History: Bob Brown and that Final Teaching Tour to Australia

We continue the report from the special edition of the South Australian Pipe Band Association Newsletter which outlined RU Brown’s 1972 tour of South Australia and Tasmania, his teaching, his recitals and his illness and death. The newsletter contained many tributes including this from Sir Lyall McEwan, Chieftain of Adelaide Highland Games. The picture above was taken in South Africa in 1970 when P/M Brown was on another recital tour……

The death of P/M Brown MBE has left us all with feelings of remorse, so soon after his fascinating and all too brief stay among us.

When we first heard from Mr Ewan Masson of the Australian Pipe Band Association that the Queen’s Piper would visit Australia early this year we were excited at the prospects of not only the impetus he would provide for the art of piping but also of his assistance in promoting the highest standards in playing and adjudicating.

The Committee of the Adelaide Highland Games were enthusiastic about the itinerary which placed South Australia at the beginning of his lecturing and tutoring tour. That enabled him to be our guest for the 1972 Games and to assist with the judging.

Bob Brown preparing to compete at Aboyne in 1963

The support of the pipe bands in providing a parade of pipers and drummers to welcome him at the airport created an atmosphere to which Robert Brown immediately responded, and his personal charm and ease of manner engendered an atmosphere of intimate friendship. He immediately became ‘Bob’ to us all.

His unassuming personality was void of any affectation which could have been associated with holding the appointment of Piper to Her Majesty the Queen at Balmoral, a position he held originally under King George VI.

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There were no apparent signs to convey any suggestion of physical distress or disability. He developed a thrombosis in his leg through no exercise during the long air journey. When discovered, it gave us real concern and every effort was made to lighten the programme previously arranged.

He bravely carried out his lecturing and tutoring commitments in South Australia without complaint and proceeded to Tasmania for the Australian Pipe Band Championships. However a deterioration of his complaint made it necessary to cancel further engagements and return home.

Bob Brown, far right, and RB Nicol are in Balmoral Dress as King’s Pipers at Braemar in the 1930s. In the centre is John Wilson, Edinburgh and later Toronto

The tragedy of his sudden death soon after his return to his homeland has saddened all who were privileged to meet him. We think of Bob Brown as not only a competent and accomplished piper, but as a man of lovable disposition and affectionate character whose passing leaves us with pangs of grief over the loss of one who had so much to give and for us, too little time to enjoy and emulate.

To Mrs Brown we convey our sympathy and thanks for the opportunity her sacrifice gave us to share his life for a brief period, and thus realise the magnitude of her loss.

  • To follow: Bob Brown’s last journey home.

1 thought on “History: Bob Brown and that Final Teaching Tour to Australia

  1. I was lucky enough to have attended Bob Brown’s workshops, recitals and talks in South Africa in 1970. He was due to return to South Africa in 1972 or 1973 but sadly passed away before we were able to see him again. The lessons with him were a truly formative experience, on the detail of individual tunes and on an overall approach to piobaireachd. We each came away with 2 or three tunes completely memorised and about a dozen more well understood, to take home and learn properly after he had left.

    I remember not only the music and piping but his fascination with the country, which was a part of the world he’d not been to before. As is typical in the Transvaal Highveld, there was a huge thunderstorm late one afternoon and I remember him standing watching it, enthralled by the lightning, thunder and sudden downpour that disappeared as suddenly as it had started.

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