In 1946, the Antigonish Highland Pipe Band was formed under the direction of Pipe
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
Allan Cameron, John MacMillan, Angus MacQuarrie, Danny MacDonald,
and Francis “Willie Hector” MacDonald. The bass drummer
Francis’ brother, Roy, with another brother Lewis on tenor
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
There was considerable discussion about the cost of supporting
as the Antigonish Highland Society was not in a position to
expenses. The Legion offered to assume sponsorship, but no
in the Society’s minutes at that time. Instead, the band
with the Pictou Highlanders which enabled them to obtain much
uniforms and equipment. In 1949 and 1950 the Antigonish Highland
Band was known as the Pictou Highlanders “B” Company Pipe
was under the direction of Pipe Major Francis MacDonald.
the band rehearsed at the armouries on Brookland Street, Antigonish.
The Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band continued to
the Antigonish Games for several years, at least through to 1955
pipe majors including John MacMillan, Francis MacDonald, Don
Urquhart, and Andrew Braid. The band entered competitions and was
a second place at the Antigonish Highland Games in 1952.
Professor Ron MacKinnon, of St. F.X. University, remembered that
his brother Allan played in the pipe band and were taught by
from Clydebank, Scotland. Others members of the band at that
time included pipers Edward Rogers, his brother Jerome, whom Ron calls
and Charlie Joe MacGillivray. The drummers included Arthur
Harry MacPherson, and Berkley Cameron. Some of the ‘old
used to play with the band at various events, including piper
and drummer Joe Miller MacDonald. Some other pipers who played
with the band in the fifties included two priests from the
Donnie Kennedy and Father Angie MacGillivray, and some of the
including Hugh Gillis from Sydney, David Stokes from Kentville,
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
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
of the Celtic Studies Department at St. F.X. University. Major
asked Moffat if he would be willing to help re-establish a
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
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).
at the Remembrance Day parade on November 11th, 1960, and
very much appreciated by the veterans and general public alike.
reported to the Antigonish Highland Society that it was the most
group of pipers and drummers that he had ever seen, and that
the band would be ready to enter into competition the next
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
and Donald MacNeil, drummers Arthur MacPherson, Carl MacPherson,
Ches Warren, Wilfred Gillis, Clarence Hunt, Joe MacDonald,
Harry MacPherson. They are shown wearing their new
which had arrived from Scotland in June. In July, the band
a fifteen minute concert in front of the Post Office on Main
to the Official Opening of the 1961 edition of the Antigonish
Though the band went on to participate in the Games activities,
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
Parade, wearing ribbons of blue and white, the well-known St.
on their drones.
In 1962, the Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band performed on
of Highland Games Week at the old town park, and then at a
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
team were in town to tape a special program to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Antigonish Highland Society. Despite the weather,
was made, and the band performed in it. Major MacLeod and Piper
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
as a Mammoth Scottish Concert in August, and at the annual
Day ceremonies in November. The Casket reported little activity by the band in 1964 before the Remembrance Day Parade which it
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
Field for the Official Opening ceremonies after lunch. Prime
Pearson was one of the dignitaries to follow the band to the
Casket reports that the Antigonish Highland Society Pipe Band
on hand to lead the Remembrance Day Parade on November 11th,
Major C. I. N. MacLeod playing the lament.
In the spring of 1966, the band dropped the name of the
Society altogether and became the Antigonish Legion Senior Pipe
Under Legion sponsorship, piping continued to thrive in
the intervening years - indeed, some consider the decade from
to be the “Golden Age Of Piping In Antigonish” - but there
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
Legion Pipe Band. He also instructed the Antigonish Legion
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
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,
around his dining room table, so he approached the Antigonish
Highland Society about using their office for lessons. As the numbers continued
the Antigonish Highland Society founded a School of Piping and
Other piping instructors in the School included Marilyn O’Brien, Edward Langille, Scott Long, Valerie Cooke, and later, John Walsh,
Heather MacIsaac, Zeph Williams, Ellen MacPhee, Geordie MacDonald,
Andrea Boyd, John MacPhee and Charles Baldner. By the time
first ‘crop’ of young chanter students were ready to start
on pipes, Rev.
McKenna, then stationed in Larry’s River, had started weekly
which were continued by Mark Wong and Kelly Arsenault and later
Lianne Bradshaw, Trevor Veitch and Adam MacDonald.
In June 1991, a newly re-established Antigonish Highland Society
dressed in Clanranald tartan kilts, glengarries, black leather
hose with red flashes, white shirts and ties, made its debut
performance at a press conference held by the Society at the Club 60
adjacent to Columbus Field. The band included the following
drummers: Pipe Major Scott Williams, other piping instructors
Cooke, Marilyn O’Brien and Edward Langille, pipers Michael Aldous,
Doiron, Marc Doudelet, Michelle Doudelet, Jeff Fraser, Beth Gunn,
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
snare drummers Adam MacDonald, Catherine MacInnes, and Shona
MacIsaac, bass drummer Bill Beaton, and tenor drummers Daniel Doiron
The following year,
under the leadership of Scott Williams and Kelly Arsenault,
the band entered competitions at the Grade 4 level and was
prizes across the Maritimes and beyond. The membership list
to the NSPPBA for the 1992 season contained the following
Pipe Major Scott Williams, Lead Drummer Kelly Arsenault, pipers
Aldous, Jane Cooke, Stacey Doiron, Mark Doudelet, Michelle
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
Ben Theurerkauf, Bill Beaton, Marlene Floyd and David Jackson.
instructors were Edward Langille, Valerie Cooke, and Marilyn
for piping, and Mark Wong for drumming. The band took first
the Antigonish Indoor Meet, second at Pugwash and Halifax, and
Glasgow and St. Ann’s, finishing in third place overall in the
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
‘Shuttle’ bagpipe maker, John Walsh, the band prepared for
where it continued its success in the competition arena, placing
out of eight times, and taking a second on the remaining
Valerie Cooke was accepted into the Halifax Police Association
in the fall of 1994, and Williams returned as pipe major. That
full parade band consisted of the following members: pipers
Charles Baldner, Andrea Boyd, Jane Cooke, Mary Dewar, Stacy Doiron, Frances
Marc Doudelet, Michelle Doudelet, Amy Gillis, Heather Jackson,
Kenny, Edward Langille, Aime MacDonald, Geordie MacDonald,
Heather MacIsaac, Adam MacKinnon, Craig MacMillan, Angela MacNeil,
Murphy, Marilyn O’Brien, and Zeph Williams, lead drummer
snare drummers Marlene Floyd, David Jackson, Adam MacDonald, and Trevor Veitch, bass drummer Liam Riley, tenor drummers
Cooke and Chris MacNeil, and Drum Major Trevor Floyd. They spent
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
at the Grade 4 North American Pipe Band Championship held at
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)
Andrew Moeller, Maggie MacDougall, Anthony MacEachern, Mark
Curry, Chrissie MacEachern and Justin Rankin were added to the
New drumming recruits included Drum Major Mindy Lane, Ashley
Brian Riley, Chris Beaver, and John Griffin. The following year,
the band was able to make its mark in Grade 3, winning five
and taking the Champion Supreme Award its very first season in
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
old Grade 4 rivals, the Dartmouth Junior Pipe Band, which had
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,
Andrea Boyd, Mary Dewar, Mark Kenny, Beckie Lane, Aime MacDonald, Geordie MacDonald, Shane MacGillivray, Matthew MacIsaac,
Rankin, and Zeph Williams, bass drummer Chris Beaver, tenor
Chris MacNeil and Brian Riley, lead drummer Lianne Bradshaw,
and snare drummers Trevor Veitch, Liam Riley, David Jackson, Michael
and Adam MacDonald.
Grade 5 band: Pipe Major Heather Jackson, pipers Emily MacNeil, Laura
Mary Ellen Baldner, Ian Juurlink, Jamus MacDonald, Tricia
Anthony MacEachern, Jeaniece MacIsaac, and Andrew Moeller,
bass drummer and Drum Major Mindy Lane, lead drummer Trevor Veitch,
snare drummers Karen MacIsaac, Holly MacIsaac, Ashley Kenny and
Peters. Heather MacIsaac, who had moved on to the Grade 1
Halifax Police Association Pipe Band, agreed to help out by teaching the junior
Things looked great, but once again, the picture was deceptive.
In February of 1998, Pipe Major Williams was struck with
unstable angina and on March 12th he underwent an open heart
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
exodus as a number of the other pipers and drummers, most of
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
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
at the end of the season. They also took the band to Loon
Hampshire where they won top honours at the Grade 4 level and
to play up to Grade 3 where they placed third overall. The
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.
Jackson, however, returned to the helm in February of 1999.
Lianne Bradshaw continued to teach, the drum section now came under the
of Trevor Veitch.
The band got off to a very good start for the 1999 season with a
at the Antigonish Indoor Meet on May 15th. They travelled to
PEI at the end of June where they placed third in the March.
Pugwash, Fredericton and Pictou, the band placed first in the
Halifax and Antigonish they placed second in the March. They
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
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,
drummer Francis MacDonald (bass). The band placed first in both
and Medley events in Summerside, and first in the March in
with seconds in their other events in Pugwash, Antigonish, and Pictou
the season second in the standings for ACPBA Grade 4 Champions