July 31, 2007

Three generations of Hills compete at Georgetown

In a country whose substantial piping and drumming history started only with the Great War, four generations of top-level pipers and drummers in a single family are rare, and three generations competing together in the same band had probably never happened until the June 9, 2007, Georgetown Highland Games when the Hill family took the field with the Windsor Police Grade 4 band.

Alistair, Malcolm, Steve and Colin Hill make history at Georgetown Games, June 9, 2007.Piper Alistair Hill, father of drummer Steven Hill and piper Colin Hill, and young drummer Malcolm Hill, Steven’s son, all made history as some sixty years of Ontario family piping and drumming were represented. And, if one counts the fact that Colin Hill was playing his grandfather Roland Hill’s pipes, the span reached four generations. Pipe-Major Roland “Ronnie” Hill was Pipe-Major of the 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders was “brought out” to Canada in the 1950s to become Pipe-Major of the 4th Battalion Canadian Guards of Ipperwash, Ontario.

When the 4th Battalion disbanded Ronnie Hill became Command Inspector of Pipe Bands for Ontario, where one of his responsibilities was the trade testing of pipers and drummers in the various active pipe bands in Ontario. Hill coordinated the Massed Band Concerts at the Canadian National Exhibition in the 1960s, responsible for the music and coordination of militia pipe bands for those concerts. He was originally from Invergordon, Scotland, and died in 1976. His widow, Dorothy, lives in Brixham, England. Roland Hill’s son, Alistair, is a well known figure on the Ontario circuit, and has served as President of the Windsor/Detroit branch of the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario.

Roland 'Ronnie' Hill.Alistair’s sons, Colin and Steven, both serve on the PPBSO’s adjudicators’ panel. Malcolm Hill and his cousin, Andrew, who is a piper with the Windsor Police’s Grade 4 band, carry on the Hill tradition. Robert Hill is another son of Roland Hill who lives in Greenhithe, Kent, along with his eight-year-old grandson, Roland. The senior Roland Hill was the brother of Bob Hill, a well known piper in England who was immortalized in the reel, “Bob Hill’s Ceilidh,” by David Ross, published in John MacFadyen’s first Bagpipe Musiccollection of the 1960s. Bob Hill was also the father of Catriona Hill, a well known piper now living in the eastern United States.


  1. PM Ronnie Hill was the chief instructor for the pipers band school at Picton ON (when there was an army base there). This band school was run for a couple of years in the late 1950’s and included drumming and military band section. Several of us young pipers from the 48th attended (Bob Dewar, Keith Sanderson, Reay MacKay, to name a few) for the two week course. One of the required tunes was Ronnie Hill’s composition Falls of Rogie” which we had to all play by the end of the course. But the most memorable “learning experience” of the course was PM Hill playing and dancing at the same time. Talk about foot work and being in shape. I also remember the concerts on the stage in front of the now demolished Grandstand. That is when we (the 48th) all had to join the Toronto Musicians Association–in other words became unionized pipers and drummers which continued for many years thereafter. The uniforms the P&D of the Canadian Guards had were impecable. Wouldn’t that be something to have today. I forget the name of the lone piper who started the finale with a very slow version of “Muir of Ord”; a very beautiful rendition of this tune. Oh those were the days and many of still remember PM Ronnie Hill. Peter K. MacLeod

  2. I didn’t see Colin at Alma this year but I know that Alasdair, Steven and Malcolm competed there. I had the pleasure of meeting Malcolm and having a beer with proud Dad and Grandad – Two really nice guys. We talked about days long ago and more importantly the bright future young Malcolm has. Congratulations to the Hills and to Andrew for bringing this story to us.

  3. Alistair, Congratulations on keeping the tradition alive. Looking forward to hearing young Roland someday soon. Steven, I loved your drum corps at Alma. Keep up the great work there. AG.

  4. Of interest, Ross Spiers, son of Catriona Hill and Gordon Spiers plays with Windsor Police as well. He is in their grade 1 band. Intersting that the Hill’s have so impacted N. American piping…and drumming. Bob Young

  5. I remember Bob Hill quite well from when I was a little girl. He and his wife were living in Alness, Ross-shire near my Dad and Mam who were in Ardross at the time. Andrew, Bob’s son still keeps in touch and is still playing pipes too…

  6. Let’s not forget Veronica, who plays at the other end of the field on the platforms. The Hill’s are alive, and what a story they tell. I have personally enjoyed many a laugh with this family. One of the oddest stories was Alistair looking through his father’s journals and seeing my name there as an appointment for dancing lessons. No laughing please, this was all part of the cultural upbringing. Strangely enough, as I was trying to give Steve all my worldly thoughts on how to become a better drummer, we were somehow brought closer together. I think this is great that we recognize them for continuing to support our hobby.



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