Moorabbin City Pipe Band’s birth-date is the 20th of February 1966, for that’s when a post-war Scottish immigrant from Fife named David Reid was approached and agreed to assist in forming a pipe band within the City of Moorabbin. Moorabbin was then an aspiring place in the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne. It was thought at the time, that no new self-respecting suburb of its day was complete without its own brass band and pipe band and the citizens of Moorabbin were set to have both.
After a few short months of what must have been considerable effort the Band’s first parade was on the 29th of October 1966 in a ‘uniform’ of war surplus army khaki berets, battle dress jackets, hose along with an assortment of sporrans and kilts of six different tartans. The decision to adopt the Bruce tartan was influenced by the pipe major’s wife, Betty Reid, also a piper in the Band who was said to be ‘fond’ of the tartan. Another reason was at the time the Band was formed no one was associated with the Bruce tartan. As a result, the Band decided to adopt the Bruce tartan and considerable effort was made to fundraise enough money to buy bolts of the material to make into kilts and plaids. The Right Hon. Earl of Elgin (heredity Chief of the Clan Bruce) was approached to become Patron of the Band; indeed the Band played for their Patron when he departed Melbourne Airport after visiting Australia in the early 1970s. The current Earl of Elgin is still the Band’s Patron.
New Year’s Day, Maryborough 1968 was the Band’s first competition, which resulted in a 2nd place in Grade 3, the lowest Grade at the time, as Grade 4 wasn’t introduced in Victoria until 1986; nevertheless, it must have been a pleasing start for a pipe band in its first competition.
The year 1968 was a ‘milestone’ in the Band’s history in another, less auspicious way. When on the 1st of April (April Fool’s Day no less) the Band made the decision to become a ‘men only’ pipe band. The swinging sixties and the sexual revolution hadn’t quite made it to Moorabbin! Whatever judgements we might make now are done with the benefit of hindsight; perhaps it’s best to say that it was a decision ‘of its time’. Yet, some good was to come from the exclusion of women from the Band as it led to the eventual formation of the St. Andrew’s Ladies Pipe Band. Betty Reid, Janet Hedges et al left and formed the Southern District Ladies Pipe Band which split after a few years to form the St. Andrews Ladies Pipe Band (sometimes referred to lovingly as ‘the purple people eaters’ – at least the music of the 60s was being heard in the Moorabbin suburbs). Betty was of course the initial Pipe Major of both of our ‘sister’ bands. The band allowed women to be playing members again in 1986 when Bill Bruce became Pipe Major.
The young Moorabbin Band was very fortunate to attract the first of what was to later become a hallmark of the Band, gaining the tuition of world-renowned pipers and drummers. For in 1968 Gordon Jelly, formally lead drummer of Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band joined the Band as drum tutor. Gordon’s talent was world renown; indeed, he was the lead drummer of Shotts in the 1950s when Alex Duthart was a corps drummer in Shotts. Gordon tutored the Moorabbin drum corps for many years and taught the Band’s first Drum Sergeant Ian Bouch who was to lead the corps for twenty years from 1970.
The Band won its first Victorian Championship, in Grade 3, on the 20th of February 1972, the Band’s sixth birthday. Peter Lamont succeeded David Reid to become the Band’s second Pipe Major, but only for a year. A turning point for the young Band was in 1973 when Eric Christie became the Pipe Major. Eric was formally Pipe Sergeant of the Hawthorn City Pipe Band which he had joined in 1964 after coming from New Zealand where he played with the City of Wellington Pipe Band. In the same year Eric came to Moorabbin, he won the prestigious Comunn na Piobaireachd Society of New Zealand Gold Medal.
Interestingly, Eric is the first of three Moorabbin pipers and the only three Australian residentsever to have won the New Zealand Gold medal; the others being Doug Thoresen in 1966 and the current Pipe Major Ian Lyons in 2010.
Under Eric’s expert tutelage and with the assistance of Gordon Jelly and the administrative support of John Steer and Dan Walters (both parents of pipers in the Band), Moorabbin City Pipe Band went from strength to strength and was promoted to Grade 2 in 1974. The Band subsequently won the Australian Championship’s of 1976 in Adelaide and then again in Sydney in 1978.
Between these two Australian Championship wins another key player was to join the Band, he was from Scotland and his name was Bill Bruce, after whom the Band’s current tartan — the William Bruce Tartan — is named. Bill played with Kinross and District Pipe Band in Scotland, a band that had just won a Grade 2 World title. Bill had met and married Trish and they decided to immigrate to Australia. Bill’s father bought his son a new Bruce kilt to come to Australia. Bill told the story of how he came to join Moorabbin. When he was leaving Scotland he made inquires as to the best band to play with in Melbourne and was told emphatically it was Hawthorn City Pipe Band. A fluke of jobs lead Bill and Trish to move to the Moorabbin area and one day Bill got a knock at the door from two of Moorabbin Band’s players, Don Louden and then pipe sergeant David McPherson. They asked Bill if he would be interested in joining the local pipe band, pointing out that Hawthorn was a long way to travel and adding a teaser that the Band wore the Bruce tartan. Bill was hooked and joined the Band. Another reason was that Bill felt that Moorabbin could really use his services i.e. Hawthorn had lots of good calibre pipers. Bill continued to wear the Bruce kilt his father had got for him, not a man to let things go to waste.
After the win the 1978 the Band was promoted to Grade 1. In the pipe band world of the late 1970s and 1980s there were fiveother grade one bands (Hawthorn, Melbourne, Nunawading, RVR, and Melbourne Ladies). Moorabbin was competitive in the grade from the late 70s to mid 1980s regularly getting third and occasionally second places. Eric Christie left the Band in 1985 and was succeeded by Bill Bruce as Pipe Major.
The years from 1986 to 1994 were lean and changing times for the Band, moving down from Grade 1 to Grade 2 and then to Grade 3. Players came and went, but it was during this key time the Band continued to teach. One of Bill’s proudest memories was competing at the Mount Gambier competition with 24 pipers, mostly young players all taught by the Band. A number of the current pipers were taught in this time. Ian Bouch left the band in 1990 and was succeeded by John Hills as Drum Sergeant. During the early 1990s Bill’s health deteriorated and he was followed as pipe major by John Beardon in 1992, James Cowie in 1994, Tyson May in 1995 (all taught by Bill), Cameron Ely in 1996 and later Andrew Winchcomb from 1997 to 1998. Bill played as active a role in the Band as he could, both as a player, teacher and President. Bill died in 2010.
In the early 1990’s the band secured tuition from Paul Turner who was then the leading drummer with the Victoria Police Pipe Band. The leading drummer at the time was Rob Sherburn. In 1998, Victoria Police drummer, Brian Elphick, originally from City of Wellington, New Zealand took over the corps leading it to several titlesin Grade 3 & 2. In 2002, David Gilfillan, former leading drummer with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards took over the corps, leading it to wins at the Victorian, Australian and New Zealand Championships that same year. In 2006 Alistair Baillie took over the drum corps continuing the bands Grade 2 success until the current Leading Drummer Daniel Staley took the lead in 2011.
The Band’s second resurgence on the contest field followed the appointment of Ian Lyons as pipe tutor in 1994. Ian was from Banbridge, County Down in Northern Ireland. He had previously played with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and when appointed tutor in 1994 was playing with the Victoria Police Pipe Band. The Victoria Police won the Grade 1 World Pipe Band Championship in 1998 under Nat Russell, but as a result of changes to the set up of the police bands, they were no longer competing in piping contests. World piping’s loss was Moorabbin’s gain, as Ian became the Pipe Major of Moorabbin. Ian’s biography can be found on this website, so there isn’t need to go into great detail here, aside from adding that while leading Moorabbin he has continued his pursuit of piping excellence playing with the very best world class bands, 78th Fraser Highlanders from Canada and Northern Ireland’s Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band. Ian is now the Band’s longest serving Pipe Major.
From 2001 to 2009 the Band competed under the name ‘Clayton RSL Pipe Band’ as it received sponsorship from the club, although the Band continued to trade under the name Moorabbin City Pipe Band. When the sponsorship deal expired in 2009, the Band returned to the name Moorabbin City Pipe Band.
The Band won Grade 3 Australian Championships in 1998 and was elevated to Grade 2. In Grade 2 the Band has won the 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 & 2012 Australian Championships and the 2002 & 2012 New Zealand Pipe Band Championships and numerous Victorian titles.
The Moorabbin City Pipe Band has 6 current Life Members. Eric Christie, Ian Bouch, Peter McLoughlin, Gail May, Chris Hosking and Christine Poulter.
A band, like any organisation exists and thrives because of its members. The members new and old are the Band. And it is with respect to the past the Band looks towards a bright and competitive playing future….…
McLoughlin, Peter (2010) Moorabbin City Pipe Band: A Concise History, The 53rd Geelong Highland Gathering Program, Sunday 21st March 2010, pp 10–11
McLoughlin, Peter (2010) Eric Alexander Christie, The 53rd Geelong Highland Gathering Program, Sunday 21st March 2010, pp 9–10
McLoughlin, Peter (1986) Moorabbin City Pipe Band – Short History, Moorabbin City Pipe Band ’20th Anniversary Newsletter No. 9 October/November 1986, pp 1–2. (Amendments Ian Lyons 2013)