Published: August 31, 2006

Pipe-Major Tim Ainslie BEM (1920-2006)

Berwickshire has lost one of its single biggest piping influences after the passing of Pipe-Major Tim Ainslie BEM on July 22, 2006, aged 85. For 50 years, “Teem,” as he was known, taught every piper in the area, either directly or by his example.

Born on September 14, 1920, at Fishwick Mains, he worked with his father as the ddd (job) laddie on the farm until 1939, when at 18 years he enlisted in his father’s regiment, The Black Watch.

After a short period of home service in Perth he was drafted to the 2nd Battalion in Jerusalem. He saw service in the Canal Zone, Crete and Palestine before being shipped to the beleaguered port of Tobruk in North Africa. During the subsequent actions Tim was severely wounded and lay dying on the battlefield for 14 hours before being recovered to Egypt. His parents received notification that Tim was on the dangerously ill list. He did, however, recover and rejoined the 2nd Battalion in India where he joined the pipe-major’s [Roy of Tobruk] piping cadre and thus began a devotion to piping that would never leave him.

They were then chosen to take part in General Wingate’s “Chindit” (Long Range Penetration) Expedition, conditions were appalling, hundreds of miles of marching in extreme heat, monsoon rains and disease, well behind Japanese lines and supported entirely by air. It was to become one of the hardest campaigns in the regiment’s history. In one of the final actions, marching towards Mogaung, Tim took turns with the only other surviving piper to play at the head of a depleted but still proud Battalion, on a set of pipes that had been dropped by parachute for the purpose.

Three times hospitalised with malaria and having remarkably spent a period of almost five years overseas, Tim finally returned to UK for some leave and home service. During this time he attended a piping course at the Army School of Piping in Edinburgh Castle under the instruction of Pipe-Major Willie Ross, receiving a recommendation to attend the Pipe-Majors’ Course. He marched with the massed Pipes & Drums of the Scottish Command at the Victory Parade in London, the salute taken by HM King George VI. His service ended in India where he paraded with the Pipes & Drums for the arrival of Lord Mountbatten as last Viceroy. Demobbed in May 1947, his conduct sheet read “Military Conduct: Exemplary.” He was awarded the 1939-45, Africa and Burma Stars, and the Defence and War Service Medals.

On leaving the Army he joined his uncle Tom Ainslie’s ATC Pipe Band in Duns and soon became Pipe-Major. His weekly lessons in Berwickshire High School and Swinton Primary School produced hundreds of pipers in the borders.

As well as the band he also founded the Merse Pipers’ Society in the borders and that is his legacy. The society is a piping forum for all enthusiasts, with the clear aims of fostering and promoting piping in the Merse (south east lowland) area, the emphasis always on youth. The organisation has hosted many famous piping personalities such as Lt.-Col. DJS Murray, Capt. John MacLellan MBE, Capt. DR McLennan and Pipe-Major Angus MacDonald MBE to name a few, and has helped to develop countless young pipers. Now in its 30th year it continues to thrive.

Tim became a legend in the Royal British Legion, winning the Veteran’s event at their Annual Competition a record six times. Further accolades followed as The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association made him Chieftain at the Scottish Pipe Band Championships in Duns in 1993.

His hard work with the Duns Pipe Band and with the local community was rewarded when, in the New Year’s Honours List of 1984 he was awarded the British Empire Medal.

The Black Watch regimental lament, “Lochaber No More,” was played at his funeral, which was attended by more than 350 people. His is a great loss to piping and will be missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.

– submitted by Steven Small

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