Delta Police Pipe Band celebrates two milestones during dual Robbie Burns Supper.
With the incoming of the Delta Police Pipe Band’s first ever female pipe major, the band also saw the retiring of one of its longest serving members.
Originally formed by the Delta Police Department in 1971, the band has been representing the community of Delta for over 50 years both at home and abroad. The band has played for Queen Elizabeth II in 1983, for Prince Charles and Princess Diana during their visit for Expo 86, international tattoos in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Switzerland and Germany. In 2012 and 2016 the band had the distinct honor of playing with Sir Paul McCartney, joining him to perform Mull of Kintyre in front of 50,000 fans at BC Place.
Throughout most of that history there has been one constant face in the band, that of Gregor Hall. During the DPPB’s 48th annual Robbie Burns suppers, Hall with much ceremony, hung up his bass drumming harness and officially retired from the band after five decades of playing. Hall was 20 years old when he moved from Inverness, Scotland to London to join the Metropolitan Police. Seven years later Hall left the force as a sergeant and went to join his sister who had moved to British Columbia in 1969. “She said ‘the streets are paved with gold’ so I thought well I’ll give it a try,” Hall said.
When Hall arrived in Canada he worked for a few months as a teamster, loading and unloading
box cars or trucks and moving furniture. Then he got an interview with the Delta Police Department.
‘Somebody told me they were starting a band’
As Hall tells it, during the interview he was asked a question and his answer would propel him around the world for the next half century with the newly formed Delta Police Pipe Band. “They said ‘can you play an instrument?’ and I said ‘no but I’m willing to learn’ so I was in!” Gregor said during an interview conducted upon his 50th anniversary with the band in 2023. Hall started playing the bagpipes but after a month he took up the snare drum instead. Eventually he worked his way up to be the drum corps lead tip. Then, when the opportunity presented itself, Gregor picked up the bass drum. When asked how the band had started out, Hall remembered there were only six pipers at the band’s first ever public performance at the Rodeo parade in Cloverdale. A far cry from the band’s current roster of pipers that has now quintupled since those early days.
‘If somebody told me then that I’d be here 50 years later… I wouldn’t have believed them.’ When asked why he had stayed with the DPPB for all those years, Hall’s answer was quite simple. “I love the music, it just feels right for me,” he said.
First female Pipe Major
The DPPB’s 2024 Burns suppers also celebrated the incoming of the band’s next Pipe Major Corey Tillyer.
Tillyer is the seventh Pipe Major to carry the title since 1971. Steve Ramesden, the band’s previous PM, says he considers the leadership change an “upgrade” for the band. “Corey is a very accomplished piper and leader; she has demonstrated her ability to lead the DPPB at a very high standard,” Ramesden said.
This was exemplified by Tillyer’s leadership through the DPPB’s recent trip to the Belfast International Tattoo and her musical direction through January’s Burns suppers. Before her time with the DPPB, Tillyer was a piper with the Vancouver Ladies Pipe Band where she won Grade 3 at the World Pipe Band Championships in 1980. She was also the first female competing piper with the City of Victoria Pipe Band at the Grade 1 level. She also competed at the Grade 2 level several times with the New Westminster Police Pipe Band. “I am honored, excited and a little bit nervous taking on the role,” Tillyer said of her new position within the band. “I want to do a good job and hope my leadership style is a fit for a large band
the likes of DPPB.” Tillyer’s main priorities for the band under her leadership include fundraising, recruitment, and serving the community of Delta.
As the band recovers financially from their latest trip to Belfast, Tillyer says she wants the band to stay local and focus on the community of Delta for 2024. The year after though Tillyer is setting a longer-term goal of another international trip. “International travel raises the profile of the City of Delta and gives the band something to work towards,” Tillyer said. “DPPB is already known as a first-class international performance pipe band, “I’d like that to continue.”
article submitted by Cameron Thomson, DPPB