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Caledonian Pipe Band

The Caledonian Pipe Band was formed prior to the First World War by members of the 317 Camperdown Masonic Lodge Pipe members by very little is presently known of them. I personally seem to remember seeing their old uniforms in a trunk in Dudhope Castle, and the tartan was MacDuff..................Can you help?

The last Pipe Major was Ian Laird who stood down when the two bands amalgamated. At the time of amalgamation, it was quite a delicate situation regarding leadership, but Ian Laird overcame this by saying that he "would be proud to play under the leadership of the MacKenzie pipe major, James Grimmond".

The Mackenzie Pipe Band

     Pipe Major James Mackenzie founded the Mackenzie in 1918 when he returned from war service with the Canadian Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders. The membership was made up of ex-service men who took the insignia of the Sutherland Highlanders as their own.

Check out the Dundee Piping Society page for a photo of James Mackenzie.

     The Band wore the Mackenzie tartan kilts and small plaids with tartan hose and buckled shoes. They also wore horsehair sporrans dress jackets, waistcoats and high collar shirts. In the earliest years, they wore black balmorals with Black Cock feathers.

     There has always been a strong Piping tradition in the band, which has also provided the Branch with many solo Piping winners. This strength was also evident by the number of former Pipers who moved on to become Pipe Majors with other bands.

    In the 1920's, Edward, Prince of Wales, visited the city for the opening of the Seaforth Club. The Prince complimented Pipe Major Mackenzie on the band turnout and performance.

     The band has frequently been in attendance and many of the special events of the city and even played at the opening of the Caird Hall, and Tullideph Priory

During the early year, the Mackenzie competed locally, mainly in the northeast, but with the formation of the S.P.B.A. (Now the R.S.P.B.A.), and improved transport etc., they attended with others further afield. They fared just as well in the new Grade 1 and Grade 2 all over the country.

The history of Pipe Majors would read as follows: -

James Mackenzie (Founder 1918-25)

Harry Rattray (1925-33)

James Merchant (1933-38)

Adam Fleming (Born in Glasgow, Adam came to the MacKenzie Pipe Band after 15 years with the City of Dundee Prize Pipe Band. He was highly regarded for his coaching and tuition, and remained with the MacKenzie for almost 20 years. During the second world war he saw service with the R.A.M.C. (T) and was taken prisoner at St Valerie in France.

    One of his sons, Angus was a serving Piper with the Scots Guards whilst another, Alexander, was a Bass drummer with the MacKenzie. When Adam retired from the band, his successor was James Grimmond who had received his advanced training from Adam. Even in recent years, his style is repeated by band members, because of the legacy left to Jim Grimmond, who in turn kept it going.

2nd April 1958..........Amalgamation with the Caledonian Pipe Band to form:

The MacKenzie Caledonian Pipe Band

Mackenzie Caledonian Pipe Majors from 1958:

James Grimmond

William Barrie

Willie Dickson

James Grimmond

Ian McRobbie

James Bain

Ian McRobbie

Alan Low

Neil Nicholson (Present)

The following early photograph of the Mackenzie Pipe Band was taken shortly before it's amalgamation with the Caledonian on 2nd April 1958. Hence the new identity of Mackenzie and Caledonian..

One point of interest is the Dirk being carried by the Pipe Major is a Masonic design and would be traced back to the Camperdown Masonic Band, figured elsewhere here.

My own guess work at identities would suggest that the middle drummer is Alex Phinn, but I am now advised by George Black junior that the leading drummer is his late father, a well respected drumming judge. The piper second from the right is David Palmer. The piper nearest the camera in the second rank could be Willie Dickson.

I seem to remember that David Palmer and Willie Dickson were Caledonian and Mackenzie pipers.

But who, for sure are the rest?

MacKenzie Caledonian Pipe Band 1967

(From Left)P/M Willie Barrie, L/D Jimmy Mills, Ian Murray, David Stewart, Jim Murray, Alistair Thom, Robert Mathews, Jim Walker, Pres. David Wallace, Bill Duff, James Francy, Derek Henderson, Alex. Phinn, Gordon Rogers, David Palmer, David Lyall, Willie Dickson.

   This photograph was taken outside their practice hall at Dudhope Castle, Dundee, to mark the end of two successful years in competition. The trophies you see are on the Bass, 1st Prize at the World's Championship at Oban (Grade 2). In front from the left...Markinch, 2nd British Championship Renfrew, Kerr Shield (Dundee Branch Champions), 3rd Scottish Championships (Edinburgh), 2nd European Championship (Shotts)

     The previous years result were along the same lines with the attendance at the World Championships in Inverness resulting in 2nd place behind Monktonhall Colliery.

     In 1962, the band made a brief sojourn into Grade One and enjoyed some brief success, even there. Unfortunately, the signalled the departure of a number of members through emigration the USA and Australia. I well remember the departure of Leading Drummer Ralph Milne to Boston, followed shortly by Piper Louis Martin. In later years they returned on a visit with the Worcisester Kiltie's, to compete in the World Championship in Perth.

     In 1966, the band finally changed from wearing the MacKenzie Tartan to the Ancient MacKenzie Tartan and this signalled another major upturn in fortunes. In the years that followed, the band went on to win many major prizes in Grade two, but more importantly, they started the Juvenile Piping Class in Dudhope Castle under Gordon Rogers (me). The first members of this group were George Getty, Ian Irons, Graeme Auld and others I now forget. The Junior section later went on to become the highly successful Novice Juvenile and Juvenile Pipe Bands and recorded many successes in all the major championships with regularity.

     After winning the World Championships (Grade Two) in 1967, !968 saw the band take a tour of Sweden where they really took a trick during the "Samling 68" activities.

     In recent times the band has slipped from view somewhat, but it is still in existence and forever looking for new blood to restore them to stronger levels once more. In fact at a very recent parade, Jimmy Mills was seem to be helping out in the drum corps. Now here is a man with true loyalties to a band which trained and groomed him.

     During the 1980's the band saw a dramatic, but necessary change. In the search for financial assistance, they were approached by the City Fathers of Dundee (Toon Cooncil) who suggested that they accept some much needed cash in exchange for renaming the band "The City of Dundee". This was done, and worked for a while, but was not to last the test of time and they are again called MacKenzie Caledonian and in need of support.

     Notable members are too many to mention in depth, but just look at the names under the photos and you will see that they formed the back-bone, with others, of local piping. Even today when you speak amongst Pipers, it is quite amazing how many say. "I was in the Band too you know"

Can you tell us any more about these Pipers?

Here we have the MacKenzie Caledonian playing in Dundee City Square. 2004

     It was with great sadness that I have to inform our readers of the passing of Pipe Major James Grimmond on 4th April 2007.

     Jim was born and bred in Dundee and attended Harris Academy and thereafter served his time as an electrical engineer. Latterly he worked as a manager with NEC.

Whilst a member of the 33rd Dundee Boys Brigade, Jim took pride in learning to play the bagpipes and when age made him too old for the B.B. the natural move was into one of the local competing private band. In 1948 Jim's choice was to become a member of the Mackenzie Pipe Band.

     Having been taught in the Mackenzie by Adam Fleming, one of the pipers who helped to form a strong piping style and tradition in Dundee, it was a natural progression, in 1958, for Jim to become Adam Fleming's successor. When the MacKenzie amalgamated with the Caledonian Pipe Band in 1958 he became their first Pipe Major.

     In his years as Pipe Major, Jim restructured the band into a good performing unit, but he always had a thought towards teaching those coming through. It is with pride that I count myself as one of the lucky pupils he spent time and effort over.

     Jim's style of tuition was never loud or quick to rebuke. I well remember times in Dudhope Castle when a practice or competition set was far from perfect and he'd simply and quietly say, "No. Something needs to be sorted there. Lets do it again"

     We knew it was wrong and had to sort it out, and did. To shout the odds would certainly have made it worse, by compounding the mistakes. Jim rebuilt the band with help from Willie Barrie and Willie Dickson and in 1966 the Band were placed second in the World Championships in Bucht Park, Inverness. Just as we were starting to get the results, pressure of work took Jim away to Edinburgh where he joined the Woolmet & Monktonhall Colliery Pipe Band who were the winners at Inverness. Soon after he joined this highly skilled outfit they changed their names to Musselburgh British Legion as they entered Grade One.

     Jim's stay in Musselburgh was short; as he was transferred to London, but it was with great pride that we saw Jim take his place in the band again in 1967 when the band won the Grade 2 World Championships at Oban.

     Jim travelled many miles that year and played a leading role, with Willie Barrie, in securing:

1966 Inverness, World Championships 2nd

1967 Renfrew, British Championship 2nd

1967 Oban, World's Championships 1st

1967 Edinburgh, Scottish Championships 3rd

1967 Shotts, European Championships 2nd

     Within a couple of years, Jim was back in Dundee full time and working in the Band as usual, but this time he was just in time to take a real hand in the formation of the Juvenile section.

In his time, he was to be Pipe Major for a total of 40 years, guide the band to numerous prizes, positively affect the piping careers of numerous pipers, take a hand in the tuition of prizewinning Bands and soloists as well as securing the formation of one of this country's most highly successful Juvenile and Novice Juvenile Pipe Bands. This juvenile unit went on to win countless prizes in the 1970's at the highest level and include multiples of all of the major Championships as well as Champions of Champions.

     In between times, Jim was winning prizes himself and still took pride in his own ability to simply win the Branch Solo Championship at will.

     After his playing days were over, Jim remained with the band to become their long running Band President.

     Jim is survived by his wife Ruby (a dab hand at the "moothie"), Children Joyce, Jimmy and Jennifer, as well as five grand children.

Thanks Jim!

This is the earliest photograph I have seen on the Mackenzie Pipe Band when they formed in 1918.

Original held by D. C Thomson, Dundee

I believe that the photo was taken on the steps of Morgan Academy, Dundee

MacKenzie Caledonian Pipe Band in 2014


    This marks one hundred years since the band formed as “The MacKenzie Pipe Band” as you will have red earlier in this section.

    To mark this occasion in the life of the band, the members are putting on a special two night celebration in the Gardyne Theatre for two nights in February.

    Now is your chance to get along to the show as it promises not only a Pipe Band performance, but also choirs, solo performers and groups from the folk music world.

    If this is half as successful as their top show in 2015, it will prove to be too good to miss.

    Get along to Gardyne Booking Office, Dundee, or drop in to the MacKenzie Caledonian Pipe Band web site.