PM Bill Robertson 1932-2020 / NZ returns to live competitions

PM Bill Robertson.
Bill Robertson

This post has been updated with a recording of Captain John MacLellan.

We were saddened to hear of the passing yesterday of Pipe Major Bill Robertson formerly of The Royal Scots from 1956-1958. William Anderson Robertson was born in 1932 and began his piping, aged 11, with his local Boys’ Brigade company in St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland. Bill gained the Pipe Majors’ Certificate at Edinburgh Castle which was at that time under the direction of Pipe Major Willie Ross MBE. By 1959, much of Bill’s time in the Army was spent abroad and he had a strong desire to settle down. He left the Army and moved to New Zealand. He was for a while the Pipe Major of Auckland and District Highland Pipe Band. He taught countless pipers there. He taught the youngsters of Hamilton Caledonian Society’s Pipe Band and took it from Grade 2 to Grade 1.

He was also for a while the Pipe Major of Auckland and District Pipe Band and when the band changed its name, through sponsorship, to the Pipes and Drums of Innes Tartan, it continued to be successful. The band travelled to Scotland in 1972 to compete in the Scottish Pipe Band Championships and came seventh.

The Pipes and Drums of The Royal Scots in Korea in 1953. Bill – ‘Robbie’ – Robertson is in the front rank, second from the left. The Pipe Major at the time was Hugh Fraser who had just taken over from Willie Denholm.

Bill retired from the band in the 1980s. He competed in solo piping competitions only occasionally. He won the Comunn Na Piobaireachd New Zealand Gold Medal in 1962 and the Australian Open March, Strathspey and Reel competition held in Sydney in 1967. He composed a piobaireachd called Lament for Pipe Major Hugh Fraser which was placed third equal in the BBC composing competition of 1965 The tune can be found in the Piobaireachd Sociey’s Collection of Ceòl Mòr Composed During the Twentieth Century 1930-1980.

* We are grateful to Colin MacLellan for sending us a recording of his father, Captain John MacLellan, playing this tune:

Still in New Zealand, the Wellington Pipers’ Club is to hold annual solo piping competitions physically, in person, and in front of an audience. The Club’s 68th annual Brown Cup light music and Everest Memorial Piobaireachd solo piping competitions – and the New Zealand Solo Drumming Championships – will take place at the Scots College in Wellington on September 26th.

These will be the first competitions for months anywhere in the world to be held in person and in front of an audience.

New Zealand has handled the coronavirus superbly. Despite the country having only six cases at the time, its government implemented a strict lockdown on March 25. This included mandatory quarantines for all visitors.

Restrictions have now been all but eased in the country.

The Highland Society of Canterbury has also indicated it will hold physical competitions this winter.