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Piping in Halifax

The establishment of a permanent pipe corps took place in January 1854, which was 15 years before the 78th Pipers arrived in Halifax. Piping played an important role during both times of peace and war. Read more about the formation of the Pipes and Drums of the 78th Highlanders and the roles they played.

Simple beginnings

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, pipers in Highland regiments were maintained by the regiment's officers. Pipers usually played alone and it was not until the Napoleonic period that they began playing together on the march. After the battle of Assaye in 1803, Sir Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, reported the bagpipes of the 78th played "delightfully."

Creating a permanent pipe corps

The support of prominent soldiers such as Wellington eventually led to the establishment of a permanent pipe corps in January 1854. This corps was to consist of one pipe major and five pipers for each of the eight Highland regiments that existed at the time: the 42nd, 71st, 72nd, 74th, 78th, 79th, 92nd and 93rd.

Funding for additional pipers continued to be provided by the officers. Unofficial pipers were listed on the roll books as privates. It was also during this period that the pipers began playing together with drummers. Up until the mid-19th century, drummers had played almost exclusively with fifers.

A piper's peacetime duties

During peacetime, pipers shared the duty with drummers in playing duty calls to regulate the soldier's day. The pipes, with and without the drums, also provided entertainment and publicity for the regiment. They gave public concerts and were often hired by officers to play at society balls.

A popular group of people

The Pipes and Drums of the 78th were a key factor in the regiment's popularity. They often played alongside the Regimental Band on parade and at various special events in Halifax, such as the opening of the provincial legislature. At other times, the pipes played alone, such as during funerals for deceased members of the regiment.

Inspiring on the front lines

In time of war, the pipes and drums played on the line of march and during battle, serving an important psychological purpose; their music boosting the morale and fighting spirit of the men.

78th Pipers in Halifax, 1869-71

When the 78th arrived in Halifax, they brought with them the usual complement of five pipers and one pipe major. The pipe major was Ronald Mackenzie, a very competent player who at the age of 23 became pipe major of the 78th in 1865.

Besides the officially authorized pipers, many other members of the 78th played the pipes. These men and the official pipers of the 78th are recorded in Nova Scotia newspapers as having taken part in various Highland games around the province.




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