Published: June 30, 2003

James Fryer, 1947 – 2003

It is with great sadness that our community lost Dr. James Nolan Fryer on 27 March 2003, at the age of 55 after a short bout with cancer.

Jim started piping at a young age in Ingersoll. He was taught by the late Alex Robertson and, in the early 1960s, played with the Highland House Highlanders of Woodstock, where he was Pipe-Major. He competed on the Southwestern Ontario solo circuit and was routinely at the top of the prize lists. With his abilities, Jim soon found his way to the Clan MacFarlane Pipe Band in 1965. There he was to remain as a piper under P-M James Greig and P-M Ken Eller (after 1970), until his studies took him westward.

During his tenure with Clan MacFarlane, Jim rose quickly through the amateur ranks to the professional level by 1967. Prizes in both light music and piobaireachd came on a regular basis and he travelled to Scotland on a few occasions to compete at both the World’s Championships and the Cowal Gathering. It was around this time that Jim began to teach pipes himself, and it is to his credit that some of those players are still competing today with the top bands in the province.

Jim continued his playing while in Edmonton working on his Doctorate. There he joined Viscount Park, a Grade 1 band, with Rick Burden (lead drummer) and Alex MacIntyre (current P-M of Alberta Caledonian). Apparently, in those days, Jim was very good at floor hockey!! In this period also, people like James Barrie and Dave Trew became Jim’s good friends and, together, they were instrumental in furthering their love for the music by establishing a piping club which met in Edmonton on a regular basis. But his stay in Edmonton was all too brief. He moved with Carol to California for post-doctoral studies. At this point, he took a sabbatical from piping for a few years.

When Jim came to the University of Ottawa in 1978, his university research and teaching, along with his young family, took up most of his time. In the mid-1980s, however, he started playing again and joined the new and exciting Dunvegan Pipe Band in 1985. He enjoyed several years of interesting playing with Scott MacAulay and Colin MacLellan as joint Pipe-Majors. Dunvegan was, from the start, in the prize lists in Grade 2 and, subsequently, moved into Grade 1, competing there until disbanding in 1989. Jim also served as the President of the Dunvegan Band Executive during that period.

After Dunvegan ended, Jim was again absorbed in his teaching and research demands at the University in the early 1990s. In 1996, he was finally convinced that, “to look after the inner man,” he needed to join the Air Command Pipes and Drums (Ottawa). He remained with ACPD, as a valued and popular member, contributor and friend, until his death.

Jim’s competitor in youth, fellow bandsman in Clan MacFarlane and his life-long friend, Ken Eller, said it best. When learning of Jim’s passing, Ken described him as: “the most likeable, intelligent and humble person you ever wanted to meet, a good friend, gifted player and the type of person you wanted to be around. He always made you feel good – never any ups or downs, just smiles all the time. Jim never did get back to competitive pursuits but he never, ever, lost his passion for the music.”

– Submitted by Wendy McArthur Finan, Ottawa

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