Trail LOL #2773 Pipe & Drum Band, Sept. 2, 1935, Nelson
Back Row: Dr. MacKay, Jack Stout, Murdoch MacLeod, William Morrison, Charlie Creighton, Adam Armit, MacCormack, Charles Glover, Guessford, John MacKay, Kenneth MacKay, John MacDonald, P-M Sandy Drysdale. Front Row: Hugh Middleton, Tina Thompson Heskett, Cranbrook, Willie Fife (Scottish entertainer).

Trail Pipe Band, 1924 – 1992
The early history of the Trail Pipe Band under its various names is quite tentative as to its Pipe Majors and their years of service. It is believed to have been organized prior to 1924, with John MacLennan as its first Pipe Major. A 1926 photograph entitled “Trail Caledonia Society Pipe Band” portrays P-M John MacLennan, Pipers Ernie Welsh, Jack Allen and four unidentified Pipers; D-M Pearson and Drummers
Red Jerome, Bill Byres (Bass Drummer) Bob Maitland and Jack Allan. Welsh and Byres had been founding members of the Kootenay Kilties band in Nelson prior to their arrival in Trail.

Bill Byres, who joined the band in 1924, when 17, recalls that most of the activity at that time took place in the summer months, (consisting largely of playing from one beer parlour to another!) Being under-aged, Byres was left outside with his drum. One day he ventured inside and while sitting with the boys was served a beer. However, when the bartender recognized him, he was sent outside. Byres didn’t like this treatment and left the band for a while.

The next years are fairly vague. MacLennan may have been succeeded by Donald MacLeod, a very fine but eccentric piper who in turn may have been succeeded by William Morrison, a native of South Dell, Ness. In turn, Sandy Drysdale, from Glasgow, was Pipe Major from about 1935 to 1936.

Sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s, sponsorship was assumed by the local Orange Lodge. The name situation of the band must have been a little loose during this period. Although a photo dated Sept. 2, 1935 had the caption “Trail L.O.L #2773 Pipe and Drum Band”, Bill Burns, later to become Pipe Major, stated that when he arrived in Trail early in 1937, although the band practiced in the Orange Hall, so far as he recalls, it was then known as the “Trail Pipe Band”. He believed that the band was not officially connected with the Orange Lodge, although it did not pay hall rent. Burns recollects that the Executive members of the Lodge helped him get employment, available if one was a musician or a hockey player.

Trail Pipe Band, 1944.
Charlie Glover, Charlie Anderson, Allen Forbes, Murdoch MacLeod, Tony Steenhoff, P-M Wm. McLeary, Bill Hicks (President), George
Donaldson, Colin Donaldson, Bob Byres, Bill Byres, Bill Burns, John MacDonald.

The history of the Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey Team indeed reflects the keen interest and support shown by the Company, – The Consolidated Mining & Smelting Co. – in getting employees who could strengthen the team, as does the history of the Trail Pipe Band.

Bill Byres, mentioned above, taught many side drummers over the years. From time to time, he took the lead drum, but would always pass it over to someone else when that person was capable.

In 1939 the band moved its practices into the Armouries from where it piped to the train many recruits, leaving for military service.

By the time Sandy Drysdale finished as Pipe Major the band was in pretty poor shape. The uniforms had either worn out or had disappeared. Young Gordon Sinclair, a fine player from Brandon, moved to Trail in 1936 where his abilities as a good player and teacher were soon recognized and appreciated. He was asked to reorganize the pipe band and was hired as a lead caster in the Lead Refinery. A photo shows Sinclair leading the band at the head of an Elks Convention Parade dressed in white trousers with Royal Stewart stripes down the side, and white shirts. Gordon Sinclair led the band until 1941 during which time he did a great deal of teaching as well.

In 1941, the band, still under P-M Sinclair, travelled on a recruiting drive with members of the Veteran’s Guard under Major Hewgill, from the Nakusp area. As part of the tour, bell tents and messes were erected at every stopover, and a concert was put on by the band and the Veterans every evening. Stops were made at Grand Forks, Rossland, Burton, Nakusp, Nelson and Kaslo. The band members received Army pay, and Cominco made up the balance. However, since the Company decided to terminate this arrangement at Kaslo, the Veterans proceeded to the East Kootenays without the Trail band.

By the time Gordon Sinclair left Trail to enter the Vancouver Police Force the band was in far better shape than when he had arrived.

The next Pipe Major was William McLeary who had founded the Kootenay Kilties back in 1919. He had worked in Trail in 1924, while setting up the foundry for Cominco. Once more the band was reorganized, and he induced several players, who had been inactive for some time, to join the band. The name was changed to the Trail Highland Pipe Band. Full dress uniforms with Royal Stewart tartan were purchased.

McLeary was succeeded by William Burns in 1946. A native of Medicine Hat and a pupil of P-M Alex Hosie, Burns had joined the band in 1937. He soon became P-Sgt. under Gordon Sinclair and remained in this position under P-M McLeary. He became Pipe Major himself after Sinclair left. During his term he taught many, many pipers, as evidenced by a band photograph, in which 13 of the 15 pipers were his pupils.

While Burns led the band it competed at many of the Interior competitions where it won many awards.

On May 8, 1948, the band, once again the Trail Pipe band, was honoured to have the Gov. Gen. Field Marshall the Rt. Hon. The Viscount Alexander of Tunis inspect the band, when he and Lady Alexander
visited Trail.

The Bass Drummer is the unsung hero of the pipe band. No child failed to become wide-eyed while watching the antics of the Trail Bass Drummers, who always put on a good show. George Donaldson, who played under Sinclair was also a product of Brandon. He frequently got caught up in the excitement and began putting on a display for the spectators, wherein he practically ignored the band. After Donaldson left Trail in 1948, the band was joined by Danny Armit, a Trail boy, on the bass drum, and Robert (Bert) McMaster on the tenor drum. Armit was 6’4″ and McMaster about 5’0″. Bert had learned the tenor drum while in the Boys Brigade in Scotland. They were joined by Tenor Drummer Allen Paul, younger brother of Drum Major Jerry Paul, who also came from the Boys Brigade. The three of them, Bert, Danny and Allen attracted a lot of attention during concerts, with their flourishes and handling of their drum sticks.

Dan Armit recalls that as a youngster he was a keen follower of the band and was always there when it was putting on concerts, and also at band practices. Armit’s father, Adam Armit, had also played the bass drum in the Trail band from 1928 to 1935, having previously played in a Lethbridge pipe band. Dan Armit still recalls a very striking blonde female Drum Major, Naomi Lundstrom, who performed in 1943. P-M McLeary’s eyebrows raised when she first appeared before the band wearing a mini-kilt!

The band always took part in the Legion’s Remembrance Day parade and service. In the earlier days, after the service was over, the Legion members marched up to Tadanac (beside the Cominco plants), and placed a wreath on a cairn in the cemetery there. This little parade was led by the pipe band or the Maple Leaf Band (a brass band) on alternate years. When the weather was cold and the ground snow-covered the brass band would turn down this assignment and the breach would be filled, of course, by the pipe band.

Since 1947 the band has sponsored an annual Burns’ Anniversary Banquet Concert and Dance. The wives and mothers formed a Women’s Auxiliary in 1954 and since then has catered to this function with the help of the band members. Proceeds went to the band, as in 1959, when the Women’s Auxiliary were able to purchase feather bonnets with red hackles.

In 1950 Jack McCabe, his brothers and some others, left the Trail Pipe Band and formed the Balmoral Pipe Band. This band, which eventually became a part of 44th Fd. Sqn. RCE (M), remained in existence until 1962.

Often, when the Trail band travelled to the various celebrations, it was accompanied by four or five girls and their teacher, Mrs. Katie Shaw, who performed Highland dances as part of the show.

During one of these concerts, while the band was in a circle, Sterling Wallace recalls with some amusement, how Tom Baxter’s dental plate was observed sliding down his blow pipe and Tom grasping it and getting it into his pocket, without missing a note!

Some of the trips took five or six days, including travelling time. These included American Legion Conventions in Lewiston, Idaho, in 1946, in Pocatello, Idaho, in 1947, and back in Lewiston in 1957.

A special place was Orofino, Idaho, where the band took part in their annual celebrations for three days in September in 1948, 1950, 1955,1965,1966, and 1968. Other highlights were the Stadium Pageant and Lilac Parade in Spokane in 1951, Memorial Stadium Festival and the Lilac Parade in Spokane in 1958, Trail Day at EXPO 1974 in Spokane, and Kootenay Days at EXPO 1986 in Vancouver.

Some of the younger members were privileged to attend the Glentrium Piping School in Nelson, under P- M Donald Macleod, and another school headed by this outstanding gentleman at Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask.

In 1951 and 1952 the band sponsored and conducted Highland Games, but because they cost far more than was taken in, they had to drop these events.

During the early 1960s the band was having some trouble in finding a suitable place for chanter and drum practices. The local Legion came through and provided some rooms for this purpose. Charlie Glover, one of the Side Drummers, was a painter with Cominco and painted on a spare bass drum “Legion Pipe Band”, along with the Legion emblem and name. Thus, when the band played for the Legion, it unofficially carried their name, although sponsorship was never assumed.

A similar situation existed later on, after Jack McCabe’s Militia band folded. The 44th Fd. Sqn. M) entered into an arrangement with the band to provide it with quarters as well as a bass drum with its name painted on it. The band then became, from time to time, the 44th Fd. Sqn. RCE (M) Pipe Band, once again unofficially.

The Trail Pipe Band has regularly competed in the Nelson Highland Games. In 1956, 1961 and 1963 it won the Gilker Rose Bowl Trophy for first place in the pipe band competition and in 1959, 1960,1962 and 1965 came second in this event.

The Trail Pipe Band at Gyro Park in Trail (1964) Photographer unknown.

Robert (Bob) Strachan, Drum Major in 1967, was working in the area at the time, involved with the
B.C. Hydro dam then being constructed on the Lower Arrow Lake above Castlegar. At times he came to band practices and worked with Jerry Paul, instructing him in some of the finer points in handling the mace. Straghan had the business “Gaelic Shop Scottish Imports Ltd.” in Port Coquitlam which he operated until 1985.

Special mention should be made of Joe Furiak. Secretary-Treasurer of the band since 1958 and a most dedicated member since 1951. Furiak learned the pipes from P-M Burns, and played as a Piper until 1961. Because the blowing started to bother him, he took up the side drum, and played it for five years. Furiak has also beat the bass drum at practices and on parade when required. A machinist by trade, he served briefly with the Kimberley Pipe Band and was there in 1955 when Angus Scott died. He took part in the Military Funeral for this distinguished veteran Piper and former Pipe Major.

A source of great pride to Bill Burns was that, while he served as Pipe Major, his two sons, Bill and Don Burns, and a nephew, Frank Bishop, played as Pipers in his band.

Burns retired in 1973, and was followed by Bramley Eccles, of Alloa ,Clackmannanshire, P-Sgt. since 1954.

Eccles remained Pipe Major until 1974 when he left the Trail band to form the Golden City Pipe Band. With its headquarters in Rossland, this was the second spin-off band from the Trail band. The Golden City band continued for seven years.

Fred King a pupil of Bill Burns, then became Pipe Major and remained in that office until 1989. The band has continued to carry on an active schedule and has served its community as it has done for so many years. In 1989 Murray McKenzie, also a pupil of Burns, was appointed Pipe Major.

President of the Band from 1982 until 1988 was John Pratt, a Side Drummer during the early 1960s, and a pupil of Bill Byres. Away from Trail for several years, he returned in the early 1980s and took up drumming once more. From 1985 until 1988 he had two daughters who were Pipers in the band.

Update since 1992
From 1990 to the present the Trail Pipe Band has had its ups and downs at times but is currently doing well. Between 1989 and 2014, the Pipe Major was Murray McKenzie and then in 2014, Gordon Titsworth took the helm as Pipe Major unfortunately, he sadly passed away in 2021. A tune written by Karen Campbell commemorates the influence Pipe Major Titsworth had on the Trail Pipe Band and the Interior pipe and drum scene. The current Pipe Major is Willie Bain and the band is going strong in their 100th year of playing pipes and drums in Trail, BC.

The Trail Pipe Band playing at the Charles Bailey Theatre in 2014 (Our 90th Anniversary concert). Photographer was Steve Barnes.

The Trail Pipe Band has been involved with its yearly event and parade schedule in the Pacific Northwest and Southern British Columbia with only a two-year gap due to Covid. Some of our many accomplishments are as follows:
 2005- Playing for the B.C. interior Curling Playdown.
 2008- Trail Citizen of the Year award
 2010- Placed well in the Spring fling in Kelowna
 2011- The Trail Pipe Band hosted the Spring Fling in Trail
 2014- Home of Champions honours.
 2014- Trail Pipe Band 90th Anniversary concert in Trail at the Charles Bailey Theatre.
 2016- The Trail Pipe Band hosted the Spring Fling in Trail
 2019- Kootenay Kilties 100th Anniversary concert in Nelson and Trail
 2020- All activities cancelled due to Covid.
 2021- Gordon Titsworth passed away.
 2022- Willie Bain became our new PM.
 2023- The Trail Pipe Band won the medley portion of the Spring Fling event held in Kelowna.
 2023- The Trail Pipe Band played at the reopening of the Kids’ Rink at the Cominco Arena after
a major upgrade was done to the facility. This was held on the same day (Dec 30th) 70 years
after the original opening of the Rink where the Trail Pipe Band also played in 1953.
 2024- We hosted and planned our Spring Fling and our 100th Anniversary celebration.

The Trail Pipe Band at the Spring Fling in Trail, BC – May, 2024; Photographer Susan Henke.

Finally, the Trail Pipe Band is doing well with 12 pipers and 7 drummers at this time and the future of
our band looks bright.

Iterations of the Trail Pipe Band over 100 years:
 44th Fd. Sqn. Royal Canadian Engineers Pipe Band (unofficial)
 Trail Legion Pipe Band (Br. #11, RCL) Pipe Band (unofficial)
 Trail Highland Pipe Band
 Trail Pipe Band
 Trail LOL #2773 Pipe and Drum Band
 Trail Caledonia Society Pipe Band
Pipe Majors:
John MacLennan c. 1924-1927
Donald Macleod c. 1929
William Morrison a short time
Sandy Drysdale 1935-1936
Gordon Sinclair 1936-1941
William McLeary 1942-1946
William Burns 1946-1973
Bramley Eccles 1973-1974
Fred King 1974-1989
Murray McKenzie 1989-1990
Jim Albo 1990-1992
Murray McKenzie 1992-2014
Gordon Titsworth 2014-2021
Willie Bain 2021-present (2024)
Drum Majors:
D-M Pearson c. 1926
Naomi Lundstrom 1943
Jimmy Rae 1947-1950
Jerry Paul 1952-1968
Bob Strachan 1967-1984
Bill Fillmore 1984-1986
Leading Side Drummers:
Bill Byres 1920s, 1930s,1940s
Charlie (Scotty) Glover 1938-1947
Bill Gallamore 1948-1952
Fred Johnson 1953
Bill Byres 1954
Harry Steven 1955-1959
Jack Neill 1959-1965
John Ellison 1965-1968
Ron Milne 1968-1982
Gordon Menelaws 1982- 2003
Ted Wallace 2003-2007
N/A 2007-2009
Brian Plamondon 2009-present (2024)

From “Pipe Bands in B.C.”, a book by Carl Ian Walker, 1992
(ISBN 10: 1550561626 ISBN 13: 9781550561623)

  • Bill Burns Sr. wrote the article for the Trail Pipe Band in 1992;
  • “Update since 1992” (January 2024) written by Elio Borsato, Trail Pipe Band President
  • Edited by Andrew Moore (May 2024)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *