In 1946, the Antigonish Highland Pipe Band was formed under the direction of Pipe Major Herman Beaton of Brierly Brook, Antigonish County. Herman had just returned from England were he saw service as a member of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. Other founding members of the band included pipers Allan Cameron, John MacMillan, Angus MacQuarrie, Danny MacDonald, and Francis “Willie Hector” MacDonald. The bass drummer was Francis’ brother, Roy, with another brother Lewis on tenor along with John Roy. The kettle drummers included Joe Miller MacDonald.

         The Antigonish Highland Pipe Band took part in the Antigonish Highland Games in 1947 and that November it participated in the annual Remembrance Day Parade. The Minutes of the Antigonish Highland Society record that the band also appeared at the Games in 1948.

         There was considerable discussion about the cost of supporting the band as the Antigonish Highland Society was not in a position to underwrite its expenses.  The Legion offered to assume sponsorship, but no change was recorded in the Society’s minutes at that time. Instead, the band became affiliated with the Pictou Highlanders which enabled them to obtain much needed uniforms and equipment. In 1949 and 1950 the Antigonish Highland Pipe Band was known as the Pictou Highlanders “B” Company Pipe Band and was under the direction of Pipe Major Francis MacDonald. According to MacDonald, the band rehearsed at the armouries on Brookland Street, Antigonish.

         The Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band continued to participate in the Antigonish Games for several years, at least through to 1955 and had other pipe majors including John MacMillan, Francis MacDonald, Don Urquhart, and Andrew Braid. The band entered competitions and was awarded a second place at the Antigonish Highland Games in 1952.

         Professor Ron MacKinnon, of St. F.X. University, remembered that he and his brother Allan played in the pipe band and were taught by Andrew Braid, from Clydebank, Scotland. Others members of the band at that time included pipers Edward Rogers, his brother Jerome, whom Ron calls “Sonny”, and Charlie Joe MacGillivray. The drummers included Arthur MacPherson, Harry MacPherson, and Berkley Cameron. Some of the ‘old timers’ used to play with the band at various events, including piper Francis MacDonald and drummer Joe Miller MacDonald. Some other pipers who played with the band in the fifties included two priests from the university, Father Donnie Kennedy and Father Angie MacGillivray, and some of the students including Hugh Gillis from Sydney, David Stokes from Kentville, and Wally Ellison from Inverness. 

         Andrew Braid taught the band and a number of young piping students during the time he spent at St. Francis Xavier University. In 1952, he took over the Antigonish Highland Society School of Piping and had eighteen students. He was listed as the band’s pipe major from 1953 to 1956.  On August 13th, 1955, the Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band took part in the opening of the Canso Causeway. Edward Rogers remembers that they were part of the “official” 100 pipers, all men, who led the procession across the causeway. The band faded away fairly quickly when Don Urquhart moved to Halifax in 1957, however, and no band from Antigonish participated in the 1958 Highland Games.

         In 1958, John Moffat moved to town and, when he noted the absence of a local pipe band, he wrote a letter of concern to the editor of The Casket, Antigonish’s weekly newspaper. The day after the paper’s release, he received a phone call from Major C. I. N. MacLeod, the newly appointed Head of the Celtic Studies Department at St. F.X. University. Major MacLeod asked Moffat if he would be willing to help re-establish a community-based pipe band in the town and Moffat agreed.

         By 1959, the band was re-organized under the direction of piping instructor Major C. I. N. MacLeod who arranged for the services of drumming instructor Clarence Hunt, of Sydney. The band marched down the Main Street of Antigonish playing their entire repetoire of four tunes dressed in kilts made in the Ancient Caledonian tartan, and wearing Hunter Green tweed jackets, leather sporrans and balmorals. A photo of the new group appeared in The Casket just one short year after Moffat’s inquiry.

         In 1960, the band became jointly sponsored by the Antigonish Highland Society and the Arras Branch of the  Royal Canadian Legion. The new band took part in the Antigonish Highland Games, marching onto the field playing “The Highland Laddie” and, as one interested listener remarked, “giving it the big licks!”.

         At that time, the band practiced at the Knights of Columbus rooms on College Street (approximately where The Piper’s Pub is now located). They performed at the Remembrance Day parade on November 11th, 1960, and were very much appreciated by the veterans and general public alike. Major MacLeod reported to the Antigonish Highland Society that it was the most enthusiastic group of pipers and drummers that he had ever seen, and that he hoped the band would be ready to enter into competition the next summer.

         A photo of the band in the 1961 Antigonish Highland Games souvenir program has the following pipers and drummers listed under it: Pipe Major C. I. N. MacLeod, P/Sgt D.P. (Danny) Gillis, pipers John Boyd, Charles MacDougall, Warren Hingley, James Fraser, D. Roy MacDonald, John Moffat, and Donald MacNeil, drummers Arthur MacPherson, Carl MacPherson, Ches Warren, Wilfred Gillis, Clarence Hunt, Joe MacDonald, and Harry MacPherson. They are shown wearing their new military-style uniforms which had arrived from Scotland in June. In July, the band performed a fifteen minute concert in front of the Post Office on Main Street prior to the Official Opening of the 1961 edition of the Antigonish Highland Games. Though the band went on to participate in the Games activities, it was not listed among the prize winners.

         Later that summer, the band performed at the Sportsman’s Meet in Stillwater, and  at the Nova Scotia Festival of the Arts in Tatamagouche. In November, the band once again performed at the Remembrance Day ceremonies and on November 25th, travelled to Halifax to play at the Atlantic Bowl Parade, wearing ribbons of blue and white, the well-known St. F.X. colours, on their drones.

         In 1962, the Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band performed on the Wednesday of Highland Games Week at the old town park, and then at a tug-of-war contest held at the Fair Grounds. It had rained every day since July 1st, however, and many of the events during Games Week were either cancelled or moved indoors. This was unfortunate as CBC television’s “Sightline” team were in town to tape a special program to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Antigonish Highland Society. Despite the weather, the program was made, and the band performed in it. Major MacLeod and Piper Allan Cameron were interviewed on the program.

         In November, the band once again participated in the Remembrance Day ceremonies, and later led a parade of veterans from Columbus Field up Main Street to the new Legion Hall for the official opening of that facility on November 24th.

         In 1963, the band participated in the Antigonish Games, at what was heralded as a Mammoth Scottish Concert in August, and at the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies in November. The Casket reported little activity by the band in 1964 before the Remembrance Day Parade which it led in November. 

         It was a participant at the Games again in 1965, leading a church parade on July 11th from Mockler Hall along Main Street to St. James United Church, then up Church Street and along St. Ninian’s to the cathedral. The band played in a special preview of the Games which was held at Columbus Field on Friday afternoon and led two parades on Saturday - the regular street parade at 9:15 am, and a later parade of dignitaries timed to arrive at the Columbus Field for the Official Opening ceremonies after lunch. Prime Minister Pearson was one of the dignitaries to follow the band to the field. The Casket reports that the Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band was once again on hand to lead the Remembrance Day Parade on November 11th, with Pipe Major C. I. N. MacLeod playing the lament.

         In the spring of 1966, the band dropped the name of the Antigonish Highland Society altogether and became the Antigonish Legion Senior Pipe Band. Under Legion sponsorship, piping continued to thrive in Antigonish throughout the intervening years - indeed, some consider the decade from 1966-76 to be the “Golden Age Of Piping In Antigonish” - but there was no Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band from 1966-1991.

         One of the people responsible for re-establishing the Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band was Scott Williams who started piping with Sandy Boyd in 1966. Over the years, Williams played with the Antigonish Legion Senior Pipe Band, the Antigonish Legion “A” Pipe Band, and the Scotia Legion Pipe Band. He also instructed the Antigonish Legion “A” and “B” Pipe Bands, the Inverness Bonnie Brae Pipe Band and the Gaelic College Pipe Band. In 1984, he founded the Clan Thompson Pipe Band which won the Grade 3 North American Pipe Band Championship in 1989. 

         In 1988, Williams began once again to teach piping in Antigonish. His first class of three young girls soon increased to eleven children, too many to fit around his dining room table, so he approached the Antigonish Highland Society about using their office for lessons. As the numbers continued to grow, the Antigonish Highland Society founded a School of Piping and Drumming. Other piping instructors in the School included Marilyn O’Brien, Edward Langille, Scott Long, Valerie Cooke, and later, John Walsh, Heather Jackson, Heather MacIsaac, Zeph Williams, Ellen MacPhee, Geordie MacDonald, Andrea Boyd, John MacPhee and Charles Baldner. By the time the first ‘crop’ of young chanter students were ready to start on pipes, Rev. Neil McKenna, then stationed in Larry’s River, had started weekly drumming lessons, which were continued by Mark Wong and Kelly Arsenault and later by Lianne Bradshaw, Trevor Veitch and Adam MacDonald.

         In June 1991, a newly re-established Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band, dressed in Clanranald tartan kilts, glengarries, black leather sporrans, off-white hose with red flashes, white shirts and ties, made its debut performance at a press conference held by the Society at the Club 60 Building adjacent to Columbus Field. The band included the following pipers and drummers: Pipe Major Scott Williams, other piping instructors Valerie Cooke, Marilyn O’Brien and Edward Langille, pipers Michael Aldous, Stacey Doiron, Marc Doudelet, Michelle Doudelet, Jeff Fraser, Beth Gunn, Heather Jackson, Aime MacDonald, Geordie MacDonald, Mary MacDonald,

Iain MacInnes, Amanda MacLeod, Bruce Webb, and Zeph Williams, drumming instructors Mark Wong and Kelly Arsenault, Drum Major Susan Cooke, snare drummers Adam MacDonald, Catherine MacInnes, and Shona MacIsaac, bass drummer Bill Beaton, and tenor drummers Daniel Doiron and Trevor Veitch.  

         The following year, under the leadership of Scott Williams and Kelly Arsenault, the band entered competitions at the Grade 4 level and was soon winning prizes across the Maritimes and beyond. The membership list submitted to the NSPPBA for the 1992 season contained the following names: Pipe Major Scott Williams, Lead Drummer Kelly Arsenault, pipers Michael Aldous, Jane Cooke, Stacey Doiron, Mark Doudelet, Michelle Doudelet, Beth Gunn, Heather Jackson, Aime MacDonald, Geordie MacDonald, Mary MacDonald, Iain MacInnes, Amanda MacLeod, Angela MacNeil, Bruce Webb and Zeph Williams, Drum Major Susan Cooke, snare drummers Natalie Sers, Daniel Doiron, Adam MacDonald, Catherine MacInnes, and Trevor Veitch, bass drummer Jody MacDougall, and tenor drummers Ben Theurerkauf, Bill Beaton, Marlene Floyd and David Jackson. Additional instructors were Edward Langille, Valerie Cooke, and Marilyn O’Brien for piping, and Mark Wong for drumming. The band took first prize at the Antigonish Indoor Meet, second at Pugwash and Halifax, and third at New Glasgow and St. Ann’s, finishing in third place overall in the standings for the NSPPBA Grade 4 Champions Supreme Award.

         The NSPPBA named the Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band their Grade 4 Champions Supreme each year from 1993 to 1995. During that time, the band was under the direction of Pipe Major Scott Williams and Lead Drummer Lianne Bradshaw. In 1993-94, however, Valerie Cooke replaced Williams as pipe major while he was in Scotland for the year. With Valerie at the helm, and with valuable assistance from internationally renowned piper and ‘Shuttle’ bagpipe maker, John Walsh, the band prepared for the coming season where it continued its success in the competition arena, placing first seven out of eight times, and taking a second on the remaining occasion.

         Valerie Cooke was accepted into the Halifax Police Association Pipe Band in the fall of 1994, and Williams returned as pipe major. That winter, the full parade band consisted of the following members: pipers Charles Baldner, Andrea Boyd, Jane Cooke, Mary Dewar, Stacy Doiron, Frances Doudelet, Marc Doudelet, Michelle Doudelet, Amy Gillis, Heather Jackson, Mark Kenny, Edward Langille, Aime MacDonald, Geordie MacDonald, Heather MacIsaac, Adam MacKinnon, Craig MacMillan, Angela MacNeil, Susie Murphy, Marilyn O’Brien, and Zeph Williams, lead drummer Lianne Bradshaw, snare drummers Marlene Floyd, David Jackson, Adam MacDonald, and Trevor Veitch, bass drummer Liam Riley, tenor drummers John Cooke and Chris MacNeil, and Drum Major Trevor Floyd. They spent the winter months working hard to increase their parade and concert repertoire, and learning all new competition pieces.

         The 1995 competition season resulted in six firsts and four seconds on the home front, and the band capped off a very exciting season by placing first at the Grade 4 North American Pipe Band Championship held at Maxville, Ontario.

         When the band arrived home from their triumph in Maxville, however, three of the out-of-town members transferred back to their home band, the Balmoral Pipe Band of Stellarton, which was now ready to begin competing on its own. Two left piping altogether, two went away to university, and two more left to join the Gaelic College Pipe Band. With such severe losses, the prospects did not seem to be good for the following season, especially as the band was to be moved up to Grade 3 as a result of their North American Championship win. Appearances can be deceiving, however. New pipers Matthew MacIsaac, Beckie Lane, Jeaniece MacIsaac, Sandra (Gordon) MacIsaac, Andrew Moeller, Maggie MacDougall, Anthony MacEachern, Mark Curry, Chrissie MacEachern and Justin Rankin were added to the roster. New drumming recruits included Drum Major Mindy Lane, Ashley Kenny, Brian Riley, Chris Beaver, and John Griffin. The following year, 1996, the band was able to make its mark in Grade 3, winning five first place awards, and taking the Champion Supreme Award its very first season in the grade.

         In the fall of 1996, pipers Emily MacNeil, Anthony MacEachern, Jamus MacDonald, Ian Juurlink, Tricia Brosha, Laura MacLellan, and Mary Ellen Baldner, and drummers Karen MacIsaac, Holly MacIsaac, and Michael Peters came into the band. In 1997, the band competed neck and neck with its old Grade 4 rivals, the Dartmouth Junior Pipe Band, which had now joined them in Grade 3. The two bands took turns winning first or second prizes all summer, and the Antigonish musicians ended the season placing second overall to Dartmouth in the Champion Supreme standings.

         With more than twenty pipers and fifteen drummers in the band, the decision was made to split it into two competitive units for the 1998 season, one to continue to play at the Grade 3 level, and the other to enter competition at the Grade 5 level. The band members were grouped as follows: Grade 3 Band: Pipe Major Scott Williams, pipers Heather Jackson, Charles Baldner, Andrea Boyd, Mary Dewar, Mark Kenny, Beckie Lane, Aime MacDonald, Geordie MacDonald, Shane MacGillivray, Matthew MacIsaac, Justin Rankin, and Zeph Williams, bass drummer Chris Beaver, tenor drummers Chris MacNeil and Brian Riley, lead drummer Lianne Bradshaw, and snare drummers Trevor Veitch, Liam Riley, David Jackson, Michael MacDonald, and Adam MacDonald.

Grade 5 band: Pipe Major Heather Jackson, pipers Emily MacNeil, Laura MacLellan, Mary Ellen Baldner, Ian Juurlink, Jamus MacDonald, Tricia Brosha, Anthony MacEachern, Jeaniece MacIsaac, and Andrew Moeller, bass drummer and Drum Major Mindy Lane, lead drummer Trevor Veitch, and snare drummers Karen MacIsaac, Holly MacIsaac, Ashley Kenny and Michael Peters. Heather MacIsaac, who had moved on to the Grade 1 Halifax Police Association Pipe Band, agreed to help out by teaching the junior pipers. Things looked great, but once again, the picture was deceptive.

         In February of 1998,  Pipe Major Williams was struck with sudden onset unstable angina and on March 12th he underwent an open heart triple by-pass operation which forced him to pass on the leadership of the band to one of his senior students, Heather Jackson. This seemed to trigger an unfortunate exodus as a number of the other pipers and drummers, most of them senior players, some already in university,  left the band to take summer jobs.  The result of all these changes was that the two bands had to be brought back together as one. Anticipating a much weaker band than in the previous years, the ACPBA dropped it back to Grade 4.

         Pipe Major Jackson and Lead Drummer Lianne Bradshaw were undaunted, however. They intensified their rehearsals throughout the spring and summer months and ultimately led the band to a series of victories which resulted in once again winning the ACPBA Grade 4 Champion Supreme award at the end of the season. They also took the band to Loon Mountain, in New Hampshire where they won top honours at the Grade 4 level and were permitted to play up to Grade 3 where they placed third overall. The drum corps under Lianne Bradshaw placed first in both events.

         In the fall of 1998, the pipe section underwent a temporary change in leadership, with the piping instruction being given by Audrey Buchanan. Heather Jackson, however, returned to the helm in February of 1999. Though Lianne Bradshaw continued to teach, the drum section now came under the leadership of Trevor Veitch.

         The band got off to a very good start for the 1999 season with a first place at the Antigonish Indoor Meet on May 15th. They travelled to Summerside, PEI at the end of June where they placed third in the March. At Pugwash, Fredericton and Pictou, the band placed first in the March, and in Halifax and Antigonish they placed second in the March. They also placed third in the Medley in Antigonish and second in Fredericton, gaining top honours in the ACPBA Grade 4 Championship Supreme standings for 1999.

         In 2000, the Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band under the leadership of Pipe Major Heather Jackson and Drum Sergeant Adam MacDonald welcomed several new members including pipers Daniel Cameron, Geordie Hemlow, Isaac Mills, Heidi Soares, and Morgan Peters, and drummer Francis MacDonald (bass). The band placed first in both the March and Medley events in Summerside, and first in the March in Halifax, with seconds in their other events in Pugwash, Antigonish, and Pictou to finish the season second in the standings for ACPBA Grade 4 Champions Supreme.



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