Major Gordon Rowan Retires as Director, with the Army School Forging Ahead

Major Rowan (far left), candidates, Examination Panel and Senior P/M Simpson

Major Gordon Rowan is due to retire as Director of Army Bagpipe Music in May. Yesterday he oversaw his final Pipe Major’s Course passing out. He can be proud of his very well schooled candidates

At the bench were myself, Pipe Major Gordon Walker and Callum Moffat, the new Director of the Army’s Cadet Force Pipes and Drums, writes the Editor.

Seven pipers played. They had to submit six 6/8 marches, six 2/4 marches, six competition strathspeys and reels and six piobaireachd.

Two passed with the highest grade ‘Distinction’: L/Cpl Norrie Gillies (yes, the late Alasdair’s son), 4 Scots, and L/Cpl Rochford of the Royal Marines Band Scotland.

Both played very professionally, Norrie rounding off with the piobaireachd, Lord Lovat’s Lament, and L/Cpl Rochford, MacKintosh’s Lament. (Take a bow Ian McKerral, Campbeltown, the latter’s first teacher.)

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All other candidates were also awarded their Pipe Major’s Certificates, four at B+ level and one at B.

L/Cpl Foley, 4 Scots, gave a pleasing presentation of simple tunes. His success was all the more remarkable in that he broke a finger moving furniture six weeks into the seven month P/M’s course.

Equally remarkable was the effort of L/ Sgt Bell of the Scots Guards, a veteran of the Afghan wars. His hearing – and therefore ability to tune – became severely impaired after a suction bomb destroyed his desert vehicle.

The others, Cpl Noble, 3 Scots, L/Cpl Wilson, Royal Signals and Cpl. Steel, 2 Scots, were each a credit to themselves and their regiments, and of course to the instructors on the course.

Major Rowan spoke briefly of his seven and a half years leading the School. Keeping going during covid was the toughest task, sometimes against conflicting rules and advice from Scottish and UK governments. (Though based in Scotland, the School’s top brass are in England.)

Maintaining its levels of teaching meant that the throughout put of well tutored pipers and drummers, some complete beginners, could continue without interruption. Hence yesterday’s high number of candidates for the top award, with double that preparing for the next P/Ms course later this year.

A delighted L/Cpl. Gillies with his trophy as outstanding candidate on the 54th Army Pipe Majors’ Course

Major Rowan will officially hand over to Pipe Major Ross McCrindle, Scots Guards, the new Director of the ASBMHD, in a couple of months.

During breaks in the performances the examiners had a chance to catch up. Callum, formerly of Scottish Power Pipe Band and a champion solo piper, is determined there will be even more Army pipers in the future. He’ll be at a camp at Otterburn in the Borders in a few months with 850 UK cadets. Not enough young pipers and drummers are sticking with the military, says Callum, and it is his job to point out the advantages of a career in the Army pipes and drums. He should get quite a few from the 850.

Gordon, double Gold Medallist, was able to share stories of his own time at the Army School. He was in fine form, and continues to teach and play, though sadly he’s not seen on the competition board these days.

One other snippet you’ll be interested in. The giant Redford Barracks, listed buildings, have been sold to the local council, presumably for housing.

The good news is that the adjacent Inchdrewer House, home of the Army School, is not part of the sale. Its future seems safe for several years yet.

The brilliant work done there by Major Rowan and Colin Simpson, Senior Pipe Major in the British Army, and all the other instructors, surely guarantees that.

2 thoughts on “Major Gordon Rowan Retires as Director, with the Army School Forging Ahead

  1. Well done to all passing out. Good to see such high efforts still being put into the course. Norrie especially, top class musician and person. Third generation qualified pipe major (Norman -> Alasdair -> Norman). Surely has to be the record?

  2. What a servant Major Gordon Rowan MBE has been to the army throughout his long and distinguished career. May he have a long and happy retirement.

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