P/M Jim McWilliams 1938 – 2022

It is our sad dutry this morning to report the deaths of two outstanding piping and pipe band figures, Allan Chatto, Australia, and Jim McWilliams, Canada. We also have details of the funeral of Hector Russell who passed away last weekend. It will be held in Cardross Crematorium on October 5 at 2.15pm. Map here. Readers are directed to our comments section where a number of personal messages have been left by those who knew Hector. Allan Chatto (1932 -2022) was a huge figure in pipe band drumming and passed away yesterday in Australia. We will have a full tribute in due course.

Colin McWilliams: I thought I would let you know of the passing of my father, P/M James ‘Jim’ McWilliams, who in the past provided Piping Press with some written accounts of his memories of P/M Donald MacLeod’s trips to Saskatchewan, Canada.

He also advertised some novels from time to time on Piping Press, and over the years enjoyed reading the Press’s articles and editorials.

The following is a brief account of his life, a life that was very much influenced by his love for music and, in particular, the great Highland bagpipe. I think the picture above captures his spirit and who he was.  

My dad was born in 1938 in Saskatchewan and passed away at his home in Surrey, British Columbia, on September 23, 2022. 

At the age of 12, he joined the St. Andrew’s Society Boy’s Pipe Band in Moose Jaw and quickly ‘caught the piping bug’.  He was heavily involved in teaching and running the local pipe bands for over three decades.

He was a founding member of the Prairie Pipe Band Association and was instrumental in the development of the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts. Instructors at the school included Donald MacLeod MBE, John MacLellan MBE, Jimmy McGregor and many others. The impact this school had is still being experienced throughout North America. 

Jim with P/M Donald MacLeod in 1967. Read Jim’s article ‘P/M Donald MacLeod As I Knew Him’ here.

After retiring from teaching in the early 1990s, Jim moved to Surrey, British Columbia, and enjoyed playing in the Delta Police Pipe Band and Vancouver Police Pipe Band, with the Celtic band ‘Blackthorn’ and as part of his partner Joan’s ‘Tartan Pride’ Highland dance group.

Towards the end of his life, Jim was no longer able to play the pipes and shifted his musical outlet to the piano which he had learned as a child at his mother’s insistence. He regularly performed Scottish music for his co-residents of Bear Creek Villa and was always willing to toast a haggis at a Robbie Burns’ night.   

Jim enjoyed life immensely. He loved music, good company, travel, food, and was fortunate to have plenty of these things over a long and blessed life. He had great pride in his family and prairie roots. He was predeceased by his life partner, Joan Murray, and is survived by sons, Lachlan and Colin, and their families.

  • Jim McWilliams has been immortalised in Donald MacLeod’s eponymous 2/4 march played here by Inveraray & District at the European Pipe Band Champipnships in 2015. (The tune is in Donald’s Book 5):

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