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

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.

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