A tribute to Alistair G Hanning (1962-2024)


Alistair G Hanning was born on 17 March, 1962, in Wellington, New Zealand into the famous Hanning piping family. After a long hard-fought battle with cancer Alistair passed on 9 April, 2024, aged 62.

Taught by his father, Oban Gold medallist John, he showed prodigious talent from an early age and was playing and winning prizes in open competition from the age of 16. His talent further evidenced by the one and only time he competed solo in Scotland in 1980 while participating in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo; he was awarded 2nd Prize in the open March at Oban at age 18 in a field of the world’s top 50 pipers.

Work, family and pipe band commitments prevented further opportunities to compete solo overseas however he did manage to travel to Ontario in 1989 winning the Canadian Solo Championships held at Cambridge.

•Alistair G Hanning

He was the dominant New Zealand solo piper of his generation and his list of achievements included 8-time winner of the Wellington Pipers Club Brown Cup, the Comunn Na Piobaireachd Gold Medal in 1983, the inaugural and multiple winner of the Colin Craig Claidhmor, The Silver Chanter at Christchurch together with multiple New Zealand Championships.

A highly sort after judge of both solo and pipe bands he was also a composer with over 20 tunes published, the most well-known being Wellington Police Pipers in Australia, which celebrated the bands win in the 1988 Grade 1 Australian Pipe Band Championships. The Australian Pipe Championships in those days included a “quickstep” where the drill points were also part of the championship aggregate, along with the standard music points for ensemble, drums, piping. The bands drill points were last, and it was near the bottom of the ensemble and drumming aggregate however its piping points were of such a large margin that the band carried the day. Simon Fraser University Pipe Band have played this tune as their opening medley tune at a World Championships.

He is the subject of the jig Alistair Hanning composed by his great friend Michael Grey.

His pipe band experiences started at Scot’s College where he went on to be Pipe Major while playing in the NZ Champion Grade 1 City of Wellington Pipe Band. In 1981 he became Pipe Sergeant under Frank MacKinnon and then Lewis Turrell. He went on to follow his father and brother to the Wellington Police Pipe Band (subsequently the New Zealand Police Pipe Band) and became Musical Director and Pipe Major winning the NZ Grade 1 Championships six times and taking the band to Scotland on multiple occasions. He was awarded a commendation from the NZ Commissioner of Police for Leadership, Professionalism and service to the New Zealand Police Pipe Band.  In 2018 he was able to enjoy a unique piece of pipe band history when he  come out of retirement to play one further time with the NZ Police Pipe Band at the World Championships enabling the band to compete with all of its previous four Pipe Majors in the ranks (Craig Watson, Alistair Hanning, Graeme Bisland, Iain Robertson) together with then current Pipe Major Emmett Conway.

A celebration of Alistair’s life will be held at St John Church, 170 Willis Street, Wellington on Saturday, 13 April at 2.00pm.  Stuart Easton will commence the gathering call of the pipes at 1.45pm.