Pipe band legend John Kerr “J.K.” McAllister died peacefully last night at his home in Shotts, Scotland. He had been in failing health for some time.
As Pipe-Major of the Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band he won four World Championship titles, all of them consecutively from 1957 to 1960, which at the time was a record.
He took over the reins of Shotts & Dykehead from his father, Tom McAllister, Sr., in 1954, and in 1959 he led the band to one of few “grand slam” seasons in UK Grade 1 pipe band history, in which a band wins every major championship in a year.
At his retirement from the band in 1968 due to poor health, J.K. McAllister recorded a total of nine British, five Scottish, four World’s, four Cowal, four European and four Champion of Champions titles, and amassed a total of 44 first-prizes.
When he concluded his competing days, J.K. McAllister became an equally legendary figure in two areas: reedmaking and pipe band judging.
As a reedmaker with his brother, Pipe-Major Tom McAllister, Jr., he developed the world’s most sought-after chanter reed. McAllister reeds were known for their stability and durability, as well as their toughness. The waiting list for McAllister reeds was often several months. Most chanter reeds today are modelled after the McAllisters’ design.
As a pipe band judge he was known for being willing to stick out his neck whenever he needed to, and was considered an ultra- traditionalist. He was a regular adjudicator at major championships in the UK. When McAllister retired from the RSPBA’s judging panel in the 1990s, he was awarded an Honourary Life Membership to the association shortly thereafter.
In the late 1990s J.K. and Tom McAllister sold their reedmaking business to James Troy of Victoria, British Columbia.
J.K. McAllister was reportedly devastated by the death of his brother Tom in an accident in 2001.
We extend our sympathies to John McAllister’s family and friends at this sad time.