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. Former Vancouver Police Pipe Band Pipe Major Ian Millman was a policeman and a piper. He spent 36 years serving the people of Vancouver, on the bike and drug squads and internal affairs. He also served 10 years at the helm of the venerable city police pipe band. He died this past week of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

I did not know Ian Millman personally, but as a piper in a BC police pipe band, I have heard his stories, mostly from my current pipe major and former pipe sergeant of the VPD pipe band, Hugh Peden, a close personal friend of Ian’s.

Pipe Major Ian Millman. Photo courtesy VPD Pipe Band

Pipe Major Ian Millman. Photo courtesy VPD Pipe Band

In 1996, Pipe Sergeant Millman was elected as the VPD PB’s 12th pipe major since 1914, succeeding P/M Donald MacInnes. He had joined the VPD in 1964, following in his father’s footsteps. As a child he played the chanter  and picked it up again after joining the police department and getting in on the fun of a police pipe band. He was band secretary for some time before being appointed pipe sergeant by P/M MacInnes.  He served as pipe major for almost 10 years before poor health forced him to step down in October 2006.

However, during those 10 years the band thrived.

“I traveled the world with Ian and had a great time: Edinburgh, Hong Kong, Japan three times, Indonesia, Hawaii twice and Quebec City.   I also led the band in his absence (due to poor health) in Holland and again in Hawaii a third time.   Aside from those mega trips…we did many, many trips in the USA and Canada,” says Hugh Peden, pipe major of the RCMP E. Division Pipe Band in BC.

“Ian was a bit of a legend as anyone who knew him could tell you,” says Cal Davis, the current pipe major of the Vancouver Police Pipe Band. “The highlight of his piping career was likely taking the band to the Edinburgh Tattoo in 1999. He had an amazing ability to capture an audience and was one of the best public speakers I have ever met. In short he will be missed by many.”

Ian was a husband, father, veteran policeman and according to Hugh Peden, “a friend to all those that didn’t take life, work, or band too seriously.  He was loyal and generous to those he knew until the very end.”

Condolences to Ian’s wife Donna and his family are extended from all members of the RCMP E. Division Pipe Band.

For more details (and stories) please read this article from a VPD colleague.  And for an album of great photos, please refer to this Flickr site.

About Mike Chisholm

Official Piper: Rocky Mountaineer Rail Tours. Pitt River Resort. Exec. Dir. ScotFestBC: The British Columbia Highland Games, Director, BC Pipers' Assn. Former journalist, Nova Scotian, Dad.
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4 Responses to A loyal, generous and infamous Vancouver pipe major passes into history

  1. Gordie MacInnes (Don MacInnes' son) says:

    Ian was like an uncle to myself growing up as there were numerous VPD pipe band family events that were such a big part of my life. Ian and my dad were great friends as well as room mates on the road when the band was out of town (Quite often). Ian lived life to the fullest and my dad was usually right there beside him. The stories that have piled up over the years are hard to believe as I have heard them many times. Getting to know Donna and the girls (Tracy and Marla) was also a big part of my childhood as we were always together for BBQ’s, Band Functions, Highland Games, etc. Good times that I will never forget. Ian had a personality second to none. He will be truly missed and I want to send my condolences to his family from all the MacInnes clan. Miss you Ian, Gordie and Sheila.

  2. Brian Turcotte says:

    So many good times on the golf course…..or the pool table….Love you for ever buddy

  3. Peter Pantages says:

    I didn’t know Ian well , He was more my Fathers Friend. I can tell you this though….He was one hell of a Guy and I looked forward to seeing Him anytime I could. I knew Ian from attending the Legendary Pipe Band Dinners for the Vancouver Police Pipe Band.
    They were to say the Least , an Eye Opener. My Dad loved the Band and supported Them when He could. when Don and Ian played Amazing Grace together at My dads Funeral they Both had Tears streaming Down. Touching. I wanted to learn how to play a Bagpipe that Day. Fortunately for people with Hearing and Taste I Didn’t.
    Ian always gave me great advice and watching him on the street I can say He Had a talent to Take control of any situation. He was a Fair man and held Compassion.
    I will miss Ian and hope that someone like him will take his Place in the Band and Enjoy life like He did .
    He will Be missed.
    Peter Pantages and Family

  4. Julie Lazarowich says:

    Beautifully written, I wish I had seen this sooner

    My Dad could often be heard on the phone in the morning, to get “a game”. The family phone book would be sitting open under the “I” section after he had left for the “course” to meet up with “Millman”
    The tattoed sailor and the cop. They were two peas in a pod. Except that my uneducated bohunk father wasn’t as smart as Ian, not by a long shot. For some reason Ian adored my Dad, and had his back no matter what, even though Dad would get in trouble for his temper when he was drinking at “the club” (he got kicked out for 6 months and then for a year for the 2nd infraction)
    Ian called him “Skipper” and Dad called him “Millman”.
    When my Dad got cancer and his visits from his friends waned, Ian always showed up, even though it made him uncomfortable.
    Both men loved to shock their buddies when they could, and one way to do that was to kiss them. The reaction from the old school men was worth it to them.
    Ian made a fantastic martini, and more than once he and I got into these great debates about the different types, including the “Gibson” with pickled onions.
    Ian and his wife were both so very close to my parents, and they often had dinner parties with other PMGCC friends. It was so very unfair when Ian couldn’t golf anymore, or play the pipes. He was one of the best humans I ever knew, and I miss him and Donna so much. But I am certain that the 4 of them are playing cards, golfing, drinking, listening to music, singing, and dancing together with the rest of the gang from the club
    Julie Lazarowich, parents were Sandy and Terry Lazarowich

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