Victoria Scottish Pipes & Drums is one of Australia's oldest continuously functioning pipe bands and was established in 1909 by members of the H. V. McKay Sunshine Harvester Works Pipe Band. This community band was to be known as "The Sunshine & District Pipe Band", with two of the principal founders being Pipe Major Lewis McLennan and Pipe Sergeant Andrew Donald, from Broughty Ferry near Dundee, Scotland.
The standard of the band developed rapidly under their tutelage until 1923, when under leadership of the now Pipe Major Andrew Donald, they were runners-up at the Australian Championships. John Laurie, ex-King's piper, became Pipe Major in 1924 and under his expert guidance the band went on to win the Australian Championships of 1926.
By 1924, with a lack of funding and declining support in the Sunshine area, the band was able to obtain an annual grant of five pounds from the Footscray City Council. The band subsequently became known as the “Footscray City Highland Pipe Band”, a name it proudly carried for the next 75 years. In that year also, the band became a foundation member of the newly formed Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association.
Until 1936, the band wore the McKenzie tartan (a slight change from the Black Watch of the H. V. McKay uniform), with full military plaids, doublets and belts. Despite the depression years of the 1930s, the band, through the generosity of a patron, Mr J. Lack, was able to re-equip with new Red Robertson kilts and plaids, the choice of tartan influenced by the fact that three playing and two committee members were of the Robertson Clan.
The War Services claimed a number of members in the 1940s, but in 1946, the band managed a 1st place in “C” Grade at Warringal Park. Progress was slow under Pipe Majors Angus McAffer, Les Pianta and Jock McKay, until the War Services members returned in the 1950s.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, under Pipe Majors Andy Masterson and George Brass, with Alex McPhedran as Drum Tutor, the band made its way to Grade 2. By the end of the 1970s however, the band had declined sharply and a major reorganisation followed. President Graeme Bruce and Pipe Major Barry Stewart, supported by then Chieftain, Councillor Matt Harris, negotiated a generous grant from the Footscray City Council, which enabled the purchase of trews for the drum corps and other equipment for the newly recruited band members, which, for the first time, included ladies.
In the early 1980s, as part of the band's rebuilding program, John McIver, then Pipe Sergeant of the Hawthorn City Pipe Band, was engaged as Pipe Tutor, with Wally Douglas and later Bruce Neal, as Drum Tutors.
Both on and off the competition field, this new direction resulted in the band achieving great success throughout the 1980s. By the middle of the decade, a Grade 4 band was also formed in order to engage all members of the band's growing ranks. The band also successfully took part in the 1985 Melbourne Military Tattoo and in the same year travelled to South Australia to compete at Mount Gambier. In 1986, the band returned to South Australia and was placed 1st in Grade 3 at the Australian Championships in Adelaide, playing in 40 degree heat.
With the Grade 3 band being promoted to Grade 2 in 1987, David McInerney assumed the role of Pipe Major and both bands continued to have success. In the following year, leadership again changed and with Pipe Major Robert Crozier, focus was placed on developing the Grade 4 band, culminating in a 1st place at the 1988 Grade 4 Australian Championships in Sydney, this time playing in torrential rain.
Waning numbers in 1989 brought about an amalgamation of the two bands to form one Grade 3 band. Under Pipe Major John Young and with Harold Gillespie as Drum Tutor, the band achieved considerable successs on the competition field throughout the early 1990s. After being promoted to Grade 2 in 1993, the band traveled to New Zealand where it gained 1st place at the 1994 Grade 2 New Zealand Championships.
After winning the Grade 2 Australian Championships of 1996 and 1998, the band was promoted to Grade 1, eventually winning the 2000 Grade 1 Australian Championships in Adelaide. A little known fact from this time period is that six members of the 1998 Grade 1 World Champions, the Victoria Police Pipe Band, actually came from the Footscray City Highland Pipe Band.
In 1999, through the efforts of David McInerney and the Executive Committee, an affiliation with the Williamstown Returned Services League was established, resulting in the band changing its name to the "Williamstown R.S.L. Pipe Band".
After the Grade 1 success of 2000, the band's membership again declined and from 2001 to 2007, the band entered a rebuilding phase under Pipe Majors Anthony Davis and later, Ian Stewart. During this period, the band continued to play socially and took part in minor regional competitions to maintain interest.
Leadership then passed to Ross Bates of the Victoria Police Pipe Band, who, with Drum Tutors Greg Fraser and Brett Staley, intensified the rebuilding of the band and recruitment of new members. Their efforts have been rewarded by attracting a number of experienced players, thus bringing a renewed enthusiasm and commitment to the band. Those efforts saw the band return to the competition field in Grade 4.
In 2009, the band achieved another milestone by celebrating its 100th birthday and looks forward to continued success in its new century.
The band was promoted to Grade 3 for the 2010/2011 season, and recorded good results in the tougher grade 3 environment. Picking up three 1st place, one 2nd place and two 3rd place awards for the competitions that season. In the competition season 2011/2012, the band recorded 5 wins including the Victorian Grade 3 Championship. The band also placed 2nd, at the Australian Championships at Ballarat, only beaten by the power of a combined youth band from New Zealand. The band still competes in Grade 3 to this day picking up its share of wins, and continues to engage played on a competition and social basis.
In 2014 the bands sponsorship with the Williamstown RSL ended, no longer in a position to support the band financially. The pipe band membership voted to change the band name to Victoria Scottish Pipes & Drums, however a strong association remains in the Williamstown area. Completing a community ANZAC street march for the Williamstown RSL, (usually the weekend prior to the main ANZAC day service) and other local engagements.
Acknowledgement for the early content of this history goes to the knowledge of Pipe Majors Andrew Donald and Angus McAffer and to Sandy Shore's and Jim Robertson's detail in recording Band affairs. The thanks of the band go to Life Members Bruce Hocking and Gary King for their efforts in compiling this band history.
Peter Bedwell...2021 - Present
Ross Bates...2019 - 2021
Craig Spriggins...2018 - 2019
Craig McFadyen...2016 - 2018
Jody Keating....2014 - 2016
Ross Bates....2007 - 2015
Ian Stewart....2003 - 2007
Anthony Davis....2001 - 2003
John Young....1989 - 2001
Robert Crozier....1988 - 1989
David McInerney....1987 - 1988
Barry Stewart....1980 - 1987
Bruce Hocking....1979 - 1980
Andrew Masterson....1961- 1967
Alexander (Jock) McKay....1959 - 1961
Alan Maas....1956 - 1959
Jack Peters....1952 - 1956
Leslie Pianta....1950 - 1952
Angus MacAffer....1947 - 195
Andrew Donald....1936 - 194
John Laurie....1924 - 1936
Andrew Donald....1912 - 1924
Lewis MacLennan....1909 - 1912
Les Johnston....2009 - 2011
Barry Stewart....1992 - 2009
Cliff Talbot....1987 - 1992
Burt Bywaters....1984 - 1987
Len Trezise....1983 - 1984
Jack Sheen....1967 - 1983
Ron Ackroyd....1962 - 1967
Laurie Perry....1958 - 1962
Ian Hawkins....1957 - 1958
Jim Brice....1956 - 1957
Keith Elliot....1953 - 1956
Dick McDonald....1950 - 1953
Les Wilby....1948 - 1950
Jock Adams....1946 - 1948
Alexander Cook....1939 - 1946
John Robertson....1937 - 1939
Captain Brunton....1935 - 1937
Harry Hill....1933 - 1935
Bill Thompson....1922 - 1933
VIRTUTIS GLORIA MERCES - "GLORY IS THE REWARD OF VALOUR"
The Robertsons descend from Crinan, Lord of Atholl and hereditary lay Abbot of Dunkeld. From Crinan sprang the royal house of Duncan I, King of Scots, whose third son, Melmare, was ancestor of the Earls of Atholl. The Robertsons are more properly called Clan Donnachaidh, from Duncan, fifth in descent from Conan of Glenerochie, a younger son of Henry, Earl of Atholl. Duncan supported Robert the Bruce, and his clan fought at Bannockburn. Duncan later seems to have fallen into the hands of the English, at either Durham or Neville’s Cross. He died in 1355, succeeded by Robert, from whom the general surname of the clan is taken. Robert’s brother, Patrick, was ancestor of the principal cadet house of Lude. Lude, now a comfortable county house which dominates the skyline of Blair Atholl above Glen Tilt, was erected into a barony in 1448. Alexander Robertson of Lude joined Montrose and fought for Charles I at Tippermuir. Lude was burned by Cromwell’s forces in retaliation.
The clan’s fame and fortune was assured in 1437, following the murder of James I at Perth. Robert, known as Riach, the Grizzled, captured Sir Robert Graham, the king’s assassin who was later put to death with considerable savagery. Although the chief received the tangible reward of having his lands of Struan erected into a free barony, he was also granted a symbolic memorial by additions to his coat of arms. Subsequently, the chief of Clan Donnachaidh bore as his crest a hand holding aloft an imperial royal crown, and on the compartment under his shield a naked man in chains, representing the regicide. Robert Riach died of wounds received in battle in 1460, and the chiefship passed to his eldest son, Alexander. The clan feuded with their neighbours, the Stewarts of Atholl. William, the sixth chief, was killed trying to recover lands seized by them. The eighth chief was murdered, and his brother inherited an estate riddled with debt. A large part of the family lands were sold off, but in 1606, John Robertson, a prosperous Edinburgh merchant who claimed kinship to the chiefly family, obtained a charter under the great seal in his favour. He then reconveyed the lands to Robertson of Struan, that is, transferred the title without exchange of money.
When the chiefship passed to an infant, Alexander, in 1636, the leadership of the clan devolved upon his uncle, Donald. Donald, who was generally known as the Tutor of Struan, was a staunch adherent to the royalist cause, and he fought with the Marquess of Montrose in all of his campaigns. Montrose commissioned him colonel on 10 June 1646. At the Battle of Inverlochy, where Montrose fell upon the surprised Argyll after a long forced march, the Robertsons played a major part in putting the king’s enemies to flight.
The next chief, Alexander, was just eighteen years old, and had been at university in St Andrews when his father died, followed almost immediately by his elder brother in 1688. He had been destined for an academic life, and has passed into history as the ‘poet chief’. After James VII’s final defeat in 1690, the Robertson estates were forfeited, and the gallant and talented young chief joined the exiled court in France. He saw some service in the army of the French king, but was allowed to return to Scotland under a general amnesty granted by Queen Anne. He did not seek any formal pardon from a Crown he still considered to be usurped, and he called out his clan in 1715 when the standard of the ‘Old Pretender’ was raised. He was twice captured by Government forces, and on each occasion contrived to escape, finally fleeing to exile again in France. He once more took advantage of a general amnesty and returned to Scotland in 1725. However, he would take no oath of allegiance to the house of Hanover. Despite all he had suffered for the Stuart cause, he hastened to the side of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, although his age precluded him from active campaigning. He died in 1749 without issue.
The chiefship passed to his kinsman, Duncan Robertson of Drumachuine, but he could not take up the family estate as he had been forfeited in his own right for his participation in the rising of 1745. His son, Alexander, the fifteenth chief, had the barony of Struan restored to him by the Crown in 1784. Alexander also died without issue, and was succeeded by a kinsman who received a charter of confirmation to the barony of Struan on 23 June 1824. When George, eighteenth chief, sold the barony of Struan in 1854, he reserved for himself and his heirs the right and privilege of interment in the family burial ground for the members of the family of Struan. The chiefs thereafter lived on their estates in Jamaica, but have now returned to take up farming in Kent.