Ladies’ Pipe Bands – A History Part 5

By Jeannie Campbell

The Clan Stewart Ladies Pipe Band (above) was founded in Glasgow in 1947 under Pipe Major Miss Annie MacNeill and band secretary Miss May Knox. At the first meeting it was decided that the ladies themselves would be wholly responsible for the administration of the unit, and this was continued during the future years.

P/M John Weatherston BEM [Red Hackle] and Mr Ian McNair were responsible for the piping tuition while Duncan Syme and Angus MacDonald of the Renfrew band tutored the drummers.

In June of that year, only two months after formation, the band won the Ladies’ Championship at Renfrew. In the 1948 season the band turned out at every competition, often competing against male bands.

That September they won the World Ladies’ competition at Scotstoun, Glasgow. The main objects of the band were playing at shows and concerts in aid of charitable organisations and performances were also given at hospitals for the war wounded and at old people’s homes where the ladies were always popular visitors.

Clan Stewart Ladies. under P/M MacNeill. won the 1949 SPBA World Championship, with Lochgelly Ladies under P/M Jean Harris in second place.

[wds id=”2″]

In 1947 a Peebles girl, Miss Betty Parker, became concerned that her town did not cater for local girls and she decided to remedy matters. She suggested that a girls’ pipe band would be an asset and promptly advertised for girls to come forward.

At first she was laughed at but 32 girls volunteered and two years later only two had dropped out. Tuition was given by P/M Sterricks, late of Peebles ex-Servicemen’s Pipe Band and D/M Mitchell, Peebles. 

Some members of the Caledonia Ladies’ Pipe Band from the village of Bargeddie in Lanarkshire were pic­tured in the Daily Record in September 1947. The band was managed by Mrs Annie Stevenson who had three daughters in the band. The Pipe Major was Anne Stevenson and·other pipers mentioned were Peggy Leonard and Margaret Mulholland. 

The first SPBA World Championship was held at Murrayfield, Edinburgh, in September 1947 and the Ladies’ World Championship event was incorporated in it. The winners were Braemar Girls. Lothian Ladies took second place and Lochgelly Ladies came third. 

Braemar Ladies winners of the first SPBA Ladies’ Worlds

The Alloa and District Ladies’ Pipe Band was founded in 1948. The piping instructor was Mr Peter Gray and his twin brother Robert was in charge of the drumming class and acted as secretary and manager of the band.

By October 1949 the band had 34 members and new applications were continually being received. A hard working committee ran jumble sales and sales of work and all the girls contributed home made cakes and other items to be sold in order to raise funds.

Within a year the band had six sets of pipes and a corps of drums. Funds were then raised to equip the girls in Dress Stewart tartan.

At the 1948 Worlds the result of the Ladies’ competition was: l Clan Stewart Ladies, 2 Caledonian Ladies, 3 Lochgelly Ladies, 4 Glasgow Ladies. In 1949 Clan Stewart Ladies were again the winners, with Lochgelly in second place.

The Woolmet Colliery Juvenile Pipe Band was founded in 1948 under P/M Alexander McIntosh who soon had an enthusiastic class of 40 boys and girls. The drumming class, numbering 30 learners, was under Mr Frank Ross late of the Royal Scots.

Practices were held on four evenings each week and the boys and girls were out on the contest field for the 1949 season, gaining seconds at the Worlds and Cowal in the juvenile grade and winning the Lothian and Border juvenile championship. An adult section and a separate girls’ band were planned for the 1950 season.

The Port Glasgow Pipe Band of the Girls’ Training Corps was in existence about this time. They were the only pipe band in the organisation and travelled to London to play at the sixth anniversary of the organisation. 

he 1950 College of Piping intake of 112 pupils included 21 girls several of whom became members of the College band, which competed in the juvenile grade during the early 1950s.

Among the early girl pupils were Hazel and Rosemary Currie, Margaret MacDonald, Mattie Terris, Margaret Wallace, Grace Brown, Iris Kirkham, Pat Cameron, Irene Gilmour, Freena MacFadyen [sister of Iain, Duncan and John] and two Australian girls, Beryl Thompson and Barbara Laycock.

We don’t have a picture of the Glasgow Ladies band but here is one of the girls’ band from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia

These two Australian girls played with the Caledonian Ladies pipe band during their time in Scotland. Grace Brown was also a member of the Glasgow Ladies’ Pipe Band.

Four pipers from the Glasgow ladies, with 56 dancers, spent 15 days in Welwyn Garden City in June 1950. At the 1950 Worlds only three bands played in the Ladies’ competition. They were Clan Stewart, P/M Annie McNeill, who were first, Lochgelly, P/M Jean Harris, second and Edinburgh & District, P/M A. Henderson, third. 

In 1952 the Iowa Girls’ Pipe Band from the USA toured Scotland including Aberdeen in their itinerary.

A group of Aberdonians hastily proceeded with the formation of a ladies’ band as a gesture of welcome. The band was named the City of Aberdeen Ladies. 

City of Aberdeen Ladies in 1952

The girls were tutored by James Jack and Andrew Thomson for piping, while George MacLeod took charge of the drumming. Iris Keith was the first Pipe Major and held the position for many years.

The band was outfitted in Dress Gordon tartan with green Montrose jackets. Their first contest performance was at the Worlds in Aberdeen in 1954 when they came third in the Ladies’ Section.

In July 1957 they made a 14-day tour of Bavaria and Northern Italy with several performances on radio and television. 

The Iowa Girls got a bad report in the Piping Times after their 1952 tour of Scotland and were classed with the Dagenham Girls as comics who gave female pipers a bad name.

The Iowa band was still in existence in 1971, and still no better. Mr Fred Whyte wrote that year to say he and his assistant had tendered their resignations as Directors of the band.

After making a real, honest attempt to turn the group into a respectable pipe band, it had become evident that the university simply wanted a ‘show’ unit. Playing tunes like Yellow Submarine, The Iowa Corn Song and Brahms Lullaby was more than Mr Whyte’s dedication could stand.

  • To be continued. Please keep sending in your thoughts on this important history and any memories you may have of the various Ladies’ pipe bands. If there are any we have failed to mention please let us know.

[wds id=”8″]
Posted in News   

4 thoughts on “Ladies’ Pipe Bands – A History Part 5

  1. members of the Caledonia Ladies’ Pipe Band from the village of Bargeddie in Lanarkshire were pic­tured in the Daily Record in September 1947… I have a paper clipping of a photo of my mum tuning up .. the blib reads…. Little Frances and Maria Milligan watch one of the girls (my mum) of the Caledonian Ladies Pipe Band tune up druring the St George’s Co-Operative 80th birthday celebrations and Scotstoun showground yesterday …..I know she started off in a band in Bargeddie before moving the a ladies band in Cambuslang

  2. Thank you for your articles. I was a founding member of the Ceilidh GIRLS pipe Band from New Glasgow Nova Scotia. We believe we are the first ALL-GIRLS pipe band in North America. There were a few ladies pipe bands but not junior girls ages from 8 to about 16 yrs old. We were formed in 1949 and this year the alumna are celebrating our 70th anniversary. The founder of our band was a young teacher named Eveline Dunbar. She was teaching Highland dancing and needed pipers. She asked Pipe Major Fraser Holmes if he would teach a few of her dancers…and the rest is history. Eveline’s daughter, Emily, is married to the great piper, Dr. Angus MacDonald…and they live in Scotland.
    I was an 8 yr old snare drummer when I started but took up pipes at 35 yrs!……I am still playing in a pipe band in Pictou County which is led by Pipe Major Scott Williams. Scott wrote books ‘Pipebands of Nova Scotia’ and Pipers of Nova Scotia’. You should check out his website. Lots of good info on all the girls bands we had in Nova Scotia over the years.
    Thank you if you took the time to read this! Lol.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *