Rita Stewart, 1917-2010
Born on June 22, 1917, in Carnoustie, Scotland, Rita Stewart was taught originally by her stepfather beginning at age 14, Rita Stewart was immediately a successful junior competitor around the local games. In 1947, when the Mary McLean Pipe Band was formed in Dundee by a well known competitive Highland dancer and instructor, Mary McLean, Stewart was asked to join as pipe-major, and to take on teaching a group of young Highland dancers to play.
The move to develop a leading ladies’ band, with one of the best female pipers in Scotland leading it, was seen by many as revolutionary, as the barriers put up against women at that time were significant. The band was further enhanced by the addition of David Miller from the City of Dundee Pipe Band to teach drumming.
The McLean Ladies were regular prize-winners in Grade 4 and ladies’ band events throughout the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and over her 80-plus years of teaching, Rita Stewart tutored hundreds of Dundee-area pipers.
The band continues to exist in name, and Rita Stewart maintained her teaching regimen as pipe-major, running classes until the only a few years ago, when she retired due to declining health.
Rita Stewart is survived by her daughters, Alice and Anne and several grandchildren. Anne Stewart (now Spalding) made a similar mark in piping, by being one of the first female solo pipers to play at the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting in 1975, as well as gaining numerous solo awards throughout her career.
The funeral will be at Dundee Crematorium on Wednesday, June 9th, at 1:15 pm.
On behalf of the world’s pipers and drummers, we extend our sympathies to Rita Stewart’s family and friends at this sad time.