Born in the small village of New Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire, he took full advantage of his northeast birth place in receiving lessons from the famous Banff piper, James Robertson, pupil of G.S. McLennan and composer of the classic “Farewell to the Creeks.” Ronnie’s first foray into the pipe band world he loved was Robertson’s Turriff & District Pipe Band.
At the age of 17, Ronnie moved south to Fife where, in Lochgelly, he would meet the true love of his life, June. Life in the Kingdom with June was good, and it was here Ronnie joined Hugh MacPherson’s Grade1 Lochore & District Pipe Band. In 1958 an adventurous spirit and a natural curiosity saw the young couple immigrate, or shift, as Ronnie might have said, to Canada.
Canada was good to Ronnie and Ronnie returned the favour. A joiner by trade and a self-made man it was in Canada where, with June at his side, he built a business, a family and a great life. And through it all was woven the music of the bagpipe and the people who made it.
As a piper he devoted countless hours to the pipe band practice hall. He was a perfectionist and carefully mindful of the bands for which he’d choose to play. They were always excellent. The vintage great City of Toronto band of the 1960s, 400 Squadron, Clan MacFarlane and his own Toronto & District Caledonia, a band he worked to build and as pipe-major led to premier grade success.
Ronnie’s competitive pipe band career was capped in his founding membership of the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band. As player with and, later, manager of the band, Ronnie said only recently his finest competitive pipe band performance was with the band in the 1984 World Pipe Band Championship March, Strathspey & Reel contest. That day the band was to be ranked third, at the time, the highest placing ever for a non-Scots band.
The last number of years saw Ronnie answer the call to service and step up to administrative leadership within the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario. His last role with the organization was that of president.
Ronnie grew to be something of a renaissance man: travel, antiques, golf, a good book and Robert Burns – “Tam O’Shanter” was his favourite.
He was a piper to the core but a family man at heart. He leaves a truly great legacy of a loving family and countless friends, all of whom he in some way, great or small, touched and he, in turn, will be well-remembered.
But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white – then melts for ever;
On behalf of all in the pipe band world the deepest condolences at this time to his family; wife June; children Beverley (Bruce), Jimmy, Ian (Lynn) and Ainsley (James); seven grandchildren and countless friends.
A private funeral is planned.
– Submitted by Michael Grey