes. Alexander Henderson, who had spent time during World War 1 as Pipe Major of the Harry Lauder Pipe Band which had toured the country recruiting on behalf of the War Office, succeeded Hugh Calder as Pipe Major in 1920. He was followed in 1923 by Pipe Major Alexander Henry. William Sutherland, who was Pipe Sergeant under Alexander Henry and was one of three brothers from Sutherland who were in Edinburgh City Police, then took charge briefly until his retirement in 1930. He was in turn followed by Hance T Gates. Hance Gates, who had been named after a Norwegian family friend, was born in south side of Edinburgh and played in the Portobello Pipe Band as a young boy. He served in the 9th Battalion Royal Scots (The Dandy Ninth) as a Piper before joining Edinburgh City Police and playing in the Police Pipe Band which won the Harry Lauder Shield at Cowal Games in 1912 and 1913. During World War 1 he re-enlisted in the Army and served with the Scots Guards before being taken prisoner. He was freed at the end of the War and was a member of the World Championship winning Band at Cowal Games in 1919.

Pipe Major Gates was to introduce the Band to a much wider audience by competing as far afield as the Isle of Man and recording a radio broadcast for the BBC in 1937, which received great acclaim from listeners around the world. He remained in charge until midway through the Second World War, when he retired from the Police Service. He continued for many years to teach piping in Edinburgh schools and was also to become one of the best known faces in the Pipe Band world, when a photograph taken of him in 1939 at Hampden Park, Glasgow was reproduced on thousands of Scottish souvenirs!

Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band 1938

During the lean years of World War 2 the Band again found itself with a new Pipe Major. When Hance Gates retired the Band’s Pipe Sergeant, Duncan R Cameron, a native of Islay, took charge and, although the Band’s numbers were to fall to an all time low, Duncan Cameron must be given great credit for keeping the Band together when many players were leaving to return to the Forces. At the end of the War the Band took part in a massed victory parade in Princes Street, Edinburgh along with the Police Bands from the cities of Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow, and which were inspected by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

The end of the War also saw more players becoming available and, assisted by his lifelong friend Ronnie Ackroyd, Duncan Cameron began recruiting players who would see the Band return to the top of the competition field and a period now considered to have been the Bands “golden years”. One of these players was Donald Shaw Ramsay BEM, a name which would become synonymous with the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band over the years to come. The Band also changed to the Prince Charles Edward Stuart tartan which was to be the hallmark of the Band’s uniform thereafter.

Donald Shaw Ramsay BEM was appointed Pipe Major in 1949. Donald had previously served as a Pipe Major in the 10th Highland Light Infantry. He was born in Blackstone, on the outskirts of the village of Avonbridge, and he had played with the local Torphichen Pipe Band before joining the Army. He arrived with a reputation as a fine player and composer and, although this change was not without opposition, it proved to be a highly successful one for the Band. Donald Ramsay quickly introduced a strict practice regime and had the Band practicing five nights a week for a time. This soon paid dividends as the Band secured its second World Championship title at Dundee in 1950, followed by another win at Aberdeen in 1954

In March 1957, however, Donald Ramsay’s time with the Edinburgh City Police Band unfortunately came to an abrupt end. While serving as a Sergeant at Drylaw Mains Police Station in Edinburgh, he was involved in a shooting incident which forced him to retire from the Police Service as a result of his injuries. He emigrated to the USA for a period where he recuperated in the warmer climate of California. While there he also re-generated his Pipe Band career as Pipe Major of San Francisco Caledonia Pipe Band before eventually returning to Scotland and further success in 1964 as Pipe Major of the Invergordon Distillery Pipe Band

Next in charge was another big name on the piping scene, a young Constable stationed at Leith Police Station named John D Burgess. John Burgess was in charge of the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band for only one memorable season before leaving the Police Service at the end of 1958, having led the Band to victory at Cowal Games and the British Championships, as well as a top three finish at the World Championships.

The 1940s and 1950s had also seen an improvement in the Drum Corps, with the legendary Jimmy Catherwood still in charge for the World Championship win in 1950 at Dundee. Jimmy, who had taken over as Leading Drummer from John Ferguson, had visited Basle, Switzerland in 1937 and had been so impressed by the methods used by Dr Fritz Berger, he returned to Scotland intent on developing the ‘mono-linear’ system of notation for use in Pipe Band drum scores. George (Geordie) Pryde, who arrived from the Edinburgh Special Constabulary Pipe Band, and was later to emigrate to Powell River in British Columbia, Canada, succeeded Jimmy Catherwood and was Leading Drummer in the 1954 World Championship win.

George Pryde was succeeded as Leading Drummer by Bob Montgomery, who was recruited to the Band from the Greenock Burgh Police and who went on to have a long and successful association with the Band, leading the Drum Corps to the Grade 1 Drumming prize at the World Championships in 1964. Bob Montgomery was also winner of the World Solo Drumming title in 1962 and 1969. He went on to share in many great successes with the next Pipe Major of the Band, Iain McLeod; and he also willingly stood aside temporarily when the legendary Alex Duthart became Leading Drummer for a two-year period in 1969 and 1970.

Iain McLeod was appointed Pipe Major from 1959 in succession to John D Burgess. Like many of the Pipe Corps he was a former Army piper, having served in the Scots Greys. He led the Band to World Championship wins in 1963 and 1964, but the Band was arguably at its best under Iain Mcleod in the early 1970’s, when it recorded back to back wins at the World Championships in 1971 and 1972. Iain McLeod was also thrilled by the Band’s victory at the Intercontinental Pipe Band Championships in Canada in 1972, competing for the first time against the top bands from North America.

Pipe Major Iain McLeod

Iain McLeod completed his time as Pipe Major in the mid-seventies much as he had started, on a high! As a result of regionalisation in Scotland, the name of the Band was changed in May 1975 to Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band, and the Band was again to lift the World title that year at Corby, Northamptonshire. Iain McLeod remained with the Band for one more season thereafter, before retiring and passing the reins to Harry McNulty. Harry had been a member of the Band since the 1950s and subsequently led the Band to several top prizes at Major Championships, including winning the Scottish Pipe Band Championships in 1979, before retiring from the Police Service in the early 1980s to become Pipe Major of the up and coming British Caledonian Airways Pipe Band.

Pipe Major Harry McNulty

Pipe Major Colin Forbes, who had been Pipe Sergeant under Harry McNulty, was next to lead the Band for two years, before being succeeded by George Lumsden in 1984. George Lumsden had by this time played in the Band for over 25 years, playing under Donald Shaw Ramsay and a season as Pipe Sergeant under John D Burgess in 1958. Although the Band began to improve, it was never to return to the winning days of the previous decade. During the early 1970s the Drum Corps also saw many changes. Bob Montgomery had left the Band for a short period, being replaced by Ian Watt, who was in charge for the World Championship win in 1975. Ian Watt was later followed in 1976 by another member of the Corps, Michael Dow, until the return of Bob Montgomery in 1977, who was to lead the Drum Corps until his retiral from the Police Service at the end of 1985. Bob Montgomery was succeeded for a short period by Bryn Butler, a former member of Boghall & Bathgate Pipe Band, and later the Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band. Alan Kenny, who had been a member of the Drum Corps, was also Leading Drummer for a short period.

Bob Montgomery, Colin Forbes, Harry McNulty and Drum Major Ronnie Mason

1988 saw another change when Pipe Sergeant Duncan Smith was promoted to Pipe Major on the retiral of George Lumsden. Under Duncan Smith the Band’s fortunes rallied and for a few seasons again became a regular in the prize list at Major Championships. Arthur Cook, a former pupil of Alex Duthart, was also appointed as Leading Drummer. Arthur Cook had been a member of Alex Duthart’s Corps at both Shotts & Dykehead and British Caledonian Airways, and he gave the Band an immediate boost by lifting the World Solo Drumming title in 1988.

Pipe Major George Lumsden

In 1995 Constable Stewart Gardiner, who had been in the Band for 10 years, replaced Arthur Cook as Leading Drummer. He led the Drum Corps for four seasons, before Arthur Cook returned from the Polkemmet Pipe Band to take charge once more. Constables Les Watson and Kenny McBride had short spells as Pipe Major and, although not making any significant impression on the contest field, the Band was still in great demand, including taking part in the Christmas Concert at the Vatican in 1997. Kenny McBride continued to play with Band, but sadly Les Watson passed away in 2009 soon after retiring from the Police Service on health grounds.

Pipe Major Duncan Smith

In the autumn of 1999 Kenny McBride stood down as Pipe Major to make way for the arrival of Colin MacLellan. Colin, the son of Captain John MacLellan, arrived fresh from the “Flame of Wrath” concert and a fine performance at the World Championships with the 78th Fraser Highlanders from Ontario, Canada. Despite the influx of many new players to the Band, and the appointment of Colin MacLellan, the RSPBA decided that the Band was no longer worthy of its Grade 1 status and was downgraded a week prior to Colin’s first contest in charge. Although disappointed at this decision the Band responded well, winning the opening contest and going on to win the Champion of Champions title in Grade 2. The Band was upgraded and competed again in Grade 1 the following season. A steady improvement saw the Band qualify for the Final at the World Championships in 2002 and it came close to the prize-list with some good performances in 2003. Pipe Major MacLellan left the Band at the conclusion of the 2004 season and was succeeded by Pipe Major Keith Dawes. Keith, a former member of the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, led the Band for two seasons but resigned from the post in August 2006 after the Band failed to make the progress he had hoped for in Major Championships.

In 2007 David Barnes was appointed as Pipe Major, who had enjoyed great success in the 1990s with the Polkemmet Pipe Band as well as a number of years in charge of the Queensland Police Pipe Band in Australia, and subsequently the Dysart & Dundonald Pipe Band. David led the Band for three seasons before being succeeded in September 2009 by Pipe Major Ian Duncan, formerly Pipe Major of the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band which he had led for many years, and more recently Pipe Major of the Drambuie Kirkliston Pipe Band. After only two years as Pipe Major of Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band, during which time Leading Drummer Arthur Cook had left and been replaced by Jake Jorgensen (a Drummer who had served under Jim Kilpatrick at Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band), Ian stood down and made way for his Pipe Sergeant, Neil Hall. Neil Hall was a former Pipe Major of the Royal Highland Fusiliers and a serving Captain in the British Army.

Pipe Major Hall had an excellent start to his short time in charge, with first class reviews of the Band’s performance at the January 2012 Celtic Connections Piping Concert held inGlasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, where the Band shared the bill with the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band. However, Captain Hall resigned his commission in the Army to take up a Piping post in the United Arab Emirates, leaving the Band once again searching for a Pipe Major.

Despite receiving interest from some very able candidates, the uncertainty surrounding the Band’s future proved to be a factor. Due to the restructuring of the eight Scottish Police Forces into a single Police Scotland Force, there was no long term commitment to the Band with Police funding being committed only to the end of the 2013 competing season. The Band members met and sadly reached the conclusion that the Band should cease to exist to coincide with the Lothian and Borders Police Force coming to an end on 31 March 2013 as a result of its integration into the unified Police Scotland. The Band’s final performance took place at the Force Headquarters in Edinburgh a week earlier as part of a ceremony to mark the end of the Force. Former Pipe Sergeant, Constable John Fraser, acted as Pipe Major for the day and was joined by a number of former players. Fittingly the last tune to be played was the Donald Shaw Ramsay composition “Angus McKinnon” which had been named after a member of the Pipe Corps. So faded into history one of the most iconic Pipe Bands of all time.

Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band: The Final Parade

Throughout its existence the Edinburgh City Police/Lothian and Borders Police Band was known and highly respected worldwide as a result of its performances in a variety of European countries, Canada, USA, Japan, South Africa and Russia, the latter visit being in 1966 during the Cold War period for an event to promote British industry. The Band also appeared in five films – the original Casino Royale, Battle of the Sexes, Happy Go Lucky, Let’s Be Happy and the original Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

It would also be remiss not to mention in this article the extent to which members of this particular Pipe Band have also influenced how Piping and Pipe Band music have progressed over the years as well as assisting the development and work of The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association as it is known today. Donald Shaw Ramsay was a prolific composer and a man of great vision. He collaborated with Edinburgh businessman, Hugh MacPherson, to produce a book of pipe music entitled “The Edcath Collection Book 1” which was published in 1953. 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, illustrating that Donald Ramsay was prepared to accept music which was suitable for the Bagpipes from different sources. During the 1950s Donald Ramsay was also one of the first to introduce Jigs and Hornpipes into the Pipe Band repertoire. He was also a pioneer in introducing Piobaireachd into Pipe Band performances and one of the early leaders in innovative Pipe Band medley construction before medleys were introduced to Pipe Band competitions in 1970.

Following the formation of The Scottish Pipe Band Association in 1930, Jimmy Catherwood, along with others, was involved in establishing the SPBA Pipe Band College to help Pipers, Drummers and Pipe Bands receive proper instruction in the fundamentals required to develop good technique. As mentioned earlier, Jimmy Catherwood was also instrumental in introducing in Scotland Dr Fitz Berger’s revolutionary Swiss Army drumming notation system, although it was not until the 1950s that this form of drumming notation was more generally accepted, resulting in The Scottish Pipe Band Association using the notation system in its first Text Book and Tutor Volume 1, published in 1962.

Iain McLeod also played an active role as a member of SPBA committees such as the College Board and Advisory Committee. Bob Montgomery had an impressive record over many years in the development of musical education aspects through the activities of the SPBA College Board and Advisory Committee, including the introduction of the Association’s Advanced Certificate in Piping and Drumming. He also worked with the subsequent RSPBA Music Board as an Instructor and Examiner for certificated courses.

Pipe Majors and Leading Drummers of the Band such as Donald Shaw Ramsay, Harry McNulty, Colin Forbes, George Lumsden, David Barnes, John Ferguson, Jimmy Catherwood, Bob Montgomery and Arthur Cook all progressed to become SPBA/RSPBA Adjudicators. Other individuals who were members of the Band also progressed to become SPBA/RSPBA Adjudicators, including Trevor Dear, John McCarlie, Alan Ronaldson, John Ferguson, Jim Hutton, John Drysdale, John McKenzie, Alec Dudgeon, Alistair Aitken OBE and Drum Major Grant Craig. Lawrie Gillespie was an RSPBA National Councillor for a short period in the early 1990s, representing the Lothian and Borders Branch of the Association. Both John Ferguson and Alistair Aitken played prominent roles in the progressive development of structured training for RSPBA Adjudicators; and Alistair Aitken also initiated and co-ordinated the project which resulted in the formation of the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board (PDQB) and the validation the Board’s Piping and Pipe Band Drumming qualifications which are now certificated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

The Band also had a proud record of promoting during the 1960s and 1970s a Solo Piping Competition, held in the Royal Arch Halls in Queen Street Edinburgh, which was regarded among the most prominent and prestigious competitions on the Solo Piping circuit during that time.

Prepared by the RSPBA Historical Research Group in conjunction with Stewart Gardiner, Police Scotland

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