- band established 1953
Castlemaine Highland Pipe Band in 1953.
Castlemaine had two highland pipe bands - a men's band and a
ladies' band. Both eventually lapsed, but the tradition was not forgotten. By the early 1950s the formation
of a new town band was strongly supported by the community, which had
extensive Scottish connections. It was thought that a band would be
worthwhile interest for young people, and the community expressed a great
desire to have the finest pipe band in Australia. Henry Macintosh, one of
the key figures in the drive to form a band, decided that if the town was
going to have a pipe band, it was going to be a good one.
On 25 May 1951 a group of 17 people
representing a number of public organisations in Castlemaine gathered at a
meeting convened by the then Mayor, Cr. B. Roderick and agreed to form the
Castlemaine Highland Pipe Band. The inaugural members included Henry
Macintosh (President), Murray Caldwell and Ken Birnie (Vice-Presidents)
Les Stevens, (Secretary) and A. Johnston (Treasurer). The Chief Macintosh
tartan was chosen in honour of Henry Macintosh, and approval for its use
and Macintosh patronage gained from Lachlan Macintosh, head of the
Macintosh clan, who stated that he was honoured to be named Patron of the
However, there were substantial
challenges ahead to find people capable of forming the band and teaching
young players, and the problem of considerable set-up costs. Henry Macintosh had been in
touch with the Pipe Bands Association of Scotland, and had negotiations
well underway to bring several Scots out to Australia to form the nucleus
of the band. Ken Birnie, a piper who played with a Bendigo band agreed to
teach young people interested in learning the pipes until a pipe major
could be brought out from Scotland.
Advertisements were placed in
newspapers throughout Scotland, and from a pool of 60 top-class
applicants, the services of six highly competent, well regarded pipe
majors, drum majors and a drummer were secured. Housing and employment
provided for the men and their accompanying families - Thomsons Foundry
providing jobs for three of the men. The procurement of the Scottish band
members caused great interest Australia-wide, with numerous reports about
the band members repeatedly featured on national radio. A number of
articles appeared in the Age and Argus newspapers
periodically following the progress of the band and its appearances.
Foundation members included Pipe Major Alex McDermid,
Drum Major Gordon Jelly, Pipe Major Duncan MacPhedran, Pipe Major Charles
Cochrane, Drum Major Alex McCormick and Drummer Thomas Hume. Two recent
arrivals from Scotland who were living in Morwell and South Australia,
Tenor Drummer Sam Garratt and Pipe Major Sam Boslam, also moved to
Castlemaine to help form the all-Scottish nucleus of the band.
Unfortunately, only one of the Scotsmen, Duncan MacPhedran,
honoured his contract to stay with the band for five years; two of the six
brought out from Scotland left within six months.
It was anticipated that 1600 pounds would be
sufficient to equip the band, but this seemed an impossible amount to
raise. However, support was very strong throughout the community and with
the pledge of the Castlemaine Tourist Association to raise the money,
fundraising began in earnest. The whole patriotic community banded
together and started to raise money for the instruments and equipment that
would be needed. Dances were held all over the district, raffles were run
regularly and the tireless efforts of the band committee and members of
the public over the next four years raised 2931 pounds, most of which was
spent outfitting the band.
The Premier of Victoria, J B McDonald included a
grant of 150 pounds towards the purchase of instruments. The Castlemaine
Woollen Mill wove the tartan for the band from a sample provided by Chief
Lachlan Macintosh, which could not purchased ready-made due to its rarity,
even in Scotland.
The first appearance of the band at the
Grand Parade of the Castlemaine Show at Camp Reserve, in terrible weather
on 7 November 1953 was greeted with a huge roar of approval and applause
from the 5000-strong crowd. The Castlemaine Mail reported that the
President, Henry Macintosh, was the most excited man in the crowd as the
pipe band swung out onto the arena. As the band members stepped out like
veterans, Henry Macintosh saw long awaited hope and ambition march with
them. The skirl of the pipes frightened the stock, who, as one official
put it, played-up terribly!
Castlemaine Highland Pipe
Band in 1957.
Over the years the band took extensive 1st, 2nd and 3rd
placings at Highland Gatherings, Festivals and Pipe Band Championships all
over Victoria and interstate, and gathered an impressive collection of
silver trophies and platters. The band went into recess in the late 1960s
due to lack of numbers, but a recruitment drive was most successful and
the band reappeared at the Castlemaine Show the following year.
The primary focus of the band has always been as a
community band, supporting social and charitable organisations around the
district, with regular appearances at the Bendigo and Maldon Easter
Parades, ANZAC services at Harcourt, Campbell’s Creek and Castlemaine, the
Castlemaine Show, Melbourne Show and Melbourne Cup.
ANZAC Day, Campbell's Creek Primary School 2006 - courtesy John Almond.
A number of loyal and long-serving members associated with
the band include Ian Wilson who joined the band in 1956 (who has filled the role of Pipe Major several times), and Drum Sergeant Trevor Kuhle who has had 35 years or more
service with the band. Other former long-serving members included Stan
Cawthan, Bill Robertson and Neville Cooper. Ian Wilson represented the
band at the Millennium Pipes gathering of 10,000 pipers in Edinburgh,
Scotland in 2000, the uniform attracting great attention and featuring in
the official video and photographs.
Why the Clan Chattan Tartan?
Drum Major Anthony Mathers, 2006.
Australia Day 2006.