News Item

KES Old Boy Drum Major Strickland reminisces of the Pipe Band of old!


A few notes on the KES School Pipe Band – 1952 to 1957

I was a ‘drummer boy’ until my Matric year when I became Drum-Major, and was privileged to lead the band in what I think was its biggest and best year ever. 1957. I salute those who were with me in the Band for the Journey we enjoyed. Thank you.
The School’s affiliation to the Transvaal Scottish with their wonderful Prize-winning Band offered no assistance whatsoever. Our uniforms were ‘hand-me-downs’, with ill fitting kilts and tunics, broken sporrans, hose and spats all needing darning, buttons or dry cleaning. No attempt to upgrade or replace uniforms was forth coming. We were left to ‘get on with it’.

Our side-drums were the old fashioned type with ropes and were braced for use with leather frogs. They seemed like Tom-toms next to the new nylon-screw tension drums used by senior and other school bugle-bands. The drum settings were also ‘hand-downs’ which we ‘modified’ here and there.
Back in 1955 it became apparent that unless we (the Students) did something about it, with the Matrics about to leave School, we (who were in the Band), would have no Pipers. I had met a Scottish gentleman who was helping me with my hobby of philately, and he could play the pipes. I introduced my school friend John farmer to him, and John started to learn to play the pipes, and soon had gathered several students keen to learn to play, and Mr. Mac Burnie became our (unpaid) band master.

But, now we had the makings of a band to take into the future. When the School had Cadets on a Monday morning, ‘Mr. Mac’ was also ‘on parade’ with us, and quickly knocked us into shape as a really good pipe band, even if we had a very limited repertoire of tunes.
1957 was a very good year. It was the first ever that the School had ever entered a pipe band competition. We entered Under the Title of School Pipe Bands at the Royal Scottish Gathering held at the Wanderers Sports Club held in Johannesburg. With much practice and a lot of enthusiasm, our band received a ‘third place’ in the playing of the Strathspey, Reel and Marches competition. We were also thrilled to be part of the Massed Bands parade and March past.
John Farmer, once he had left school continued playing the pipes, and became the South African Champion at playing the very difficult range of PIBROCH tunes. Sadly he died some twenty years ago. I salute him for his contribution to the School Band, and feel he ought to been awarded School Colours for his endeavours. (Even Posthumously).

We also introduced playing to the crowd outside, once the Armistice Ceremony was over. We played the tune – our favourite – Scotland the Brave as our farewell to 1957 year, and that was the last time I wore a kilt. Those were good years and the fond memories are still with me today. 

Part of the School Band were the Buglers. They were a small group who kept to themselves and came on parade specifically for the Armistice Service, at which time they were asked to play The Revellie, and The Last Post.

Members of the 1957 KES School Pipe Band as best I can remember:
Drum major: John Strickland
Pipers: John Farmer- Pipe major, David Bain, Rob Wodley-Smith, Richard Pott, Ron van Til, David Meyer, John Fitz-Henry, David Snowdowne, Simon Hodge
Base Drums: Christopher Cook, David Cole and Alan Kemp
Side Drummers: Trevor Scholtz, ‘Jazz’ Gardener, John Duval and Robbie Gien.
Buglers: Gregory, Michael Clingman

I would be delighted to hear from any of the band members. or 021 782 7337.With sincere best wishes – John Strickland.