The Armidale Pipe Band is celebrating 110 years since its formation. Pipe Major Darrell Fisher shares the highlights and the upcoming special anniversary activities.
What is your role with the band?
My role is Pipe Major, and I am responsible for the music that the band plays. As part of this role, I make decisions about the tunes to be learnt by the band and to be played at musical performances, I organise tutoring sessions for learner pipers, I lead the band practice sessions each week, and I am responsible for the band displays at public performances.
This necessitates close co-ordination with the Drum Corps, led by Drum Sergeant Geoff Walsh. I have been with the band since 2003 and became Pipe Major this year after being in an acting Pipe Major role for several years. I started learning the bagpipes in 1955 in Newcastle and was Pipe Major of the Ettalong Beach Memorial Club Pipe band in the 1980s.
How did the band originate?
This year we are celebrating 110 years since the formation of the band, which began as the Armidale Caledonian Pipers Band in 1901. We are the oldest continuing pipe band in New South Wales. The band was formed by the Armidale Caledonian Society to take part in the Highland Gatherings held each year in Armidale on New Year’s Day.
In 1909 the band was renamed the Armidale Highland Pipe Band, becoming independent of the Armidale Caledonian Society. This band went into recess in 1973 and then was reconstituted in 1977 as the Armidale Pipe Band. Between 1986 and 1993 the band did not engage in any formal activities, but since then has had a strong presence both in Armidale and further afield.
Your fondest moments?
In 2004 being invited to attend the Australian Federation Tattoo at Ballarat, Victoria has been a highlight for the band. This entailed a lot of travel by bus, but the experience inspired the band to seek other opportunities.
In 2010 the band played in the ANZAC Day March in Sydney for the first time. While it was a difficult decision to forgo taking part in the traditional Armidale parade, it was felt the Sydney experience would enhance and invigorate the band’s future. Although before my time, the band’s invitation to play at the Celtic Crossroads Tattoo in Canberra in 2002 is a much talked about event in the band.
Long term members?
Evan Lewis came to our band from the Coogee-Randwick Pipe Band in 1952 and has played with the band continuously since that time. He is a life member and currently the Patron of the band. Geoff Monley has also been in the band since 1952 and has been Pipe Major on various occasions during in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
He is a life member of our band and, together with Bill Waters, was responsible for the resurgence of the band in 1993. John McIntyre joined the band in 1958 and while now living in Sydney, is still a band member and travels to play with the band whenever possible. John Leslie has been in our band since 1966, coming from Glen Innes Pipe Band.
Jean Ellison, an experienced piper from the Epping Pipe Band, came to our band in 1993 and has held various offices in the band over the years, including President, Secretary and Pipe Major.
How will you mark this anniversary?
The main celebrations will be held during the week commencing 12 September. During that week we will have pipers playing in the Armidale Mall, and we will be dedicating a park bench located in Civic Park North, but the focus will be on a celebration dinner at the Ex-Services Club on Saturday 17 September. The public are welcome to attend the dinner and help us celebrate. Tickets are available from the Ex-Services Club.
On Sunday 18 September a Thanksgiving Church Service will be held at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church and a band BBQ lunch will follow at Curtis Park.
How can people join your band?
Our band practices at Armidale High School on Monday evenings from 7pm to 9pm, and new pipers and drummers are welcome. Tutoring can be arranged for learners, and instruments are available for hire. The band is essentially a social, community band, joining in many parades at centres like Glen Innes, Inverell, Tamworth, Grafton and Stanthorpe, but only formally competing once or twice a year.
Please contact the President Beryl Leslie on 6772 0329 or the Secretary Judy Walsh on 6772 7432.
Photos: Band photo from Darrell.
Darrell photo from Judy. Thanks Darrell.