Pipe Major Bill Robertson's Bagpipe Journey
When it comes to piping, Bill has been involved with most aspects of the Art, from competing, directing, judging, giving lessons and developing bagpipe tutorials. At the tender age of 11 he started taking lessons with the Boys Brigade 1st St. Andrews Company. Upon turning 18 he was called up for National Service with The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment). At this time The Royal Scots were the oldest serving regiment of the British Army.
His Military Experience ...After basic training at Dreghorn Barracks, Edinburgh, he was able to progress with his piping when he was accepted for the Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion of the regiment under Pipe Major Willie Denholm (ex K.O.S.B's); a fine piper and composer of the 6/8 march "El Alamein" and "The Royal Scots Polka". After his national service, Bill continued his service with the regiment and pursued his piping there until the late 1950's.
In 1953 PM Willie Denholm retired and was succeeded by Pipe Major Hugh Fraser a renowned piper and solo competitor who transferred from the Cameron Highlanders to take up the appointment. Bill was fortunate enough to be taught and influenced by Hugh who had so much to pass on with his experience in the "Old School" of Army piping pre-war and of the 40's and 50's. He was also a composer of note. Both these Pipe Majors and he had some of their compositions published in pipe music books.
Pipe Major Willie Ross, MBE ...At the age of 23 he gained the much coveted Pipe Majors' Certificate at Edinburgh Castle under the direction of the famous Pipe Major Willie Ross MBE (ex Pipe Major of the Scots Guards and renowned prizewinning soloist), who was the director of the Army School of Piping. The board of examiners then was made up of reputable members of the Piobaireachd Society and a knowledgeable representative of the Army who was then and now well known Major David Murray, Cameron Highlanders. At the age of 23 he succeeded Hugh Fraser as Pipe Major of the 1st Battalion.
Foreign Fields ...Late 1958 he resigned from the British Army. After being so much time abroad in Germany, the Middle East and the Far East, he had a desire to settle down in New Zealand where he has resided since 1959.
Band Associations ...Once in New Zealand he started directing and training a group of youngsters of the Hamilton Caledonian Society's Pipe Band and brought them up from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1 and reached third in the National Grade 1 Championships 1963/4. That band had half the piping section with these developed youngsters playing at 17 and under, years of age.
Some years later he was promoted in his regular work and this necessitated him moving to Auckland. There he directed the Auckland and District Pipe Band (later P&D of Innes Tartan and now back to Dalewool Auckland and District-) and took them to a good number of Grade 1 New Zealand championships and many more Grade 1 winning music events, but devalued in the aggregate by having less drill points that counted towards championships back then. The same happened in Australia Grade 1. They won the music, but too low in their different form of drill movements.
International Events ...When the band changed its name through sponsorship to the Pipes and Drums of Innes Tartan they won the open events in Vancouver, B.C. and Santa Rosa, California, in 1972. See picture below of the band in Vancouver BC 1972.
Prior to that they gained seventh place in Scotland at the Scottish Grade 1 (open) Championships, and the highest equal points for tone. He retired from the band in the 1980's and the band is still one of the top New Zealand bands. It was after his retirement the ideas for more effective ways to present bagpipe tutorials where spawned.
Personal Achievements ...Being more dedicated to bands both in the Army and in New Zealand, as a means of being more helpful to piping, he seldom competed in solo events and when he did he had some notable success. Bill rates some of his best achievements being placed first in the Highland Brigade Piobaireachd event in 1957, winning of the Comunn na Piobaireachd, New Zealand Gold Medal in 1962, The Australian Open March, Strathspey and Reel competition held in Sydney, 1967.
He also takes part in seminars,workshops and has been on judges panel of both pipe bands and solo piping in New Zealand. His piobaireachd composition 'Lament for Pipe Major Hugh Fraser' was placed third equal in the BBC competition for new piobaireachd in 1965 from 66 entries word wide. It has been published in the book 'Collection Ceol Mor - composed during the Twentieth Century 1930 - 1980' by the Piobaireachd Society It also appears with his 6/8 march 'Pipe Major Bill Boyle, New Zealand Scottish Regiment' in honor of one of New Zealand's most famous pipers, and compositions of Pipe Major Denholm and Hugh Fraser in the Royal Scots Pipe Music Book.
Effect on New Zealand Pipe Bands ...In an interview with Trevor Andrews, QSM, published in the New Zealand Pipeband Magazine - May 2009. Trevor states the following:
"... After Bill Robertson took over and he had a massive influence on me and the band - mainly in the area of sound. He had perfect pitch and as far as I am concerned he revolutionized sound in NZ pipe bands at that time. He was recognized for his ability across the country, having been through the castle ..."
Bills Family ...Bill and Elizabeth where married in 1967 and are proud parents to Rhona. Rhona excelled at sport and went on to represent New Zealand for badminton in the the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games. She is happily married to Greig Bramwell. Bill and Elizabeth are the proud grand parents to two lovely grand children Kade and Lucy.
Young Kade is already showing a keen interest to follow in his grandfathers footsteps.
Bagpipe Tutorials: Bill's Passion ...Bagpipe lessons from Bill are now on a more limited scale. He spends most of his time fine tuning his bagpipe tutorials for his DVD lessons and teaching some young students at two schools as well as a few private pupils. A recent development is this web site, which he is using to bring to you samples of his bagpipe tutorials.
Read about Greg and how he came to build Bill's website.
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Items Of Interest
Bill As A Young Piper
PM Willie-Denholm 1951
PM H Fraser
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