This bagpiper from (New) Scotland would have voted “Yes”

A Rocky Mountaineer send-off

A Rocky Mountaineer send-off

If you wear a kilt and play the bagpipes for thousands of visitors from around the English speaking world, you can expect to be on the receiving end of a lot of questions about Scotland’s drive for independence. As the bagpiper for the Rocky Mountaineer train, I certainly have.

To be clear, I was born and raised in New Scotland (Nova Scotia) not Old Scotland. I am a fifth generation Canadian and obviously unable to vote. However, as a kilt-wearing bagpiper with a Scottish name, believe me, you become a magnet for questions from visitors from around the world about Scottish independence. Continue reading

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Bagpipes & grand piano’s: Welcome to Vancouver’s Rocky Mountaineer.

"Working on the railroad"  at the Rocky Mountaineer station in Vancouver.

“Working on the railroad” at the Rocky Mountaineer station in Vancouver.

For the past four years during the summer months, I have been fortunate to play pipes for the Rocky Mountaineer Rail Company. The tourist passenger train with the amazing views takes travellers through the spectacular Rocky Mountains to Banff and Jasper, Calgary and Whistler. And this year, the company has added an additional train, the Coastal Passage, from Seattle to Vancouver.

As a piper, it’s a great opportunity to share music with an enthusiastic group of travellers, supported by an amazing crew of people at Rocky Mountaineer.  Click on the link below to see what life is like behind the scenes at Rocky Mountaineer as we prepare for an early morning train departure.  Enjoy.

A Rocky Mountaineer early morning departure from Vancouver

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Thwarting US border guards on high alert for “ivory” bagpipes.

Bob Fillies (on rt) with other participants in AHG Reunion Pipe Band. (Bob is playing John Walsh's full silver pipes.)

Bob Gillies (on rt) with other participants in AHG Reunion Pipe Band. (Bob is playing John Walsh’s full silver pipes.)

Bob Gillies classic bagpipes are safe and sound – and back in British Columbia.

In the fall of 2013, retiree Bob and his wife took a leave of absence from the Delta Police Pipe Band.  They packed their RV for a long journey and as usual, Bob tossed in his pipes for their yearlong adventure. The Gillies travelled from BC to Mexico last winter, then up to the Canadian Maritimes in the early summer. Bob plans call for a return to the US during the cold Canadian winter before heading back home to BC next year. His wife and RV are still with him. His Starck bagpipes? Well, today they are a continent away. Continue reading

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Antigonish Highland Games Reunion Pipe Band hits the street again

2014 Antigonish Highland Games Reunion Pipe BandAfter a very successful 150th anniversary celebration of the Antigonish Highland Games, the AHG Reunion Pipe Band returned to the streets of Antigonish, Nova Scotia for another stroll down Main Street. For pipers and drummers in the region, this is the grand daddy of street parades. Thousand of people turn out, many cheering and clapping for pipe bands as they have done at the AHG Grand Street Parade for a century. My friend Ian McKinnon led the band, with fellow Antigonish pipers Doug Boyd, Gerry Gillis, Francis Beaton and myself rounding out the front rank. A number of other great pipers such as John Grant, Karen MacLean and even a piper from the Delta Police Pipe Band (Bob Gillies) joining in.

2014-07-12 05.42.45

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A great evening of bagpipes … by the beach

JP Fell Pipe Band at Bagpipes by the Beach, West Vancouver.

JP Fell Pipe Band at Bagpipes by the Beach, West Vancouver.

In the world of pipe bands, there are only a few occasions when both competitive and performance pipe bands play together. The June 14 “Bagpipes by the Beach” in West Vancouver is one of those occasions.

In the Lower Mainland of BC, we are fortunate to be a hotbed of both competitive and performance pipe bands, with two top-level, competitive Grade I bands (Simon Fraser University Pipe Band and Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band) and a number of bands in Grade II, III & IV divisions.  Along with these competition bands, there are a number of performance bands, including the RCMP E. Division Pipe Band, the Vancouver Police, Delta Police pipe bands, J.P. Fell Pipe Band of North Vancouver and the Irish Regiment, to name a few. Continue reading

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Music, dancing and whisky tasting scheduled for Tartan Day 2014

Celtic-Connection-AdThe RCMP E. Division Pipe Band and the Buffalo Celtic Music Society are proud to present:

Tartan Day 2014 Concert

“A Highland Celebration”

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Riverside Palace Banquet Hall, 14431 Knox Way, Richmond, BC V6V 2Z1

Cocktails: 6pm. Dinner: 7pm


  • RCMP E. Division Pipe Band, under PM Hugh Peden
  • The Tam O’Shanter Scottish Country Dancers
  • The Stave Falls Highland Dancers
  • Scotch tasting, silent auction, DJ Pavel and dancing into the night

Dress:  Highland, military, Red Serge formal, tartan

Cost: $60

Tickets:  contact  778-838-6366




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Six Robert Burns Suppers in Vancouver, with Bagpipers

Burns PiperIn an entertaining evening filled with highlights, the grand entrance of the haggis is the marquis moment of a traditional Robert Burns Supper.

The great highland bagpipes strike in from the distance, and moments later a door flings open and in marches the piper playing ‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That‘, the legendary 18th century Robert Burns poem/song about human equality and liberty. Close on the piper’s brogues, the knife bearer and raconteur of Burn’s equally famous “Ode to a Haggis”.  And rounding out the procession – the chef responsible for cooking “the great chieftain o’the puddin race”, which has been placed on a silver platter and hoisted above heads as he ceremoniously follows the piper and knife-bearer to the head table. Continue reading

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Remembering veterans in Vancouver and beyond with bagpipes

The weather forecast is ominous.Remembrance day piper

November 11th is usually the last day of the year that most pipers and pipe bands venture into the great outdoors to perform one last time before winter winds sweep down and snow, rain and ice envelope our small part of the globe.  This year the forecast, as usual, is calling for single digit temperatures, clouds, snow and rain.  It will be an unpleasant experience for many of the bandsmen and women who will battle to keep fingers warm and the cold and dampness from throwing pipes completely out of tune while standing at attention for long periods of time. Continue reading

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A loyal, generous and infamous Vancouver pipe major passes into history

Pipe Major Ian Millman in Edinburgh.

Pipe Major Ian Millman in Edinburgh. Photo courtesy Hugh Peden.

The story about Ian Millman that sticks with me is the time the mayor of Vancouver announced at a crowded formal dinner that the City had decided to fund the Vancouver Police Pipe Band’s upcoming trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. The fully-kilted pipe major Ian Millman got out of his seat, marched over to the mayor (who one day became BC Premier) and planted a kiss on his lips.

Or the time he shot a cow that had escaped from a South Vancouver property, only to have the photo of his dead prize make the front page of The Vancouver Sun. He also told the story of shooting rabbits in Stanley Park and feeding them to the wolves in the zoo. Millman lived a large life and I know there are many people who knew him much better and can tell more accurate and entertaining stories than this poor scribe. Continue reading

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The sun sets on another Vancouver bagpiping season

Northumberland Strait PiperFall can be the best of times, and the worst of times.

For many, there’s nothing quite like beautiful, crisp, cool fall days; an opportunity to take long walks with family and friends, hike mountain trails without trudging through snow packs or relaxing in the waning strength of our dwindling summer sun. It is a joy to live in the northern hemisphere during this time. Across Canada, deciduous trees are starting their evolution to crimson and yellows, salmon are making their life-sustaining runs up BC rivers and thoughts are turning to rakes and snow shovels. Continue reading

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