Pipe Band of the 50th Regiment (Gordon Highlanders)
Researched and written by
MCpl D.M. Drysdale CD, Piper
The Canadian Scottish Regiment
When the 88th Regiment (Victoria
Fusiliers) was formed in 1912, it was felt by a
large number of people in
who were of Scottish origin or descent that the
Victoria Fusiliers represented
the English community, and that they, too, should
be represented. This resulted
in a series of meetings in the spring of 1913, the
first of which, according
to press reports, was called by a Captain Chambers to
discuss the formation of
a Highland Regiment in Victoria.
In August the sanction of
the Minister of Militia, Colonel Sam Hughes was
received, and on 4 September,
1913, an official announcement from Ottawa
authorized the new Highland regiment, to be known as the 50th Regiment
(Gordon Highlanders) wearing
the uniform of the Imperial Gordon Highlanders
with the Gordon crest, a
stag's head, as its cap badge. On the same day the first
fifteen or twenty men were
sworn in, although the regiment was not yet actually
in existence, and was temporarily
administered by a civilian committee.
On 25 October it was announced
that Lieut.-Col. Arthur Currie, of the 5th
Regiment C.G.A. would be
appointed to command. On the next day Major Lorne
Ross was appointed Second-in-Command,
and Major Garnett Hughes (only son
of the Minister) as junior
major. The Saint Andrew's and Caledonia Society of
Victoria offered their full
On the 21st of November Mr.
W.H. Coy became the Honorary Lieut.-Colonel. He
promptly gave $35,000 to
the Regiment, with which full dress uniforms and
equipment was to be purchased,
much of which was to remain in use for
decades with the Canadian
Scottish Regiment for guards of honour.
The first parade of the new
Regiment was on Monday, February 16, 1914 at the
Knights of Pythius Hall on
Douglas at Pandora. It was here that Lieut.-Col. Currie
and his officers met the
men in a body for the first time. The Regimental Pipe
Band was present, and later
in the evening played in the street outside, attracting
a large and delighted audience.
The following Sunday, the Pipe Band was
present at the Menzies Street
Drill Hall for the decorating of the commemorative
tablet honouring the sons
of Victoria who fell in the South African War, the Pipes
and Drums then leading the
way to the divine service at the Cathedral. There
were to be many other parades
in the next few months. One of the more moving
parades being the sendoff
for the 30th Battalion, C.E.F. which took place on Feb.
15, 1915 in which all the
military bands then in Victoria took part.
It was during the winter
of 1913-14, that the Regimental Pipes and Drums had
been formed under P/M Donald
Cameron, formally the Pipe Major of Victoria's
St. Andrew's & Caledonia
Society Pipe Band (organized in 1908). Also joining
with him were pipers John
Low Sr. and William Whishart. The Pipe Band
practiced throughout the
winter of 1913 and spring of 1914 every Sunday at 3:00
at the Menzies Street Drill
Hall. (The rifle companies paraded weekday evenings
at the Knights of Pythius
Hall and the buglers at the Regimental Headquarters at
1175 Fort Street). During
this pre-war period the pipe band grew to
approximately 12 pipers and
6 drummers. Other pipers in the band at this time
were: G. Birnie, W. Calder,
J. Parks, C. Wilson, A. Dunsmuir, A. McDonald, W.
MacGregor, C. Coutts, C.
Sims and A. Wallace. The Drum Major was N.
McDonald and the Sgt. Drummer
was T. Hoey. Only two other drummers have
been identified, T. Whishart
and W. Muir.
The people of Victoria did not have long to admire the Regiment in their
resplendent uniforms (which
arrived in early May, 1914) --tall white-plumed
feather bonnets, scarlet
or white shell doublets, gold lace and snowy pipe-clayed
equipment --for only six
months after its first parade, they were mobilized for
When war broke out in August,
1914, Canada's militia was mobilized.
Regiment, with its pipe band
in the lead, marched to the Exhibition Grounds at
the Willows where the unit,
along with the 88th Regiment (Victoria Fusiliers) were
to be encamped. There was
no call-up of regiments, but drafts of volunteers to
form numbered battalions.
Along with the draft from the Gordons, contingents
from the following regiments
made up the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish)
Canadian Expeditionary Force
--The 91st Canadian Highlanders (Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders) from
Hamilton, Ont. formed in 1902; the Queen's Own
Cameron Highlanders of Canada
from Winnipeg, Manitoba formed
in 1910; and
the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders
of Canada from Vancouver, B.C. formed in 1911.
50th Regiment pipers G. Birnie,
J. Parks and C. Wilson were among those who
entered the newly formed
16th Btn. C.E.F.
The Camerons and Seaforths
both sent their own battalions, the 43rd and 72nd
respectively, later in the
war. Attempts were made by the 50th Regiment to raise
an overseas battalion of
its own, but without success. They were fated to remain
throughout the war as a mobilized
militia unit, filling guard duties and sending
drafts to newly-raised battalions
such as the 30th, 48th, and 67th (Western
The 67th Btn was raised in
Victoria in June of 1915. A number of pipers from the
50th Regiment enlisted in
the 67th Btn. William Whishart, who became Pipe
Major, Sandy and John Chisholm,
Alex Ferguson and John Low Sr.
When a depot for B.C. was
formed at the Willows Camp in 1917, the Gordons
still maintained their organization,
their drafts into the overseas formations
retaining their kilts. At
the Willows, the Gordons also maintained a pipe band,
with C. Coutts as Pipe Major.
The buglers and pipers of the Regiment took an
active part in the daily
routine of the Willows Camp, sharing reveille and tattoo
with the band of the 88th
Regiment (the 50th band playing on odd days, the fife
and drum band of the 88th,
on even days).
In addition to the pipes
and drums, the 50th Regiment also had a bugle band. It
was even planned to have
a brass band, but the war put a stop to such a
grandiose scheme. The buglers,
most of them young boys, were responsible for
the majority of duty calls
played at the camp. The following orders for October 9,
1914 clearly illustrates
the various calls which were part of the daily routine for
Reveille 6:30 Sick Parade
Breakfast 7:30 Supper 5:30
Sick Parade 8:15 Retreat
Orderly Room 8:30 1st Post
1st Parade 9:00 Last Post
Dinner 12:30 Lights Out 10:30
2nd Parade 2:00
Buglers were either in the
bugle band or were company buglers. Some of the
bugle band members have been
identified as: Sgt. Bugler Meads, Buglers W.J.
Rance, F.C. Alexander, R.S.
Porter, F.B. Vansicklin, Ballantyne, McKinnon,
Cavanagh, J.D. Butler, A.A.
Bates, A. Moir, N. Fatt, N. Sneddon, N.L. Caldwell,
H.D Wallis, McLaren, O.M.
Ferrabee, W. Pauline, G. Murray, J. Rodger, J.
Langton, V. McKinnon, C.
Lang, J.D Rochford, V. Hodding, Pomeroy, H.D.
Bowerman, F.V. Richardson,
and A.G. Nix. The following former 50th Regiment
buglers served over-seas
with various units: F.C. Alexander, A.A. Bates, H.D.
Bowerman, E.J. Diespecker,
J.S. Plows, C. Abbot, F.V. Richardson and L. Marrs.
Apparently the 50th bandsmen
were not appreciated by everyone in the camp, a
Regimental Order (No. 161)
being issued on December 12, 1914, stating that
"no drummers, buglers or
pipers are to practice anywhere between the lines of
the 5th C.G.A. (Canadian
Garrison Artillery) and B.C. Horse or anywhere in the
vicinity of the Grand Stand"!
It appears that a Gordon
Highlanders' pipe band remained intact after the war. At
the Vancouver Games held
August 4, 1919, the 50th Regiment from Victoria won
third prize in the pipe band
competition. At the Games held on August 17, 1920,
the Vancouver Daily World
of August 19th reported that the Gordon Highlanders
came first, out of five bands,
and thus won the Stewart Trophy. However,
engraved on the trophy itself
as the winner was "Comrades of the Great War,
Victoria", under Pipe Major
Donald Cameron. A photograph of this band with the
trophy shows the band apparently
in Gordon Highlander uniforms. No
explanation is known for
this 'double naming'. This, however, would be the last
parade for the Pipes and
Drums of the 50th Regiment as a new Highland
Regiment would be formed
in Victoria the following year, the 1st Btn, The
Canadian Scottish Regiment.
The Brazier (50th Anniversary
Edition). Victoria: The Canadian Scottish
Regiment (Princess Mary's),
Urquhart, H.M. History of
the 16th Battalion (The Canadian Scottish) Canadian
Expeditionary Force. Toronto: McMillan, 1922
Walker, C.I. Pipe Bands in British Columbia.
Squamish: Western Academy
Pipe Music, 1992
The Daily Colonist. Victoria, B.C. 1913-1914
Regimental Orders. The 50th
Regiment (Gordon Highlanders). Victoria. 1913-1914