Nova Scotia - "New Scotland"

No matter where you go, you can't escape the music - the lively sea shanties, and the Cape Breton fiddle tunes surely, but more than these, the lovely haunting strains of the bagpipes that echo through the hallowed halls and dark green hills of this fair province, regardless of the seasons!

Whether it is a march played at a wedding, a stately strathspey , rousing reel, or hearty jig played at a ceilidh, an ancient piobaireachd heard across the stillness of a pine-shrouded lake at sunset, or a sorrowful lament played at the graveside of a departed loved one, the sound of the pipes leaves no one untouched or unmoved. Love it or hate it, for those of us who live here in Nova Scotia, pipe music is a part of the very fabric of our being.

Pipers Of Nova Scotia does not set out to describe all of the pipers who lived, learned, performed, or taught piping in Nova Scotia, but it does contain information about more than 1600 of them, many with detailed biographies and photos. Scott Williams, piper, author, composer, teacher, and adjudicator, from Antigonish, Nova Scotia has compiled information about pipers old and young, male and female, famous and obscure, dating from the arrival in Pictou Harbour of piper John MacKay aboard the ship Hector in 1773 to the latest crop of novice players who make their appearance on the piping scene just as the new millennium begins.

Some of the most interesting stories come not from those who achieved the highest acclaim in provincial, national and international contests, but from those for whom piping became an integral part of their daily lives and the social life of the communities in which they lived. The stories of their struggles to master the intricacies of this most difficult of instruments, their successes and failures, and the joy their music brought to many generations of Nova Scotians should serve to inspire generations of pipers to come.


Pipers of Nova Scotia


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Nova Scotians have enjoyed a 225-year association with the Great Highland Bagpipe which dates back to the 1773 arrival in Pictou of John MacKay aboard the ship "Hector". Early musicians of note include the sixth hereditary piper to the MacLeods of Skye, Lt. Donald "Ruadh" MacCrimmon, who settled briefly in Shelburne in the 1780's and John MacGillivray, "Iain am Piobaire", of Antigonish County, whose portrait in the National Museum of Scotland is one of the earliest of a piper still in existence.

Dear to Nova Scotian hearts through much of the first half of the 20th century were Pipe Major Robert Thompson and his son-in-law, George Dey, who created and maintained a strong piping presence in Halifax. Fraser Holmes and Wallace Roy of Pictou County, John A. "Black Jack" MacDonald of Soldier's Cove, Ross Stone of Truro, Herman Beaton of Antigonish County, and Sandy Boyd of Just About everywhere, were tradition bearers during and after World War II. Danny MacIntyre, Jack MacIsaac, Harold MacDonnell, Barry Ewen, and Bill Magennis elevated the standard of piping in the '70s while Doug Boyd, Madelyn (Russell) Evans, Wayne Moug, John Walsh, and a host of others are making their contribution today.

This book does not pretend to list all of the pipers who lived, learned, performed, or taught piping in Nova Scotia, but it does include biographies about more than 1650 of them, which is a very good start. Neither was it the authors intention to list within these pages only those pipers who acquired fame and high honors in competition (though many did) or made recordings, composed music, travelled to far countries, or performed before dignitaries (though many did these things too). In fact, some of the most interesting stories are about pipers who never lifted their balmorals above the crowd! All who played the pipes were eligible for inclusion in this book. Despite research which spanned a six year period, it was not possible to find them all. Additional information may well be included in subsequent editions.

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this book and its companion, "Pipe Bands of Nova Scotia". I believe that these works will provide a significant record of some of the pipers and pipe bands who were and continue to be living symbols of Nova Scotia's cultural heritage. I hope you will enjoy reading about them.

Scott Williams,

April 2000

Sample from "Pipers of Nova Scotia"

Fleming, John (Jack) of Stellarton. Jack was born on August 2nd, 1914, the youngest of twelve children of James and Margaret (Betts) Fleming. He worked in the Mines and took piping instruction from his friend, Wallace Roy. He was a member of the Pictou Highlanders Pipe Band and served overseas during WWII. He played with the 1st Canadian Highland Battalion in 1951 and then with the Black Watch (RHR) of Canada. At the time of the re-organization of the militia units in 1954, Jack was the Pipe Major of the Pictou Highlanders Pipe Band. For a time in the 1950's, he was the piping instructor of the Balmoral Girls' Pipe Band. He died while still in his forties.


Wouldn't it have been great if a Glaswegian piper in 1920 decided to put together a synopsis of important pipers to have lived in the area since 1700? What a mother load of information that would be today. Sadly, nothing even remotely like it exists because no one had the wisdom, energy, foresight, and money to do it.

Eighty years from now they surely won't be saying that about Nova Scotia piping, mainly because of an exhaustive new book from Scott Williams, Pipers of Nova Scotia, Biographical Sketches 1773-2000.

Through the impressive 260-page work, Williams catalogues more than 1600 significant pipers who lived in Nova Scotia, from the arrival of the first Scottish settlers to today's important teachers and players. Short biographies are presented, ranging from the legendary to the obscure. Many of the stories and legends Williams captures have been passed down orally through centuries, and, for lovers of piping trivia and lore, the book is a phenomenal resource of interesting material.

... Williams's contribution with Pipers of Nova Scotia, Biographical Sketches 1773-2000 and other significant books and music collections will forever hold his place in Nova Scotia piping history as an important contributor to the art.

Piper and Drummer Magazine, On-line Reviews, 10/11/2000

Pipers of Nova Scotia- A Useful Reference

This book will be a useful reference source for us when we need any background information on the young Canadians who come over to Scotland to compete. I now know a lot more than I did before about pipers such as Matt MacIsaac, Ann Gray, and Ryan MacDonald who have all competed successfully in Scotland.

Jeannie Campbell, "Piping Times", January, 2001




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