Famous Pipe Bands: Red Hackle Pipes & Drums Part 2

The mid-to-late 1950s was a good period for the Red Hackle. The Queen acceded to the throne in 1952 and at the Braemar Gathering where the band was playing, she presented Pipe Major McLeod with the Braemar Gathering Shield in front of the 31,000 people who attended the games that year to celebrate the start of her reign.

In October 1953 the first Red Hackle BBC radio broadcast took place. Things looked up again in 1954, with the band coming second at the Worlds in Aberdeen behind Edinburgh Police and in front of Muirheads. The Drum Corps won the drumming prize under Drum Sergeant A Ross; a title they won again in 1955. 

By John Barbour

In 1957 the band started twice-weekly practices, but despite that, competition performances continued to be poor, by their high standards, for a number of years. In 1963 Pipe Major Angus McLeod resigned and Donald Murray, ex-Pipe Major of Renfrew Pipe Band, took over but, unfortunately, little in the way of improvement occurred. Pipe Major Murray resigned in 1966.

His band is pictured at the top of this article. The personnel are, l -r standing: P/M Donald Murray, ??, Colin Murray, Robert Stewart, Rab Wallace (214BB and not to be confused with PP Editor Robert Wallace, also a 214 man), Peter Shaw (who became band secretary), George Seymour (214 BB and a D/M with Strathclyde Police), ??, Malky McKenzie (and Chairman of the 108 Glasgow BB ex-members association) , Wilson Shaw (Uddingston Strathclyde), Hamish McLachlan, Jimmy Laird, and Dougie Ferguson, Islay, the well-known solo piper. 

Kneeling l -r: Jim McGinn, Eddie Huntly, Jim Stewart, Jackie Millar (214 BB), George Hunter (214 BB), Aitken Allan. 

As big drummer with the Hackle at that time, George Seymour, won Best Grade 1 Bass Drummer at Cowal. In the pipe band fraternity the winner of this award was universally accorded the accolade of World Champion as there was no equivalent recognition given at the Worlds.

A turnaround in the band’s fortunes can be ascribed to the arrival of John Carlton Weatherston MBE BEM as Pipe Major in 1966. He had won the World Pipe Band Championship in 1962 in Belfast as Pipe Major of the 227 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Regiment (Territorial Army) Pipe Band.

Things improved quickly under Weatherston. The band enjoyed several years of competition success and foreign travel, and they made a series of ground-breaking recordings. 1968 involved a visit to Venice with the Scotch Malt Whisky Association.

At the 1969 World Championships at Perth, the band ended up in a three-way tie for first place on points, finishing third overall on ensemble preference. 

1970 saw the release of the ‘The Pride of Scotland’ album and in 1971 it was followed up by ‘The Spirit of Scotland’.

The very successful Hackle band under John Weatherston. Please forward the names if you have them

In 1972 the band was the Grade 1 Champion of Champions and played at the first CNE Intercontinental Gathering in Toronto. As someone commented at the time: ‘For those of us on the field when the Red Hackle played the Intercontinental March and had tenors beating, we knew pipe bands were going to change.‘ The next year, 1973, the band took first prize at the same contest.

In 1973 the ‘Red Hackle in Concert’ album was released and two years later John Weatherston retired as Pipe Major at the age of 58. He died of cancer on March 2, 2003.

P/M Weatherston was succeeded as Pipe Major by Malky Mackenzie who had been in the band since 1965. He was the Pipe Sergeant under Weatherston.

In 1975 a new drum corps arrived at the Hackle, essentially the Chivas 100 Pipers Whisky Pipe Band drum corps under Norrie Thomson, augmented by some players from the Grade 2 Kilbarchan Pipe Band and elsewhere.

In 1976 the ‘Blend of Red Hackle’ album was released. This shows the Drum Corps giving full vent to their desire to play on any available piece of kit. The Drum Salute on the album was first played live at Bellahouston Academy that year – standing with toes on the edge of the stage juggling sticks…

The cover photo was taken at the Glengoyne Distillery north of Glasgow. The tunes were: SIDE ONE 1.  4/4 MARCHES (with organ accompaniment): Bessie Weatherston, Silver Threads Among the Gold, 79th Highlanders.

2. SELECTION (with fiddle accompaniment): The Massacre Of Glencoe (slow air), The Jolly Beggarman (hornpipe), Loudon’s Woods And Braes (strathspey), O’er The Bows To Ballindalloch (strathspey), Willie Davie (reel), Mollie on the Shore (reel), Murdo’s Wedding (march).

3. DRUM FANFARE 4. MARCH, STRATHSPEY & REEL: Hugh Kennedy, Bogan Lochan, Loch Carron 5. 3/4 MARCHES: (with organ accompaniment) Mary Grant, Kilcreggan, Red Hackle Pipe Band.

SIDE TWO 1. BURNS SELECTIONS – 2/4 MARCHES (with fiddle accompaniment): My Love She’s But a Lassie Yet, A Man’s a Man, Corn Rigs 2 6/8 MARCHES: Greenwood Drive, Mhairi Ban Og, Hills of Glenorchy, Dundee City Police Pipe Band.

3. SLOW AIRS (with organ accompaniment): Dark Island, Mist Covered Mountains 4. SLOW AIR, JIG & HORNPIPE: Isle of Mull, Minnie Hynd, High Level 5. MEDLEY: Triumph Street Pipe Band, Braes o’ Mar, Strathspey King, Traditional Reel, Kelton’s Reel, John Paterson’s Mare, Calum McErlean, Neil MacInnes 6. MODERN SELECTION: Grand Hotel Theme, My Grandfather’s clock.

Evan Jones took over from Norrie Thomson as Drum Sergeant in 1977 and in 1978 Pipe Major Mackenzie led the band to a fourth place finish at the World Championships at Lanark. Here’s a BBC recording, introduced by the late George McIllwham:

Lanark Grade 1: 1 Dysart & Dundonald 2 Strathclyde Police 3 Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia 4. Red Hackle 5 Lothian & Borders Police 6 Ayr Society. Twenty bands competed.

P/M Malky Mackenzie

P/M Mackenzie also led the band to an eighth place at the Worlds in Nottingham in 1979. On that occasion Grade 1 experienced – even by the highly variable standards of the time – some distinctly odd judging.

In 1979 the sponsorship from the Red Hackle ceased as all the original corporate supporters of the band were no longer working in the business. A new sponsorship deal was negotiated with the Pernod Ricard company who owned the Clan Campbell whisky brand and the Clan Campbell Pipe Band was born.

Executive approval for Clan Campbell Pipe Band

The band was introduced to its new sponsor, Paul Ricard, the CEO of the Group, following a board meeting at their Ayrshire bottling plant. Paul Ricard and other executives were gathered on a balcony for drinks. It was a sunny and windy evening. The band marched round a nearby corner and paraded in front of the executive team. It was a huge success!

Eventually the band became the Britoil Pipe Band prior to disbanding in the 1980s.

  • Do you have anything to add to this story of the Red Hackle Pipe Band? If so please email pipingpress@gmail.com. A profile of P/M John Weatherston to follow.

6 thoughts on “Famous Pipe Bands: Red Hackle Pipes & Drums Part 2

  1. Name of Red Hackle piper in top picture with prizes.

    I think the piper seated right of centre is Tommy Cuffe. Recognised by his hair style and moustache. Tommy came down to London and came along to the Pride of Murray for a while.
    Malcolm Mackenzie [ known to the PoM PMj ] also came down to judge an indoor contest. He told me at that time he’d amended my tune Cockney Jocks into a three parted one, hoping I didn’t mind. I used to play my young son asleep with my chanter. I found that by raising my little transistor radio as high as I could I could listen to “Chanter” on occasion. Imagine my surprise when I just managed to catch John Weatherston’s remark that CockJock was the tune that had given him the most satisfaction to produce in recent times. Later I met him in passing at Glasgow AP, introduced myself. He said he would send me a copy of the record the band had made. It duly arrived signed by him – still got it! Small world.

  2. From the late sixties and throughout the seventies, I was a regular attendee at the Cowal Gathering, staying as was my wont at the Queens Hotel in Kirn. It was there that I first met with Johnnie Weatherston as he also regularly stayed at the Queens. Over the years I got to know Johnnie well and we spent some excellent evenings together over dinner or piping in the lounge. It was he that encouraged me in 1974 to buy a brand new set of silver & ivory mounted Hardie pipes – the pipes I still play to this day. I still have the receipt for £247.75 given to me when I picked up the pipes at the shop in Renfrew Street. Latest valuation rather suggests a sound and decent investment was made that day. Johnnie was a wonderful gentleman with a warm and intuitive nature, whose achievements in the piping world speak for themselves.

    1. Lovely comments. John Weatherston is my Grandad and I happened to come across this article tonight so it’s been lovely reading this.

        1. Loved Wilson Young style of drumming. Met him in Hamburg ( not sure of year 1990 something) where he was judging.

  3. Good morning. Really interesting article on Red Hackle. In particular ( as a DM myself) I enjoyed reading the part about George Seymour. George competed with my father who was DM at Renfrew / BCAL.
    As George went onto be Glasgow Police DM he also added to his Major Championship wins the top accolade of Adult World Drum Major Champion in 1976. In the 70,s there would have been 60/70 DMs at a championship, so a fantastic achievement by George.
    Thought it would be good to share.

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