Popular leader of Manitoba Band

THIS year’s trip to the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow was bitter-sweet for the 21 young men of the Lord Selkirk Boys’ Pipe Band from Winnipeg, Canada.

Their popular pipe major, Robert Fraser, from Arbroath, died in March. He was 89 years old and still taught the boys and led the band he established 54 years ago.

Band public relations co-ordinator Mary Jane MacLennan explained: “It’s very hard for the boys not to have Mr Fraser with us in Scotland or waiting for us back in Canada. He was so proud of his boys and was like a grandfather to so many of us.”

Mr Fraser is said to have personally taught over 1,000 young men to play the bagpipes. At almost 90 years old, he still directed practices and gave lessons every day except Sunday.

On each band trip to Scotland, the boys hike the Seaton Cliffs Nature Trail in Arbroath and perform with the Arbroath Royal British Legion Scotland Pipe Band.

This year they will parade from the High Street pedestrian precinct to Arbroath Abbey tomorrow (Saturday) at 3 p.m. The men and women of the Arbroath branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland, many of whom knew Mr Fraser and his family, will welcome the boys and the Lord Selkirk band families for dinner.

Morag McKenzie, secretary of Arbroath RBLS Pipe Band, said: “We are delighted to again have the opportunity to play along with the Lord Selkirk Boys’ Pipe Band. It meant so much to Bob Fraser to bring his boys’ band to Arbroath and we will do what we can to keep contact with his band for many years to come.”

In addition to playing in Arbroath, the band will perform at Lennoxlove House, the ancestral estate of James Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, the 11th Lord Selkirk and a direct descendent of the fifth Earl of Selkirk who established a settlement for Scottish settlers in Manitoba in 1812. Lord and Lady Selkirk host a luncheon and provide tours for the band and their entourage during their visit. The current Lord Selkirk and his predecessor have always enjoyed the band’s visits.

“All of us involved in the commemoration of the historic arrival of the Selkirk Settlers to what is now Winnipeg are proud to know The Lord Selkirk Boys’ Pipe Band will represent us both here and in Scotland,” said Phyllis Fraser and Lawrence Prout, co-chairs of the Bicentenary Red River Settlement Committee.