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Former Pipe Majors of The Calgary Highlanders

Mister Michael Giles

Following his first tenure as Pipe Major and a return to British Columbia, Mike Giles continued to play with military pipe bands until the summer of 2013 when his civilian employment brought him back to Calgary. Mister Giles returned to The Calgary Highlanders for a brief period, as Pipe Major, but once again departed in the autumn of 2014 when work again carried him out of the city.

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Mister George Shears

George Shears began learning bagpipes at the age of 12 in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, taught by his brother, renowned piper Barry Shears, who in turn was taught by Angus Macintyre, a prominent piping instructor in Cape Breton. After a period of up to two years of instruction, he took a year off until, at the age of 14, he attended his first highland games with his brother Barry. This proved to be an experience which changed his life, for after returning from the games, he decided to get back in to piping. For the next three years he was very successful in solo competitions, advancing to be one of the top Grade 1 pipers in Nova Scotia.

George Shears played with several pipe bands in Nova Scotia, including the Regimental Pipes and Drums of the Nova Scotia Highlanders, Highland Village, CB Hoare, and The Regimental Pipes and Drums of the Royal Canadian Regiment out of New Brunswick, as well as competing in solo piping until the age of 18, when he ventured west to Alberta.

In Edmonton, in the mid 1980s through the 90s, Mr. Shears played with several bands such as Edmonton Caledonia, Drummond and Big Rock, the latter of which he was Pipe Major of. Through work, he and his family have been fortunate to have been able to live around the world, in most cases taking his pipes with him, practicing traditional and Cape Breton music along the way. In recent years, while in Calgary, he has played with the Rocky Mountain Pipe Band before joining The Calgary Highlanders. He took over the reins of Pipe Major in late 2010 and left the band in the summer of 2012.

Mister Michael Giles

Pipe Major Giles had been piping for over 18 years before his arrival in Calgary.  He began his piping career as a boy piper in the Canadian Scottish Regiment Cadet Corps in Victoria B.C.  Showing an aptitude for the pipes he progressed quickly and was playing with the Regimental band by the age of 13 and continued to for 10 years.  During this time Mister Giles also played as Pipe Sergeant with a civilian competition band on Vancouver island called The Pacific Gael, with Rene Cuson, a well known piper and judge from the island. 

In his early twenties Mr. Giles moved to Vancouver and took over as Pipe Sergeant of a well known band called Triumph Street and after a year took over as Pipe Major.  The band then merged with a former Grade 2 band called Sir John A MacDonald.  Work brought Mr. Giles to Calgary in 2004 where he played for fun with the Calgary Police Pipe Band. In November of 2005 he found his way back to his true love, military piping, by being appointed Pipe Major of The Calgary Highlanders.  He brought a wealth of military and civilian piping experience to the Highlanders and looked forward to a tremendous growth year with the band.

Pipe Major Giles' first year resulted in a level of competitive success not enjoyed since Pipe Major Don Maxwell's tenure; the Pipes and Drums earned the Best Pipe Band award for the Calgary Stampede Parade, as well as Top Canadian Band overall. In High River in August 2006, the band placed first in the Grade III Medley Competition of a field of five bands. The band had many other competitive successes during his tenure. The Walcheren Causeway parade in November 2010 was the last public appearance by Michael Giles as Pipe Major of The Calgary Highlanders. Michael Giles moved back to British Columbia to pursue civilian career opportunities.

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Mister Chris Penney

Chris Penney began his musical training with 2137 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps (The Calgary Highlanders), and enlisted in the Regimental Pipes and Drums once he was of serving age.  When the band was reduced to all volunteer status, he remustered to 14 Service Battalion as a vehicle technician.   He has since left the service but was appointed Pipe Major for the 2003-2004 training year after serving as the band's Pipe Sergeant under Mark MacDonald.  Mister Penney left the appointment at the end of the 2004-2005 training year.

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Mister Mark MacDonald

The Calgary Highlanders welcomed Mark MacDonald back to the position of Pipe Major in the summer of 2003; due to commitments outside the band, Mister Chris Penney took over the reins in time for the 2003-2004 training year.

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Sergeant Jody Marchuk, CD
Dec 2001 - May 2003

Jody Marchuk began his musical training with 2137 (Calgary Highlanders) Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in 1985 when the corps pipe band was revived under the direction of Pipe Major Harry Brown, formerly of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada.  Jody attended Ipperwash Cadet Camp and became proficient in a very short time.  He went on to become Pipe Major of the cadet band and joined the Militia as a Piper.  In short order, he competed all six trades levels and qualified as a Master Corporal; most pipers in the Canadian Forces fail to attend the highest levels of music training in their entire career.

When the Pipes and Drums were forced into all-volunteer status, Jody elected to transfer to the Canadian Military Engineers; in the meantime he completed a Chemical Engineering degree at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and an Education degree at the University of Calgary.  Jody qualified to the level of Sergeant as a field engineer and was able to bring his musical talents, military leadership qualities, and the skills he has learned as a Seperate Board school teacher, when he was offered the position of Pipe Major of the Calgary Highlanders.

Marchuk returned to the engineers in 2003, where he has earned his qualification as a Warrant Officer.

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Mister Mark MacDonald
1997 - Dec 2001

Mark MacDonald learned to play bagpipes from a variety of people, including Lew Galliah of the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards and later the 2nd Battalion, Canadian Guards.  MacDonald played in a Grade Two band in Fredericton, New Brunswick and also spent time with the 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment Pipe Band, participating in piping workshops by Captain Donald Carrigan, Captain Hugh MacPherson, Ken Eller and Ed Neigh.  In 1985, MacDonald started his own band, the Miramichi Celtic Pipes and Drums.

By the time MacDonald arrived in Alberta he had been playing bagpipes for the better part of two decades; after serving as a piper with the volunteer Pipes and Drums, including as Pipe Sergeant, MacDonald was appointed Pipe Major, despite not being a member of the Canadian Forces.  As a talented musician and a respected leader, MacDonald was missed when he stepped down due to his new responsibilities as a school principal at Holy Spirit Academy in High River.

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Warrant Officer Paul Y. Rhodes, CD
1996 - 1997

Paul Ygor ("Dusty") Rhodes was born in Oran, Algeria on 27 October 1951.   His father served in the Royal Canadian Artillery and the young Rhodes moved from base to base.  He first became interested in piping at age 14 and he became a student piper with the Black Watch (at that time, a Regular Force regiment) at CFB Gagetown.  In 1968 he joined the Naval Reserve in Winnipeg and served on HMCS Gatineau for 18 months.  In 1970 he transferred to a reserve Highland regiment where he continued to play the pipes, and went back into the Regular Force in 1971, this time with the Royal Canadian Artillery.  He transferred to a service battalion in 1978, specializing in transport.

Rhodes went on to many more postings, serving on both sides of the Atlantic and playing for the Canadian Forces Europe Pipes and Drums, and in Canada becoming Pipe Major of the Canadian Forces Base Borden volunteer pipe band.  He became a volunteer with the Calgary Highlanders and played for the Presentation of Queen's Colour in 1990.  By 1991, he was a volunteer quartermaster for the pipe band, and when he left the Regular Force in 1995 he joined the Calgary Highlanders as Transport Sergeant.

Promotion to Warrant Officer, and appointment as Pipe Major, came in 1996.  Rebuilding the band in the wake of the forced reduction in paid numbers, his goal (ultimately realized) was to have the band prepared to go to Scotland to participate in the Edinburgh Tattoo in 2000.  In 1997 Rhodes transferred to 41st Canadian Brigade Group Headquarters as the Transport Warrant (G4).   Rhodes has two sons, one who joined the King's Own Calgary Regiment, the other as an infantryman in the Calgary Highlanders, who also plays bagpipes with the volunteer band.

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Chief Warrant Officer Robert W. Henderson, CD
1983 - 1996

Robert Wayne (Bob) Henderson was born in Calgary and received his first instruction from former Calgary Highlanders Pipe Major Joe Auld.   Henderson served in the Calgary Highlanders as a piper from 1969 to 1974, when he left to complete his studies at the University of Calgary.  He received further instruction during this time from Sandy Reid, also an ex Calgary Highlanders Pipe Major, and from Pipe Major Donald Macleod, former Chief of Piping of the British Army.  After playing in the Red Hackle, Black Thorn, and Calgary Police pipe bands, he rejoined the Calgary Highlanders in 1978.  Instruction from Hugh MacPherson of the Royal Canadian Regiment and Bill Gilmour of the Canadian Forces School of Music followed.  Henderson was appointed Pipe Major in 1983.  The bagpipes he played had previously belonged to Joe Auld and Billie Pow.

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Warrant Officer William Grieve
1981 - 1983

A native Scotsman and former Pipe Sergeant with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the British Army, William (Willy) Grieve set high standards for both discipline and music.

Born in 1945, Pipe Major Grieve started his musical training at the age of twelve, joining the British Army five years later.   After his basic training, he became a piper in the Argylls in 1963.  He is a graduate of the British Army Pipe Majors Course, and joined the Pipes and Drums of the Calgary Highlanders in September 1981.

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Master Warrant Officer Donald Maxwell, MMM, CD

Don Maxwell led the Pipe Band through a second tour of duty as Pipe Major from 1977-1981. Despite being employed as Comptroller for PanCanadian Petroleum - a company of over 1,100 employees - he volunteered to take over the Pipe Band which was officially re-activated in 1975, after being reduced officially to nil strength in 1969.

Maxwell's leadership rebuilt the band into the largest pipe band in Calgary, and a band that won many competitions and awards.   The military rewarded him for this effort with the presentation of the Medal of Military Merit - an exceedingly rare distinction - in 1983. 

After leaving the Calgary Highlanders, he formed his own successful civilian pipe band, Clan Maxwell. 

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Sergeant Kendall Martin

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Master Warrant Officer Gordon Raffan, CD

MWO Gord Raffan was a recipient of the Order of St. John, and rejoined the Pipes and Drums in the 1990s.  He retired from the Pipes and Drums shortly before his passing.  He is pictured at left playing with the Pipes and Drums in Hawaii in 1981.

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R.S. "Bobby" Waters

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Sergeant Gordon Webb

Gordon Webb is remembered by James McWilliams as a very good piper coming from the Canadian Guards (at that time a Regular Force regiment).  James McWilliams keeps in touch with him as of 2005, seeing him play occasionally with the pipe band of the British Columbia Regiment.

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James Hamilton

Jimmy Hamilton was described as a good piper who left the band after a very short tenure as Pipe Major.  He went on to play with Clan McBain who enjoyed a very high reputation as a solid Calgary-based competition band for many decades.

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Mister James McWilliams

James McWilliams joined the St. Andrew's Society Boy's Pipe Band in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan at age 11, making his first public piping appearance before Princess Elizabeth six months later.  Under the tutelage of Pipe Major Bob Shepherd and Jim Carnegie (formerly of the Edinburgh City Police), McWilliams won three Saskachewan Junior Piping Championships.

After High School, McWilliams joined the Canadian Army hoping to be a piper in the Black Watch, at that time a Regular Force regiment, but instead became an officer in the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps after taking OCP (Officer Candidate Plan) and COTC.  He eventually settled into a teaching career in Calgary, and served in the reserves as band officer of the 19th Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery before that unit was disbanded in the mid 1960s.  The pipers and drummers of the 19th Field went on to form the Clan McBain Pipe Band.

McWilliams, however, came to the Calgary Highlanders to play, resigning his commission to do so and enlisting as a civilian piper at about the time Pipe Major Don Maxwell resigned.   McWilliams remembers that "we had an informal vote in which I was elected (Pipe Major) and the request that I be given the job was passed on to the powers that be.  In the meantime with the help of a good drum corps and Jimmy Hamilton we built a really good band."

When the next Stampede Parade rolled around, there was some uncertainty about McWilliam's status as Pipe Major, and he left the band.  Jimmy Hamilton took over, though his status was also confused and he left shortly after as well.  Many young pipers and drummers elected to take their services to Clan McBain, a civilian pipe band, and McWilliam joined many of the former 19th Field musicians there.

McWilliams spent part of a summer at the Invermark School of Piping in New York State learning the basics of piobaireachd, earning their highest certificate, and in 1962 was selected as Chief Instructor of the Prairie Command School of Piping and Drumming at Currie Barracks in Calgary.  It would be an essential background to workshops and schools he conducted in later years British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Montana.

In 1967 McWilliams returned to his hometown of Moose Jaw and remained there for 25 years as a high school teacher, serving as Band Director/Pipe Major of the White Hackle, guiding the band in both Grade Three and Grade Four competition to over a dozen Provincial Championships.  Other accomplishments with White Hackle included an International Championship, runner-up for the Eastern Canadian Championship, Third in the North American Championships (all in their only visit to Ontario), and a win at the 1986 Expo Championship in Vancouver, with a Sixth place finish in the European Championships.

McWilliams went on to co co-found the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts and The Prairie Pipe Band Association and served in a variety of roles and executive positions from the 1960‘s to the 1990‘s.  He also published several pamphlets and articles on piping as well as editing "The Bandsman", the newsletter of the Prairie Pipe Band Association.  McWilliams was also a prolific composer of pipe music and adjudicator of Piping, Ensemble and Bass-Tenor competitions throughout Canada and the northern US.

In 1993 McWilliams left Moose Jaw to begin a new career as a retiree in Cloverdale, B.C., continuing to pipe with The Delta Police Pipe Band, The White Spot Pipe Band, the Langley Legion Pipe Band, and the Vancouver Police Pipe Band in addition to piping for the Tartan Pride Highland Dance Team and playing some tunes with the popular Celtic band Blackthorn.   As of November 2005, Jim McWilliams can be contacted via his website at

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Sergeant Donald Maxwell

Don Maxwell's father served in The Calgary Highlanders as an officer during the Second World War, and his brother served as Pipe Major in the early 1950s.  Don joined the Regiment in 1952 as a boy piper of only 14 years of age.  When he was transferred to Toronto with his civilian employment in 1963, he had reached the rank of Sergeant.  In Toronto he worked with the Cabar Feidh Pipe Band, who won the North American Championship in 1964.

Maxwell returned to Calgary in 1964 and served as Pipe Major of the Regiment until December 1967, when civilian employment again forced him to stand down.  He continued to play with the band as a piper until it was reduced to nil strength in 1969.

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Sergeant Angus MacDonald
1956 - 1964

At left, Pipe Major Angus MacDonald photographed at the 1959 Calgary Highland Games.  He was presented a plaque as the winner of the Western Open Championship March, Strathspey and Reel.  MacDonald served as Pipe Major from 1956 to 1964.

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Sergeant Joe Auld

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Gordon Alexander Malcolm

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Sergeant Alexander Reid

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Gordon Alexander Maxwell

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Sergeant Charles Russell

Charles Alexander Russell was born in Crossfield, Alberta on March 18, 1924. He served with the Calgary Highlanders during the Second World War. His father, William Russell, was also a piper. After serving as Pipe Major of The Calgary Highlanders, he played with the RCAF Pipe Band from 1952-1964 and was Pipe Major of the RCAF's 1 Fighter Wing pipe band from 1959-1963. Charles Russell passed away in British Columbia's Langley Memorial Hospital on July 29, 1999.

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Sergeant William Russell

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Sergeant Neil Sutherland
1st Bn 1942 - 1945

Neil Sutherland was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1904 and learned piping from his father and Archie MacNeill, the uncle of Seamus MacNeill (famous founder of the College of Piping).  Neil served with the 139th Boys Brigade Pipe Band before the family emigrated to Winnipeg in 1914.  Sutherland instructed the 12th Signals Pipe Band, and served in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada for eight years before moving to Saskatchewan and joining the Regina Police.  He organized a Regina Boys Pipe Band and won awards at the Banff Games two years running.   He was given permanent custody of the Beatty Trophy and asked to return to Banff as an adjudicator.

By the 1930s, Sutherland had accepted a position as the chief of police in Melfort, Saskatchewan.  That the Calgary Highlanders have always cultivated talent from unique sources is evidenced by the story of Alex Smart.  In his capacity as Chief of Police, Sutherland one day had to arrest a hobo - Smart - in a railyard.  Upon finding he was a piper, the hobo resided at the Chief's house instead of a jail cell.

When the Second World War started, Smart joined the Calgary Highlanders but Sutherland moved to Manitoba to serve with the Winnipeg Police.  When the Highlanders moved to Camp Shilo, in Manitoba, Smart persuaded Sutherland to come and visit, and in the end convinced Sutherland to join the band.

When the battalion left Shilo for overseas, Heather - a black Scots Terrier belonging to Sutherland - accompanied them, smuggled in the band's bass drum.  Heather didn't return from overseas - being left with a good family in the UK.  A set of Sutherland's bagpipes also did not return home; they were destroyed when a shell hit an ammunition truck in Normandy in which they were being carried.  By that time, Sutherland had been Pipe Major for two years, having taken over from Stoker in 1942.

Sutherland did very well on the courses he took while in the UK; Willie Ross, the Chief of Piping for the British Army in fact wanted Sutherland to stay in England after the war.  But Sutherland returned to the Winnipeg Police, where he was Pipe Major from 1945 to 1970.  He suffered a heart attack in 1972 and died of a stroke in 1973.

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Sergeant Robert R. Stoker
1st Bn 1940 - 1942

Robert (Bobbie) Robson Stoker was born in Newcastle on Tyne, England, in 1914, moving to Edmonton at an early age.  He learned piping from John Robertson while with the Edmonton Boys Pipe Band.  He competed in the juvenile class at the CPR Highland Games in Banff in the late 1920s and 1930s and won several first prizes.  He later joined the pipe band of the Canadian National Railway.  At the start of World War Two, many pipers and drummers in Edmonton tried to find employment in the Canadian Army; Stoker joined the Calgary Highlanders where he was nicknamed "Wimpy."  He was promoted from Lance Corporal to Pipe Major of the 1st Battalion in 1940, and led the Pipes and Drums during their stay in Shilo, Manitoba before the battalion sailed for England in the autumn.

The Pipes and Drums performed throughout the UK; in 1942 Stoker was transferred by Lieutenant Colonel MacLaughlan, the Commanding Officer of the battalion, to the Essex Scottish.

After the war, Stoker returned to Edmonton and led the Royal Canadian Legion Pipe Band.  He moved to Vancouver, joined The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada as a sergeant, and assisted with cadet training.  He died in 1965 after a lengthy illness.

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Sergeant JW Phillips
1st Bn 1939 - 1940

Pipe Major Phillips served as Pipe Major early in the Second World War.

Sergeant William Pow
1925 - 1939
2nd Bn 1941?

William (Billie) Pow was born in Edinburgh in 1874 and took piping lessons from James Center, a noted bagpipe maker.  In 1908 he moved to Calgary with his three brothers; Billie worked for the City of Calgary Waterworks Department while playing in his spare time with the Calgary Scottish.  All four brothers enlisted in the Canadian forces during the First World War; Billie served with the 113th Battalion CEF (Lethbridge Highlanders), one of many reinforcement units raised, and later the 25th and 85th (Nova Scotia) battalions of the CEF. Two of the Pow brothers were killed, and Billie's surviving brother came home wounded.

Pow returned to Waterworks, rising to Foreman, and still played bagpipes in his spare time, moving on to composing tunes and judging competitions.  He took over as Pipe Major of the Calgary Highlanders in 1925 and served in that capacity until 1939.

When the Regiment mobilized a 1st Battalion, Pow took over as Pipe Major of the 2nd Battalion - a reserve army unit composed of those too old, too young, or otherwise not suitable for overseas duty or else employed in essential war industries in Canada.  The 2nd Battalion band played at unit parades, Regimental functions, recruiting drives, demonstration events, and during exercises at Camp Sarcee.

Pow retired to Vancouver after the war for health reasons, to enjoy a warmer climate, and to keep company with old friends and family.  He died there in 1954.

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Sergeant William Buchanan
1924 - 1925

William (Bill) Buchanan was a piper who played his pipes on the right side rather than the normally accepted left.  He was the first Pipe Major of the Calgary Scottish, a civilian band, formed in late 1913.  This band won the Old Caledonia Society Highland Competition on the Victoria Day weekend in 1914.   Bill Buchanan enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and served with the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish), along with many members of the Calgary Scottish.    Buchanan became Pipe Major of the Calgary Highlanders in 1924, and left the band in 1925.  He also instructed the Calgary Ladies Pipe Band, before his death by heart attack in 1931.

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Photo courtesy Ben Niven, via DM Jim Stewart

Sergeant Hugh MacBeth
1921 - 1923

Hugh MacBeth was the first Pipe Major of The Calgary Highlanders. Born in May 1883, in Sutherlandshire, Scotland, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Calgary in 1915 and served overseas with the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish), returning to Canada in May 1919 on the Empress of Britain.

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