One may think that a series of articles about New Zealand composers should be just that; it should be about New Zealand born persons only. In fact, this has been alluded to by some people. The writer has met many expat Scots involved in New Zealand piping and pipe bands over the last 40 years and a number have brought with them considerable talents that have been instrumental in raising the piping and drumming standards at all levels in this country.
Some of these new Kiwis claim to have been motivated by the environment in their new home and state that this influence has been the driving force behind many of the things they do. There are those who believe that although they were Scottish born, the local influence has been such that any tunes they have composed here are New Zealand tunes. For this reason alone, their inclusion in this series is necessary.
Bill Robertson is one of these composers. A few years after his arrival in this country he composed a piobaireachd for a competition conducted by the Broadcasting Council of Scotland. One might think that getting third place with this tune would have given him some pride. Indeed, it did, but the fact that he was able to submit the tune with the epithet, ‘by William A Roberson of New Zealand’ gave him even more pleasure. Bill had certainly adopted his new country with a considerable amount of zeal.
Bill was born in 1932 and at the age of 11 learned his piping with the 1stSt. Andrews Company of the Boys Brigade. His early teacher was Andrew Kirk former Piper of the Black Watch. When he turned 18, he was called up for compulsory National Service with The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment), the oldest serving regiment in the British Army.
After his initial basic training Bill was posted to the Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion under Pipe Major Willie Denholm, the composer of two of the great tunes of the bagpipe repertoire, El Alamein and The Royal Scots Polka. At the conclusion of National Service Bill decided to continue service with the regiment.
Willie Denholm retired, and Pipe Major Hugh Fraser transferred from the Cameron Highlanders to take over as Pipe Major of the 1st Battalion. Hugh was a well-known piper in his day and had also composed a number of tunes. He was to become one of the most influential pipers in the young Bill Robertson’s piping career.
At the age of 23 Bill attended the Army School of Piping under the direction of the world-famous Pipe Major Willie Ross MBE and graduated with the coveted Pipe Majors’ Certificate. One member of the board of examiners was the redoubtable Major David Murray of the Cameron Highlanders: himself a great piper and latterly, writer of many historical articles in the Piping Times.
A couple of years later his Pipe Major and friend Hugh Fraser was forced to retire from the Army because of ill health and Bill took over as Pipe Major of the 1st Battalion. During his Army service Bill spent considerable time away from Scotland in Germany, the Middle East and Far East. These enforced sojourns overseas merely kindled in Bill a desire to settle down and as he had learned about New Zealand during his schooling and from people he had met from this country, he decided, in late 1958, to resign from the Army.
In 1959 he arrived in New Zealand, joined The New Zealand Custom Service and settled in Hamilton. He became Musical Director of the Hamilton Caledonian Society’s Pipe Band and took them from B Grade to A Grade and on one occasion reached third place in the National Championships. A few years later Bill was promoted in his job and moved to Auckland where he took up the Musical Directorship of the Auckland and District Pipe Band.
Bill took the band to many New Zealand Championships and won the A Grade on three occasions. The band was never placed lower than 2nd when he was in charge and frequently won the music and drumming; the drill component appears to have decided the overall result.
In 1972 the band, now called The Pipes and Drums of Innes Tartan, competed at the Scottish Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland and were placed 7th in Grade 1. They were placed 1st= in tone. On the return trip the band played in Vancouver, B.C and Santa Rosa, California and won the open events at both venues.
Bill has dedicated most of his time to the Pipe Band movement, both in Scotland and New Zealand, and has seldom competed in the solo piping arena. There have been some notable exceptions and those he rates as the best achievements are the first placing in the Highland Brigade piobaireachd event 1957, the winning of the Comunn na Piobaireachd New Zealand Gold Medal in 1962 and the Australian Open March Strathspey and Reel competition in 1967 at Sydney.
Bill retired from active pipe banding in the 1980s and has been involved in judging both solos and pipe bands. Many pipers have also sought tuition from Bill and have found him a stickler for accurate technique and quality of sound. He has also conducted a number of workshops throughout the country.
For most of the past decade Bill has been putting together two tutorial books. The first of these is called The Great Highland Bagpipe: A Comprehensive Guide and was first published 1998. Since then, he has revised it and this revision was published in 2005 and included are a set of CD-ROMs. In 2005 a Beginners’ Guide was published, also with a CD-ROM. Both of these books have been reviewed in this issue of this magazine.
When it came to composing, Bill has always been a doodler. He has had many dozens of ideas come to him, but they were frequently discarded as his own high standards considered them inferior. He has about eight or ten tunes that he considers to be any good and two of these are piobaireachd.
The first piobaireachd was submitted in a composing competition conducted by the Broadcasting Council of Scotland in 1964. Two prizes were awarded, 50 guineas (₤5210s-0d or $105-00) and 25 guineas (₤26-5s-0d or $52-50); to put these figures into context, the writer was in his first year in the RNZAF in 1964 and earning about ₤6-00 ($12-00) a week.
66 tunes were submitted from 7 different countries including three from New Zealand. The tune composed by Bill was named Lament for Pipe Major Hugh Fraser and was place third. The top 11 tunes submitted were published in a book called New Pibrochs by Broadcasting Council of Scotland in December 1966. This book was for private distribution only and is not readily available.
However, the writer does have one and the list of composers reads like a veritable Who’s Who of piping in the 1960s. By getting third place Bill headed off a number of other pipers who, even then, had fine reputations as composers. If any piper wanted to learn a modern day piobaireachd this is one tune that is highly recommended. It is a secondary piobaireachdwith a delightful melodic line that flows through into all the variations. Another New Zealand based Scot, Bill Barrie submitted a tune called The Sounds of Mull and was placed 6th. If anyone knows who submitted the third tune from New Zealand we would love to know. Lament for Pipe Major Hugh Fraser has also been published in the Piobaireachd Society’s Collection of Ceol Mor composed during the Twentieth Century 1930-1980and in The Royal Scots Collection of Pipe Music.
Bill submitted a tune in the Otago Pipers’ Club’s composing competition that was conducted as part of the Otago Province’s Sesquicentennial celebrations in 1998. The tune is called Southern Gathering Co Chruinnea chadh Bho'N Deas and although it was not placed it has merit and may one day be played by pipers. It is a melodic short tune.
One of his most successful tunes is a 6/8 march called Pipe Major Bill Boyle, New Zealand Scottish Regiment. This tune was composed in the 1970s and by Bill’s own admission the fourth part was inferior. The composer heard Bill Boyle playing the tune, albeit without the fourth part, and the decision was made to reconstruct a new fourth part and name it after one on New Zealand’s most famous pipers. This tune has been played by many pipers and bands throughout the world and has been published in The Royal Scots Collection of Pipe Music.
Another of Bill’s tunes that has received acclaim from pipers is a 6/8 march he composed in about 2000 called Winnipeg Police Pipers. He sent this tune to a piping friend who is a member of the Winnipeg Police Pipe Band and the band started playing the tune. They liked it so much that Bill named it after the band. Although it is written in 6/8 time it does sound rather like a retreat and because of that he decided not to put any repeat marks at the end of each measure. However, he adds that if anyone wanted to repeat the parts, he would not object.
In the 1960s, a good friend of Bill’s, Keith Laird was Pipe Major of the band. Bill composed a retreat air in ¾ time and called it Pipe Major Keith Laird. Pipe Major Craig Meinsmith rearranged the tune and played it in the band and is on one of the CDs they produced.
Bill tends to downplay the quality of his compositions but in the end, pipers have decided they like them. This is the proof of the quality of any tune. There is a tendency for pipers to shun modern piobaireachd compositions. If they can overcome these prejudices, they will find plenty of scope for musical expression in Bill’s compositions.
The writer would like to thank Bill Robertson and Allan Speedy for their assistance in preparing this article.
Ever since the pipe band movement first came into existence in New Zealand there have been many thousands of people who have trained as pipers and drummers. A small number start at a young age and continue the love affair until the day they die.
A significant number learn their chosen instrument, in some cases becoming very proficient, and spend a relatively short time in the movement before they move on to other interests or hobbies, never to return.
Then there are those who depart the pipe band fraternity, sometimes because of the pressures of work, or sport, or other hobbies only to return in later life. Few people turn their pipe band hobby into a money-making venture and therefore their chosen line of work becomes a high priority as they endeavour to ensure their families and futures are protected. This is often achieved by long hours of study and work. Something has to give, and it is usually the hobbies that go.
We frequently see those who take on sporting activities retire from these sports in their 30s and drift back into pipe bands. Some wait until they have retired from their day job, usually in their 60s, and find they suddenly have so much spare time on their hands that they return to active participation in a pipe band.
During the writer’s 45 years in the pipe band movement, he has noted that there appears to be an increase in those returning after long absences. One such person who recently did just that is John Frater of Masterton.
John was born in Upper Hutt in 1931 to Scottish parents. His mother from Shettleston in Glasgow and father from Whitburn between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Although there are no pipers in his family, he had a love of the instrument and at 13 took lessons from the late George Wakefield. George, originally from Christchurch and was a foundation member of Comunn na Piobaireachd (NZ) Inc. He was also the Pipe Major of the Upper Hutt Pipe Band. John joined the band in 1946.
In 1952 he did his Compulsory Military Training (CMT) at Waiouru and was Pipe Major of the Waiouru Army Pipe Band during that time. He returned to Upper Hutt and the band after 3 months at Waiouru. In 1960 John left the pipe band movement completely to concentrate on his family and job.
He was apprenticed to Dunlop (NZ) Ltd as an electrician from 1949-55 and from 195561 worked as a domestic electrician for a firm called Davidson & Jones Ltd. The principals of this company were both members of the Upper Hutt Pipe Band.
John returned to Dunlop (NZ) Ltd in 1961 and from 1970-82 was their electrical overseer. Computers were in their infancy in the early 1980s, but John realised they could be used to increase company productivity and in 1982 he took the astonishing step of teaching himself computer programming. The writer has always imagined computer programming to be a young person’s field and has nothing but admiration for a man in his 50s to take on such a task. John computerised all the maintenance, payrolls and stores and was the Company’s computer man until he retired in 1991.
John has also had a life-long love of growing dahlias and has been an active member of the New Zealand Dahlia Society. He spent two-year terms as their President and he and his wife Edna have also been national judges for the Society.
Through his busy life, John never lost his love of the bagpipes and in 1995 moved to Masterton and became actively involved in teaching learners with the Wairarapa Fern and Thistle Pipe Band. He then started playing with the band and has since become their Pipe Major.
None of John’s children joined the pipe band movement but his 9-year-old grandson, Callum has become one of his star pupils. An interesting note about Callum is that he found it natural to play with the right hand on top. John was unsure of this and was advised to change him.
Callum did not seem to be able to handle this forced change and seemed to lose interest.
Fortunately, Callum has been allowed to change back and quickly regained up his enthusiasm.
Are we right to force a learner to play with the left hand on top? It seems that the only argument for it is that it conforms with the majority who play that way in the band. In 1951, the writer was forced to change from writing with his left hand to his right at primary school and has had severe difficulties determining left from right. Who knows how many pipers have had any natural talent impaired as a result of being forced into what they feel, is an unnatural method of holding the chanter.
John first started composing in 1995. Most of his compositions have come to him in the morning. He rises early, makes a cup of tea for himself and Edna and sits down with the practice chanter. Like many pipers he is an inveterate doodler, and these ideas are noted down. He has discarded many but to date has 16 complete tunes.
These tunes include most of the time signatures in pipe music and include two slow airs, Silverstream named after a suburb south of Upper Hutt and Dreamtime. This latter tune reminded the composer of Australian Aboriginal music and as dreamtime has cultural significance to that race of people, he thought the name appropriate.
There are four 2/4 marches. Callum’s New Kilt was so named when his grandson, Callum acquired a new kilt. The 40th Anniversary commemorates the 40-year anniversary of the Fern and Thistle Pipe Band. Two marches are as yet untitled. Callum’s Tune is a 4/4 march named for his grandson and is one tune that may appeal to pipe bands as a street march tune.
The 6/8 march is the most prolific time signature with five examples represented. Mrs Nancy Norman celebrates one of the long-standing piping stalwarts of the Fern and Thistle when she was honoured with Life membership. The Wairarapa region has two lakes not easy to find and are known locally as the hidden lakes and hence the tune Hidden Lakes.
The Frater Reunion is an obvious name for a tune composed at the time of the family gathering. There are two untitled marches, and one was unsuccessfully entered into a composing competition sponsored by The Pipers’ Club of the Carolinas in USA. However, another New Zealand piper Sheran Hancock was placed third. Attempts will be made to learn more about this lady and her tune.
One day the composer and his wife were crossing the Waohine River in Masterton when it was in flood and Edna commented that the water was bank to bank. John had just composed a 9/8 march and thought the name Bank to Bank very appropriate.
Knock on Wood is the name of a two parted jig that has no special significance whereas a two parted reel called the One Legged Duck has a lot of significance – especially to the duck!
It is certainly great to see some old faces returning to the pipe band scene after long absences. It is also worth the wait to hear some fine tunes to add to the piper’s repertoire.
In 18th century Scotland there were two great watersheds that had a profound influence on the way of life in the Highlands. The first of these was the Battle of Culloden and its aftermath and the second was the mass eviction of the Highlanders from their land in what is now the Highland Clearances.
After Culloden the King’s Army under the Duke of Cumberland went through the Highlands slaughtering anyone whom they thought might have been remotely involved in the Jacobite Rebellion.
The Highlanders and their way of life had, for years, been loathed by Lowlander and English alike; the opportunity was taken to effectively erode the power of the Highland Chiefs.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden the Act of Proscription was legislated and this forbad the wearing of the tartan and the carrying of arms. This brought about a major change in the way things were done in the Highlands and resulted in the second great schism in Highland Society.
Traditionally the Chief allotted land to certain Clansmen who had acquitted themselves well in the Chief’s eyes. In many cases this was for bravery during battle, however it was not unknown for pipers to be granted land. In all cases they had to pay the Chief rent for the use of this land. The occupiers farmed the land to make money to pay these rents.
Farming in 18th century Scotland was not a very productive method of earning a living and by the 1780s the Highland Chiefs became aware they could make more money by getting rid of the Clansmen and women and supplanting them with sheep. A handful of Lowland or English sheepherders could produce considerably more money than the Clansmen farmers.
From about 1785 through to about 1850 many thousands of people were forcibly evicted from the Highlands and their houses burnt. Sometimes these evictions occurred during winter, and many died. Many others took up occupation in other parts of Scotland, usually in the coastal villages and many found their way into the major cities, particularly Glasgow and Edinburgh.
A significant number were forced to flee their country and take up residence in other parts of the world. Initially America and Canada were chosen and later Australia and New Zealand. Some Highlanders had a choice of where they went but many did not.
As with any migrants to other lands these Highlanders took with them their culture and they thrived in their new lands. Their songs and musical instruments are, perhaps the most enduring of these cultural pursuits that are most familiar to people throughout the world.
In most countries these cultural elements of the Highlanders has, by and large, disappeared and all we have is what has emanated from modern day Scotland. One notable exception is Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia was one of the main recipients of the Highland influx during the late 18th and early 19thcenturies. It has been admitted by many academics and musicians that Scotland lost a whole fiddle tradition to Nova Scotia as a result of this enforced migration. Nova Scotia is probably the only place outside of the Highlands of Scotland where Gaelic is the first language many learn today.
Similarly, a piping tradition existed there that is contrary to anything that is heard around Scotland these days. In fact, in the 1950s the late Seumas MacNeill of the College of Piping was invited to Canada to conduct one of the famous Summer Schools that still flourish these days. He heard the piping styles of the locals and was aghast and insisted that they change it to that that was being performed in the competition scene in Scotland.
To the credit of these local performers, they preferred their own style and ignored the advice. Some learned people in Eastern Canada became very aware this style was well worth preserving, especially with the style enforced upon those who chose to compete in Scotland overtaking all others. Many of these pipers were recorded and archived. These recordings are available although the writer has not heard any of them.
In the early 1950s New Zealand had a style of playing that, if we believe the older pipers, was inferior (or different) to that being played in Scotland. From the late 1940s New Zealand pipers started travelling to Scotland to hear and learn what was going on there.
By the mid-1950s some of these pipers returned and passed on their newfound knowledge to pipers who had remained behind. It did not take very long before all competing pipers were playing in the same style as that brought back from Scotland. Whether New Zealand had developed an inferior method of playing the bagpipe or had developed its own unique style in isolation is a moot point as there does not appear to be many recordings of individuals that have survived.
Highland Dancing in New Zealand appears to have also had its own individual style. There are many proponents of this style who firmly believe that we have inherited this style from traditional dancers who migrated to New Zealand in the 19th and early 20thcenturies. Others have the opposite opinion and believe that as Scotland was the home of Highland Dancing what they danced there must be the true traditional style.
The writer does no pretend to have any knowledge of dancing or its history as far as the competitive scene is concerned. However, he is aware that in one aspect Highland Dancing is no longer traditional; this may be summed up by a well-used comment that it is a pursuit where girls dress up as men to perform men’s dances. We all know that in its traditional sense the kilt was always worn by men and never women. Likewise, Highland Dancing was traditionally performed exclusively by men.
All this leads to a man who stuck firmly to the piping style he was taught; he also had very strong ideas as to how Highland Dancing should be performed. In both of these his views were contrary to those adopted by other dancers and pipers in the competing scene in New Zealand.
Bruce William McCann was born in Tisbury, Southland in 1909 and spent the first 20 years of his life there. At the age of 12 he started learning the pipes, but we do not know who his teacher was. After a couple of years, he received full time lessons from the late Cuthbert (Cuth) Selby; these lessons were to continue until he left Tisbury in 1928 or 29.
It is assumed that Cuth taught Bruce Ceol Mor, but Bruce was later to credit Johnnie MacKenzie as his main teacher in that art form.
In his teens, Bruce served his apprenticeship with the New Zealand Railways as an engineering blacksmith. His employer eventually transferred him to the Woburn workshops in Lower Hutt and it was here that Bruce was to live for the remainder of his life.
In the mid-1950s Bruce transferred to the Otahuhu workshops as Foreman although he commuted frequently to his home in Lower Hutt. He was tasked with sorting out some of the industrial problems that were rife at the time and to try to improve productivity. In this he was successful. He later transferred back to Lower Hutt and in 1963, after 40 years with the NZR, he retired.
Throughout his adult life Bruce taught many pipers and arguably the best was Donald Sargent of Woodville. He was also instrumental in forming the Hutt Valley Pipe Band and was its Pipe Major for many years.
We don’t know when Bruce first started composing but his oldest known tune is a waltz called Donald Rae’s Farewell which was composed in 1925. Bruce would have been only 16 years old.
Three tunes, Piper C. C. Selby’s March, Kenneth Cameron’s Welcome to Invercargill and The Dunedin Highland Gathering 1928 were published in the New Zealand Scotsman in 1931.
Donald Sargent, in his Muckle Dram Collection has a strathspey called The Middle Drawer. This tune was dedicated to Bruce’s wife Winnie and tells of a drawer in the McCann household that was sacrosanct, and no one opened it. After his death it was found to contain a superb collection of old pipe tunes – many of them composed by Bruce. These fell into the hands of Bruce’ only son Ewen, and in late 2005, Ewen and his wife Valda published all of Bruce’s known compositions in one collection. This is called Bruce McCann’s Pipe Tunes.
This collection has sixteen 2/4 marches, six 6/8 marches five strathspeys, six reels, ten slow airs, three waltzes, five hornpipes and three jigs. Thirteen of the tunes are either traditional tunes or other piper’s compositions to which Bruce has added extra parts.
Bruce was known for his love of the 2/4 march, and it is perhaps not surprising that this time signature predominates in this book. Many of these marches have good melodic lines and are well worth playing. The Hills Around the Valley is one good example.
When one considers that Bruce was composing tunes at a time when the Quickstep and its 6/8 marches dominated the Pipe Band repertoire, it is surprising that this time signature does not feature more often. However, it is here that Bruce is at his best and two very good tunes are The Hutt Valley Pipe Band March and William Sutherland, Highland Dancer.
Ewen points out that Willie Sutherland had an influence on Bruce’s composing style, especially in the strathspeys. The three dance time signatures, strathspeys, reels and jigs do not feature strongly in the book; the majority are existing tunes to which Bruce has added extra parts. However, one of the best of Bruce’s compositions comes in the form of the six parted Ewen’s Reel that was composed for his 21st in 1959.
In the writer’s opinion, the best tune in the book is another six parted tune, this time a hornpipe called Midshipmite. This name is a merchant naval rank and comes from the frequent visits Bruce had from Scottish seamen who came round to hear a few tunes.
This book is another in the growing list of publications of New Zealand compositions and will sit well alongside The Muckle Dram Collection, The Kiwi Collection by Roger Gill, Lewis Turrell’s Collection, The New Zealand Collection by A. T. Cameron and Once in a Lifetime by Bruce Clark.
An interesting note is made by Ewen in Bruce McCann’s Pipe Tunes on the connection between Cuth Selby, Bruce McCann and Donald Sargent. All were very good composers and were linked by pupil/teacher relationships.
It is perhaps appropriate for the writer add a few of his own comments about Bruce. Bruce and Winnie were frequent visitors at many of the bagpipe competitions in the lower North Island throughout the 1970s.
Bruce could best be described as an irascible old man who held very strong opinions on many things to do with piping and dancing. On the other hand he was very friendly and helpful to this young struggling piper. On many occasions he assisted in getting the pipes and chanter in tune.
On one occasion a group of pipers were discussing Bruce’s piping prowess and the late Alan McPhee suggested that his fellow competitors in earlier years considered him a good player, but he was prone to over embellishing his tunes with extra notes and gracenotes. Whereas most competing pipers in the 1950s had adapted to the new style imported from Scotland or left the competing scene, Bruce apparently stayed loyal to the style he was taught in Southland many years before.
In 1978 Bruce, now in his late 60s, decided to compete again and this gave many people their first opportunity to hear him play. The writer listened intently and found that Bruce was still persisting with his older style. This competitive urge continued for a year or two and then he went into piping retirement.
If one studies the tunes in Bruce McCann’s Pipe Tunes it is easy to spot the idiosyncratic style that runs through some of the tunes. Ewen and Valda have transposed the tunes exactly from the original manuscripts. In some cases, they have had three of four versions to work from as Bruce changed things over the years. Where Bruce used the old-fashioned method of writing grips and taorluaths, that is how they appear in the book.
In a small number of his earlier tunes Bruce has included what appears to be extra notes in some of the note groups. The compilers have taken great care that they add up musically, but pipers may be dismayed when they try to play them; it may be perceived that they don’t ‘fit’.
However, the writer suggests that one should not be too hasty; with a little imagination it is possible to see that what Bruce has intended is a doubling, but he has made one of the notes a theme note. If the movement is played as a doubling it all fits perfectly.
Another anachronism is the addition of an extra note in some of the four note groups. The writer believes that the modern-day format for what Bruce has written would be a tripling. If a piper were to persevere with these tunes it will not be too difficult to render them as a modern player would expect to hear them.
Bruce and Winnie, in the late 1940s and early 1950s were actively involved in the Dancing as well as Piping scene. They were friendly with the late Willie Sutherland who had migrated to New Zealand in 1926 from Scotland where he had a record second to none as a Highland Dancer.
Willie danced throughout New Zealand with considerable success. When the Dancing Academy was set up in the late 1940s Bruce was dismayed that Willie’s dancing style was overlooked in favour of the style that many in New Zealand believed was traditional. Bruce felt that many people had done dancing in New Zealand a disservice and never forgave them. The writer can recall his invective towards some of these people but until recently was not aware of the reason behind it.
If the reader wishes to read one account of these times from a person who was dancing at the time it is suggested they read William Sutherland of Thurso and Aberdeen; Highland Dancer by Ewen McCann, published privately in late 2005. This gives one side of what is a very thorny issue in New Zealand.
In his later years Bruce suffered ill health and died in 1983. However, during his lifetime he added significantly to piping in New Zealand. Those who had the pleasure of knowing him will vouch for that. The book Bruce McCann’s Pipe Tunes certainly adds to Bruce’s piping reputation.
The writer would like to acknowledge the assistance he received from Ewen and Valda McCann and Donald Sargent in preparing this article.
The Budge family, originally from the Orkney Islands, migrated to Otago in the 1870s after having spent some time in Caithness in Scotland. Jack Budge Snr was born in Dunedin in 1876 and learned the pipes at a young age. His youngest son William (Bill), born in Dunedin 1907, loved hearing his father playing the pipes and at the age of 12 started getting lessons from the notable Dunedin player and teacher, Angus MacMillan.
By the age of 16 Bill was playing in A Grade and many who heard him acknowledged he was well taught, had a great set of fingers and very good musical interpretation. There was no surprise when he won many South Island, North Island and New Zealand Championships. Bill also involved himself in the pipe band scene and joined the Dunedin Highland Pipe Band (now the City of Dunedin) and quickly became their pipe major. Other members of the Budge family were also involved in the Scottish arts and one of the most notable was his sister Lorna who achieved national success as a Highland dancer.
In his teens Bill served his apprenticeship as a bricklayer and plied this trade for the rest of his life. In 1931 he married Flora (Flo) McDonald and soon after they moved to Mataura in Southland where Bill, using his bricklaying skills, built a new house. Their stay in Mataura was short-lived and by 1935 they moved back to Dunedin where their first child, John Alexander Raymond (Jack) Budge was born on 14 October 1935.
In about 1937 Bill was invited to move to Wanganui and take over the Wanganui Caledonian Society Pipe Band but a couple of years later was on the move again, this time to Napier where he was to spend the rest of his life. It was there on 17 October 1940 that their second and last child, Wendy Kathleen Budge, was born. Bill was quickly into the pipe band scene and over the next 30 years was involved with the Port Ahuriri (Napier) Caledonian Society Pipe Band, Hawkes Bay Scottish Pipe Band and then City of Napier Pipe Band.
Composing came early and although it is not known exactly how many tunes, he composed it is believed there were dozens. He also arranged and added new parts to existing tunes. On one occasion in the 1950s Bill was competing in a strathspey and reel competition and the reel he played was The Sheepwife to which he had added a number of extra parts. He proceeded to play them all after about the 8th or 10thpart the judge waved him to stop playing and then said, ‘I’ve heard enough – you have got first prize!’.
Most of Bill’s compositions are in the hands of others but between the composer’s son Jack and the writer five are known. One tune, Roy Kerr, is a beautiful melodic 6/8 march named after a drill instructor and friend from the Dunedin Highland Pipe Band. There are at least two versions of this tune and it is evident it went through a refining process. The copy provided by Jack is considered to be the better of the two and is reproduced here. The other version is called Major Roy Kerr’s Welcome to Napier 1953.
Another delightful melody is the hornpipe HMS Achilles named after the Leanderclass light cruiser built for the Royal Navy but in 1937 was lent to the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy. More than half of the crew were New Zealanders and along with two other Allied ships, Ajax and Exeter, in December 1939 took on and defeated the German ship Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate.i In 1941 when the Royal New Zealand Navy was formed the ship had a name change to HMNZS Achilles and therefore this tune can be dated between December 1939 and September 1941.
There are three tunes named after this ship, this one by Bill Budge, one by Donald Sargent of Ashhurst and another by the late Bruce McCann of Lower Hutt. Apparently, none of the composers knew the others had composed their tunes.
Drum Major J Nairn’s Farewell is a pleasant almost polka-like 2/4 march. It is not known who he was or from where he was being farewelled. Jack Budge comments ‘Dad said it was his composition and I never heard anyone else query the fact’. Another 2/4 march The Black Watch’s Welcome to Napier, New Zealand 1951 commemorates the visit of the Black Watch band.
Those who were around in 1963 will remember the murder of two policemen in the Waitakere Ranges, West Auckland whilst on duty. Detective Inspector Wallace Chalmers and Detective Sergeant Neville Power attended a shooting on 6 January 1963 and they too were shot by the offender.
Wally Chalmers was well known in the piping world as he was a past pipe major of the Auckland Police Pipe Band. Wally had been taught by Bill who was so moved by the incident that he composed a most haunting slow air called Pipe Major Wally Chalmers.
A year later in January 1964 a memorial service was held at the Purewa cemetery and Jack Terry played this tune to mark the occasion. The following appeared in a local newspaper the following day:
Bill was actively involved in piping up until his death in September 1970 and the following obituary appeared in Manawatu Evening Standard:
There are many amusing stories in the pipe band world and one that has been doing the rounds for many decades concerns an incident that occurred at the New Zealand Pipe Band Championships in Timaru 1952.
The Dannevirke and Districts Pipe Band under the able leadership of Donald Sargent were playing in the B Grade and in those days the championship points were awarded for the Quickstep and Test Selection. There were rules that were designed to keep the playing field level as far as the numbers of players who could be played in each event. The rule in question specified that the same personnel had to play in each event and was intended to prevent bringing in different people for the two championship events.
Donald Sargent, who always tried to stay within the rules, played 12 pipers in the Test Selection and decided to play 10 in the Quickstep as he believed that by dropping two out he was still playing the same personal – in other words he did not bring in a new player. The band went on to win the Championships, but later Bill Budge protested that they had broken the rules. At the hearing later that evening Bill’s protest was upheld, and D & D had points deducted that effectively put them last.
Not unnaturally, Donald Sargent was just a little unhappy with the protest and composed a 6/8 march and named it Fudge in a Basket which playfully describes Donald’s feelings at the time. However, as time went by all was forgiven particularly when they occasionally met in the bar.
Bill’s son Jack was also a piper and was taught by ‘Star’ Webster of Napier at about the age of 10. By his own admission he was not as good a player as his father however, there are those who heard him play believe he is hiding his light under a bushel and he was a fine player. Jack was into sport more than piping and in his younger days represented Hawkes Bay in cricket and soccer.
However, Jack kept up his piping and played in the Port Ahuriri, Hawkes Bay Scottish, City of Hastings and City of Napier Pipe Bands. He occasionally competed in solo competitions and when he did was more often than not in the prize list. On a visit to Scotland in 1977 he competed at the Cowal Games and got third in the strathspeys and reels.
Whilst working at the Port of Napier Jack met up with a number of visiting Scottish musicians and one in particular was Iain (John) Peterson. Iain was a captain of a phosphate ship that regularly visited Napier and the two became good friends. He was a fiddle player who learned the pipes as an adult but had a love of Scottish music and in 1975 and 1978 published two collections of Bagpipe music and then in the 1980s and 90s published a further 12 books of bagpipe and fiddle music.
These days Jack enjoys playing the Lowland bagpipe and in particular playing tunes composed by his father, Iain Peterson and other modern composer. As recently as two years ago, at the age of 75, he recorded a number of such tunes played by him on the Lowland bagpipe, tin whistle and electric bagpipes. Some of the tunes are quite delightful but the surprise is the quality of the playing. If he is that good at 75 one can only wonder how much better, he was as a younger man!
Jack has not composed many tunes, probably less than a dozen or so, and those that he has are in his head as he rarely writes them down. Jack was surprised when the writer found a copy of a 2/4, he had composed called Pipe Sergeant R Erickson 42nd Black Watch. Dick Erickson was a member of the Black Watch Military Band that toured New Zealand in the 1960s and was billeted with Bill Budge whilst at Napier.
None of Jack’s children or grand children have taken up piping which is a pity because if they were as talented as Bill and Jack the piping world would be all the better for it.
Thanks, are expressed to Jack Budge, Barry Brougham of Papakura, Donald Sargent of Ashhurst and Jack Terry of Auckland for their assistance in preparing this article.
Roy Gunn’s family hail from Caithness in Northern Scotland; his father George, was an electrical engineer and in 1924 moved to Nelson, Vancouver. 1926 saw the whole family on the move to New Zealand, first living briefly in Auckland before moving to Wellington.
Roy was born there in 1930 and was brought up in a musical household. His father was an accomplished violinist with a large repertoire of tunes and songs from his native Scotland. His mother was a first-class singer and also had a number of Gaelic and Scottish songs she could call upon.
Roy’s sister Sandy Averi was a violinist and played with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for many years; many were the occasions during the 1970s and 80s when she entertained at Scottish gatherings. Sandy’s rendition of the Scott Skinner march The MacKenzie Highlanders delighted the writer on many occasions.
This musical heritage has continued into the next generation with Roy’s son Rory becoming a piper. His nephew Cameron Bennett makes time away from his busy schedule as a TV journalist to take his guitar along to folk music groups. Cameron’s sister, Elisabeth, although now living in Australia, is well known amongst the Auckland folkies as an expert performer on the clarsach.
When he was 5 years old Roy started on the pipes, getting lessons from the Angus Graham who came from the Island of Lewis. Roy had an unfortunate start to his piping career when it was discovered that the blowing of the pipes was causing excessive expansion of his chest.
He was forced to stop playing for two years and was 7 before he was able to get back into it. He resumed his lessons with Angus but two years later Angus moved out of Wellington. The Second World War had broken out and finding a new teacher was not easy. He was indeed lucky that Alan Guild (even today recognised as one of the best New Zealand teachers) was serving with the New Zealand Police in Wellington.
Roy was able to get lessons from the great man right up to the early 1950s. In 1944 he joined the Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion Wellington Regiment and was to stay with them until 1950.
In 1951 he played with the newly formed City of Wellington Pipe Band when they competed at Christchurch. The following year he played with them at the Timaru contest.
Roy served his apprenticeship as an electrician with the New Zealand Post and Telegraph and in 1952 joint the Union Steam Ship Company as an electrical engineer. Two years later he left and joined the Blue Star Line as a marine engineer.
In 1955 Roy was in UK and was able to spend some months in Scotland and had lessons from the well-known Donald Macleod. During his time in Scotland, he competed around the games and was frequently in the prize lists.
Roy returned to New Zealand in late 1955 and took a shore job and this frequently took him away from home. Although on the periphery of piping he did not play seriously for over a decade.
It was in 1967 when his teacher from Scotland toured New Zealand that Roy rekindled his interest and in 1969 got back into piping seriously. He admits it was a lot more difficult than he thought it would be but was soon back competing.
Roy became a popular President of the Wellington Pipers’ Club in 1972 and it was there in April 1973 that the writer first met him. This meeting started a friendship that has continued to this day.
The early 1970s saw the revival of the Wellington Police Pipe Band under the musical direction of the late Colin Addison. Colin and Roy had been friends for years and in 1973 Roy was invited to join the band.
Roy had an immediate influence on the playing standard but his contribution to the social activities within the band will live in the memories of many. His stories and anecdotes, sense of humour, sharp wit, and endless repertoire of songs ensured that the band gatherings were highly pleasurable occasions.
In the late 1960s Roy started his own plastics manufacturing business and this took him around New Zealand and overseas. He was indeed fortunate to be able to use these trips to take his piping to Scotland and compete in the two premier piping events at Oban and Inverness.
The first time he competed was 1974 and then from 1979 through to 1990 was able to go every year. He was placed 2nd in the Silver Medal at Inverness in 1979 and was then eligible to play in the Gold Medal events at both Inverness and Oban. He got 4th at Inverness on one occasion.
During the 1990s Roy settled up most of his affairs in New Zealand and in 1996 moved to Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia where he has lived ever since.
Composing came to Roy early, but he was his own best critic and few of these attempts survive. Roy has always been concerned about plagiarism and if his tunes resembled, even slightly, any existing tune he would discard it.
Since his return to piping in the 1960s the composing bug has returned and there have been a number of successful tunes. In the late 1980s a piobaireachd composing competition was conducted as part of the City of Glasgow celebrations. Although his tune was not placed in the top three it certainly has musical merit.
There have been a number of small music tunes that have passed Roy’s own stern standards, and some have been published. In 1986 Donald Morrison from Scotland visited New Zealand and Roy composed a first-class slow air called Donald Morrison’s Farewell to New Zealand (1986). It is published in The Highland Bagpipe by Donald Morrison 1988.
During Roy’s many trips to Scotland he made a number of long-lasting friendships and one of these was Ackie Campbell of Bochroy. In 1989 a 6/8 came to him and was named Ackie Campbell of Bochroy. It was published in the Piping Times January 1992.
In 2001 Scotch College in Melbourne, Australia celebrated their Sesquicentennial and invited compositions worldwide. Twenty-two tunes were submitted, and Roy’s tune was selected by five of the six judges for the first prize. This tune is called Scotch College’s Sesquicentenary (sic) March – Melbourne, 2001. The tune was played by the Massed Band as part of the celebrations.
Roy has a number of tunes yet to be published but there is no doubt that if they are of the quality of some of those above, they will be quickly adopted and played.
Roy has three children, Rory, Kirsty and Merrin. Kirsty has won international fame as a short story writer and novelist. She has three novels published thus far, Rain(which has been made into a movie of the same name), The Keepsake and Featherstone. The Gunn family are an extremely talented lot.
This story would be incomplete unless some come comment was made of Roy’s generosity and bonhomie. Perhaps the best way is to cite two tunes that were composed about two memorable occasions.
In 1983 Robert Wallace, the editor of the Piping Times magazine in Scotland, spent time in New Zealand on holiday. He spent the New Year’s eve celebrations at Roy’s holiday batch at Kurutau, near Taupo. Rob has commented that it was the best New Year party he had ever been to. Stuart Finlayson composed a fine retreat called Wallace’s Farewell to Kurutau in memory of the occasion.
The second was composed by Donald Morrison in 1986; during his trip to New Zealand, Donald stayed with Roy and the festivities were such that Donald was moved to compose a tune. This four parted 2/4 march is published in The Highland Bagpipe and is called Roy Gunn’s Welcome.
Those of us who have had the pleasure of a Roy Gunn Welcome will understand the sentiment expressed in both of these tunes. There may have been other tunes that perhaps suffered from excess of spirit rather than the lack of it.
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