Scotch College Melbourne Pipes and Drums 7

The Scotch College, Melbourne, Pipes and Drums was formed in 1946 and is one of the earliest and strongest, of the School Pipe Bands in Australia.

Since 1851, Scotch has provided education for thousands of boys and it is one of the oldest surviving schools in Victoria 1. The School's Scottish links go back to its foundation. Scotch College was founded "due to the initiative of Reverend James Forbes, who was the first settled minister of the Presbyterian Church in the State" 2. The Melbourne Academy, as it was first known, had as its Principal one Robert Lawson, a Scot from Edinburgh. Later Principals of The Scotch College (as the School became known), Dr. Alexander Morrison and Dr. Bill Littlejohn, were also from Scotland.

Education at Scotch has embodied the intellectual achievements of the Scottish Enlightenment, one of the great cultural influences on the modern world. The Scottish tradition has been expressed in the School's commitment to educational excellence and Christian values, continued and developed over 150 years.

2006 was the sixtieth anniversary of the formation of the Scotch College Pipes and Drums. Its story is, in part, an aspect of the larger story of the Scotch College Cadet Corps. The Band was formed to support the Scotch College Cadet Unit, the oldest unit in Australia (formed 1884) - older than the Australian Army itself - and the training ground for its greatest General, Sir John Monash. Before then, Scotch had had other Bands in its cadet structure, but not a Pipe Band.

From 1884 to 1910, the Cadets had the Bugle Band, which was disbanded with the beginning of compulsory cadet training. From 1917 to 1929, old boys revived the Bugle Band and again from 1936 until early in the Second World War when it disappeared forever. Scotch College had no band throughout the war3.

In 1946, however, a gift of instruments was made "through the generosity of Lieutenant Colonel T.P. Cook and Mr CN. McKenzie."4 The instruments given to Scotch were, of course, bagpipes and drums. This valuable gift, which included ten sets of pipes, six guard pattern side drums, two tenor drums and one bass drum, was made by the trustees of the Victorian Scottish Regiment and a more appropriate and popular gift could not have been imagined5.

Pipes and Drums Band Photograph

The School has always been proud of its Scottish heritage. As the cultural achievements in music and military tradition of the Scottish Highlands came to be adopted by the whole of Scotland as unique national symbols, the School has responded to this. Jim Mitchell, the School's historian, noted that "In 1933 Littlejohn would have loved a Pipe Band 'to play on ceremonial occasions and to lead the School Cadet Corps on a march-out' but the School could not afford the cost of uniforms, instruments and instruction" 6.

The obstacles to the establishment of a pipe band that had prevented Dr. Littlejohn from realizing his ambition were to be overcome as a result of new opportunities that emerged after the Second World War. The formation of the Scotch College Pipes and Drums in 1946 was the realisation of a long-held dream and put Scotch in the forefront of all such schools in this area

To maintain a successful School Pipe Band requires considerable dedication, but the rewards are great. Scotch, as with other schools, reaps considerable benefits from having such a musical grouping working within the public's view and providing a sense of identity to the School. Most School Pipe Bands compete, expressing the values of friendly competition, team spirit and hard work. The Scotch College Pipe Band has been a successful competitor in piping and drumming for many years.

This is the story of how the Scotch College, Melbourne, Pipe Band was formed, became established and has thrived over the past sixty years. It is also the story of those who have contributed to the successes and achievements of this small part of a large school.


The Pipes and Drums of Scotch College, Melbourne have become one of the icons of the school, beloved of whole Scotch Family. The band is one of the most readily recognisable symbols of Scotch College, both among present and former Scotch Collegians and parents, as well as in the wider Victorian community. Established in 1946, the band's history over the last sixty years has been a colourful part of the school's development, and of its contribution to maintaining awareness of the Scottish contribution to our culture.

The Scotch College Pipes and Drums, along with the Scottish traditions in the school Cadet Unit, trace their history through the Victorian Scottish Regiment, whose instruments were passed to the school at the end of the Second World War. The band has benefited from the strength of Scottish culture in Melbourne, and a number of the technological developments in both piping and drumming that have improved the sound of the band over the years have had local origins. The school has been fortunate to have had three outstanding piping masters to teach the boys in Danny MacPherson, Bill Brown and Ross Campbell, whose stories are told in the book "The Pipes and Drums Scotch College Melbourne - A History".

Along with the musical skills they have learnt on the pipes and drums, the boys who have become members of the band have learnt co-operation, self-discipline and leadership. They have enjoyed the theatre of the band on parade and the spectacular uniforms, and many have made life-long friendships. The book tills the story of the establishment and growth of the band, and includes many interesting and amusing anecdotes by former band members.

Pipes and Drums Band Photograph

  • 1-7The Pipes & Drums, Scotch College Melbourne - A History, Stephen Matthews and David Kemp, 2007 p1-2