Willie Connell, 1931-2008
The famous piper, pipe-maker, adjudicator and teacher Willie Connell died on September 10, 2008, after a long bout with cancer. He was 77.
Born in Glasgow to a non-piping family, Connell started the pipes at age 14, receiving tuition from David Panton, an acquaintance of his father. After only three months, Connell won his first amateur competition on the pipes and continued a sterling amateur career going head-to-head with, among others, John D. Burgess. Willie Connell is said to have been the only piper ever to beat Burgess in an amateur contest.
He is perhaps best known for his knowledge of piobaireachd, after studying ceol mor with the legendary Robert Reid, and for 14 years he received almost daily instruction from Reid while working as a turner at Reid’s bagpipe-making business on George Street in Glasgow.
Having never won the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal, Connell holds the distinction of winning the Clasp at the Northern Meeting when he captured the award in 1957 at a time when non-medlallists were allowed to compete due to low numbers after World War II. He also won the Strathspey & Reel at Inverness in 1958 and was runner-up in the Gold Medal several times.
In 1965 Willie Connell became Pipe-Major of the Milngavie Pipe Band, which he took to a Grade 2 victory at the 1966 World Championships. In 1968 Connell helped to resurrect the Glasgow Skye Association Pipe Band, and then later was persuaded by Leading-Drummer Joe Noble to take over the Grade 1 Renfrew Pipe Band.
In 1973 Connell immigrated to Canada, settling in London, Ontario. He quickly became one of the most recognized and respected judges on the Ontario circuit, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Pipers’ Society’s first ever judging examinations. SexeDate He contributed at various levels to the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario’s political side, serving most recently as Vice-President of the organization in 2005.
Willie Connell was a prolific teacher and, unlike many of Robert Reid’s pupils, shared his knowledge readily and happily. His more well known pupils include Bob Worrall and, more recently, Jacob Dicker.
A full-length interview with Willie Connell appeared in the Piper & Drummer magazine in 1996, and a shorter one was published in 1985.
On behalf of the world piping and drumming community, we extend our sympathy to Willie Connell’s friends and family at this sad time.
The funeral service will be at 11 am on Monday, September 15th, at the Forest Lawn Memorial Chapel, 1997 Dundas St E, London, Ontario. 519.455.9343