The Historic Colinton & Currie Pipe Band Has Gone – How Many More Will Follow?

CCPB early 1970s under Pipe Major James Dawson

It is with great regret and sadness that I have to report that the decision has been taken to wind up forthwith Colinton and Currie Pipe Band.  The decision is all the more unfortunate as the band, based on the outskirts of Edinburgh, was one of the first civilian pipe bands in Scotland, formed as far back as the 19th century. 

Its winding up is disappointing for me personally as it was one of the bands I played in after I got married and moved to stay in Currie, Midlothian.  Most importantly, however, it was a band with a great history stretching back to its founding in 1887.

By Alistair Aitken OBE,
former RSPBA Adjudicator

The pandemic has finalised the band’s demise and unfortunately this may prove to be the start of a trend. Other bands may not survive these troubled times.

It must be said, however, that the Colinton band had already been struggling to get new recruits before the pandemic struck.  There was much more interest in pipe bands in the area when the paper mills still existed in Kinleith (Juniper Green) and Balerno.  In my day much of the band’s funding came from selling football sweep tickets to the workers in Balerno paper mill.

As the band has not been a competing pipe band for many years and had an ageing membership, it has become increasingly difficult to attract new members, and in particular new young learners.  In recent years attempts were made to develop links with a pipe band being created by Currie Community High School and local primary schools, offering a progression route for young learners, but sadly the schools pipe band project has also not been sustained. 

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A very difficult situation has been exacerbated by pandemic – there have been no practices for more than 12 months.  All things considered the band committee has reluctantly concluded that the band’s continuation is no longer a viable option.

I’ll look back now at the band’s long history. The founder members of the band met for the first time in 1887 on a wooden bench seat at the corner midway been Colinton and Wester Hailes (now Gillespie Crossroads on the A70).  The first band committee was formed at Bennet’s Pub, Curriemuirend in Juniper Green (now known as Tanners). 

The Colinton band in 1947

The Bruce family, who owned the Kinleith paper mill, and numerous other prominent local people, supported the band with generous donations for instruments and equipment.  Practices were first held in an old hut behind the Kinleith Arms public house in Juniper Green, the hut shared with a brass band.  The Kinleith Arms was then owned by John Hill, an ex-Heart of Midlothian footballer. 

The first uniforms were purchased from Army surplus. The kilts were Black Watch tartan, but later were changed to Seaforth (MacKenzie) and subsequently to the Modern MacKenzie. The cap badge, which incorporates the officer’s badge of the Seaforth Highlanders, with C&CPB along the bottom, has survived all these years:

Most of the early pipers and drummers learned in the Army.  Some were in the 4th Royal Scots and some were in the Colinton Company of Volunteers.  The band’s rope tension bass drum (now part of the drum display at RSPBA Headquarters) was carried all over France in the 1914-18 war by James Ferguson, Royal Scots.  James played in the Colinton band for many years before becoming secretary and eventually retiring around 1952.

The first Pipe Major was William Thomson and his brother Andrew was bass drummer.  The band played in the parade in Edinburgh to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of George V and Queen Mary in 1935.  Pipe Major Thomson, who worked in the paper mill at Kinleith, was originally from Torphichen near Bathgate.  He retired from the band in 1958 due to failing eyesight but continued to tutor young members. 

CCPB leading the Armistice Day Parade in Kirknewton 2010

The band, initially, did not feature prominently in competitions but, under Pipe Sergeant John Neill Jnr, it entered the Scottish Championships at Meadowbank in 1948.  The band competed again in 1959, under Pipe Major Alexander Campbell who had joined in 1946 from the 4th Edinburgh Boys Brigade, taking second place in Grade 3 at the World Championships at Kirkcaldy, Fife. 

The same year the band won the ‘Darroch Jug’ for first prize in Grade 3 at Gourock Highland Games; and also won second place in Grade 3 and first in drumming at Cowal.

The band also competed successfully in 1960 under Pipe Major Angus Graham, a former Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band piper.  In the later 1960s and early 1970s the band again competed successfully under Pipe Major Robert Peat (a local builder in Currie) and Pipe Major James Dawson. 

Successes included Champion of Champions in Grade 4 and later second place in Grade 3 (and second in drumming) at the Worlds in Ayr in 1973 (the winners that day being the highly successful Lanarkshire Police Pipe Band).  Leading Drummers Ian Watt and myself both progressed from the band at different times to play with the Edinburgh City/Lothian and Borders Police as guest players. 

Colinton and Currie Pipe Band 1925

The most recent Pipe Major, Ronnie Grady, was also a member of the band before joining the Grade 1 Bilston Glen Colliery Pipe Band under Pipe Major Archie Pinkman and then the 153 RCT (TA) Pipe Band under Pipe Major Peter Snaddon.

In the 1990s the Band played at the Braemar Gathering and became the proud winners of the Braemar Society Championships Shield, presented to the then Pipe Major Gary Newton by HM The Queen.  In early 2001 the band played at the annual flower festival in San Remo in Italy; and the same year at the local festival for the Patron Saint of Guilianova another town in Italy. 

In recent years the band has concentrated on teaching piping and pipe band drumming to young and old from the local communities as well as playing at an annual programme of performances at gala days, public parades and charity events.

Arrangements are being made to dispose of the band’s uniforms and equipment, including five rarely played modern Andante snare drums, two tenor drums and three bass drums of different makes.  Anyone interested in purchasing the drums in particular should contact James Nicholl on 07802 422556 or by email at .  Proceeds will, in due course, be donated to local charities.

As a symbolic gesture to those who formed the original band in 1887 all these years ago, some of the current adult members took the opportunity to mark the band’s sad demise by posing for the above picture on a public bench in Currie.

  • Please comment on this band’s demise below. If you are a former member, or remember the band locally, please also let us have your thoughts.

9 thoughts on “The Historic Colinton & Currie Pipe Band Has Gone – How Many More Will Follow?

  1. My grandad was James Ferguson mentioned in the article. My dad and eldest brother also played in the band. This perhaps explains why I get goosebumps seeing and hearing a pipe band. It must be in my DNA.So sorry to hear of its disbandment.

  2. I remember carrying the name banner at the Cowal games in late 60s/early 70’s in front of the band through town. My dad played in the band in same period (Jimmy Murray).
    If anyone has any photos of this period they could share, would be appreciated

    1. Hello Donald, I played with the band as a boy in the late 60’s. I have a nice band photo taken in the New Park in Balerno about that time.
      If tou can reply with an email address I’ll be happy to send it to you.
      Jim Martin

  3. I played in this band and it was the very first band I played in and I’m gutted that the band is finished.

  4. It is indeed what the pandemic has done to the pipe and world. I was the lead tip when we won the drumming at Cowell under the tutelage of the famous Jimmy Catherwood before moving to Canada where I still play with the Delta Police Pipe Band. Fond memories of the pints after practice at the Railway Inn. Iver Cameron

  5. Sad to hear of the band’s winding up particularly in view of it’s history.My late father,Jim Hair,played with the band in late 60’s/early 70’s when Bobby Peate was pipe major.Around the same time I was tutored on chanter by Andrew Thomson who was blind but had a chanter/walking stick and was often seen playing on it for friends on a bench at “bank corner”Juniper Green.

    1. Hi Richard, I totally agree with you that ist is sad that the Colinton & Currie Pipe Band ist gone at all, but …
      ist it really gone? I became a member of the band in 1996, only for a few month (Aug – Dec 96) BUT (!) in that very short time I hade the chance to learn as much about piping as possible. I remember a lass, named Heather, whilest watching her way to play I learned the most at all. It took me three years to take in everything I saw (and learned) but still, I became a professional piper. On the last state visit to Germany
      I was the “dayly piper” for HM Queen Elizabeth II in Berlin (Adlon Hotel).
      Well, there would be so much to say about Colinton & Currie…
      I anly can say: Thank you, indeed.

  6. Well done Alistair for penning this brief history of C&CPB.
    I joined the band in 1965 at the age of twelve where I was handed a practice chanter and a handwritten copy of Highland Laddie. Old Willie Thomson taught me the moves, and a year or so later Bobby Peat took me under his wing and gave me extra lessons once a week at his house above the garage in Currie. II well remember the practice evenings in Juniper Green primary school – an hour on the chanters, a ten minute smoke break then an hour on the pipes.
    My uncle Alan Sheill was a piper in the band at the time and his son Eric was learning the tenor drum. My uncle Jack Laing was a side drummer and at least four of my school friends joined the band at one time or another. Ronnie Grady started about the same time as myself, and it was a pleasure to visit you both at one of the practice evenings back in 2017. It was apparent even then that you were fighting a losing battle trying to recruit members.
    Such sad news to hear of the band’s demise, but understandable. All the youngsters aim for the big bands these days, but my memories of the band back in the 60’s and 70´s are of a group of like-minded, enthusiastic pipers and drummers who did the best they could and got a great deal of pleasure out of it along the way. I have a lot to thank the band for.

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