Ladies’ Pipe Bands – A History Part 3

We continue with our very well received history written and researched by Jeannie Campbell. Readers might like to consult the PP Comments column for interesting information we have received on this subject.

The Lochgelly Ladies’ Band (above, 1951) was founded during the war years. Two Lochgelly girls were attending the dancing organised by the Lochgelly Public Pipe Band and jokingly remarked that it was time the girls of the town had an opportunity to learn the pipes and drums.

The girls, Miss Foley and Miss Faulds, stuck to their idea and it was developed by their tutor Mr William MacKay.

Before things got very far Miss Faulds was called up to serve in the ATS and Miss Foley contracted an illness and died.

Towards the end of 1942 there were only a few members, and the only one with experience was Miss Cathie Brodie from Leslie who had been piping for several years with the men of Lochgelly and Leslie pipe bands.

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Cathie was appointed Pipe Major and other girls who attended classes were Jean Harris, Jessie Scott, and Jean McFarlane.

Under Mr MacKay the class flourished and for experience the girls joined the ranks of the men’s band. Before a year had passed more girls had joined and it was decided to form two separate units.

Miss Brodie had left by this time and Miss Jean Harris was appointed Pipe Major. The success of the band was instantaneous and they were offered many engagements.

They raised large sums of money for war charities and were always willing to give their services to any deserving cause.

In 1946 they entered their first contest at lnverkeithing where they were placed second and third equal, competing against juvenile and male bands respectively.

Lochgelly Ladies in the 1950s

At the Fife open competition in 1947 they gained second place in the juvenile section and at lnverkeithing they were second in the Ladies’ contest. At the World Championships at Murrayfield in 1947 they gained third place.

They gained their first premier award at New Meadowbank, Edinburgh, in 1948 and several of the girls gained individual prizes at the Fife contests that year.

In the early days the drummers were tutored by Mr Robert Young, but when he lost a foot in a mining accident Mr J Reid from Hill o’ Beath took over.

The bass and tenor drummers were taught by Mr T Marshall from Lochgelly. New uniforms of McLay tartan were ordered for the 1949 season.

The band members in 1948 were P/M Jean Harris, P/Sgt Jean McLay, Pipers Nan Wylie, Jean Simpson, Margaret Lawson, Jean Eadie, Jean Rafferty, Betty Conway, Margaret Cook, D/M Mona Davidson, D/Sgt Cathie Devlin, Drummer Margaret Johnstone, Bass Cathie McPherson, and Tenor Cathie Swan.

The Maclean Ladies were founded in Dundee by Mary Maclean who was a champion Highland dancer. After WW2 she started a dancing class and the Maclean Ladies’ Pipe Band grew out of this.

Maclean Ladies in 1969

Some of the young learners were pictured in the local paper at the time. Mrs Reta Stewart was asked to take over as Pipe Major in 1949.

The band continued until 1998. Their competition successes included the Ladies’ World Championship and the World Drumming Championship in 1954 at Aberdeen, the World Championship in 1955 at Stirling, the Worlds at Aberdeen in 1958, the World Championship in 1959 at Kirkcaldy, second place to the Emerald Girls from Dublin in the World Championship and Drumming Championship in 1956 at Belfast and second again at Paisley in 1957, the Scottish Championship in 1952 and 1953, the Coronation Championship in 1953 and the Scottish Championship in 1966.

P/M Reta Stewart’s obituary as it appeared in Pipe Band Magazine in 2010

When the ladies’ competition was discontinued there were prizes for the best ladies’ bands in the various grades.

In 1967 the band won the Best Ladies’ Band in Grade 4 and were first for drumming in Grade 4 at the World Championships at Oban and in 1982 they won the Best Ladies’ prize at the Worlds at Glenrothes.

Mrs Stewart recalled that during these years there were eight competing ladies’ bands.

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  • To be continued. Read the earlier instalments in this series beginning here.
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2 thoughts on “Ladies’ Pipe Bands – A History Part 3

  1. Small correction to Lochgelly Ladies Pipe band – their first pipe major was Cathie Brady from Leslie, who gave me my first piping lesson.

  2. Rab,
    My mum was pleased to see her photo on Jeannie’s report on Lochgelly Ladies Pipe Band from 1950s picture. This is where she started her piping before joining Kelty & Blairadam Pipe Band.
    Some of the names are as follows-:
    Front row 2nd piper Etta Torrance
    Middle Row – Bass drummer June Clark
    3rd Piper Ella Dewar (Russell)
    Pipe Major Margaret Lawson
    Last Piper In Row Jean Craigie
    Back Row – Piper Jean Hain
    Drum Major

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