August 08, 2015

Ed Neigh, 1945-2015 (funeral details added)

Ed Neigh, 1945-2015 [Photo pipes|drums]
Ed Neigh, a major influence on piping in North America, died suddenly on August 8th, in his seventy-first year. Known and beloved as a teacher, adjudicator and dedicated student of piobaireachd, he played a major role in shaping the piping and pipe band community in his native Ontario.

Born May 22, 1945, and originally from Brantford, Ontario, he started piping as a boy with little support from his parents. Neigh immersed himself particularly in piobaireachd, gaining tuition from, among others, the great John MacFadyen when MacFadyen would come for summer schools in the area. In 1976 he was so engrossed in the instrument that he went to Scotland to compete and taught at the same Glasgow school at which MacFadyen was headmaster.

While in Scotland in the mid-to-late-1970s, Neigh, along with his contemporaries Bill Livingstone, Bob Worrall and Jim McGillivray, was one of the first Canadians to regularly compete on the Scottish solo circuit. Among his prizes was the Dunvegan Medal at Skye, becoming one of the first non-Scots to win the award. He competed diligently for the Highland Society of London Gold Medal competitions, and, although he never gained one, he finished second several times at both the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting.

“I think piobaireachd is everything,” he said in his 1992 interview with this magazine. “I don’t think I would have played bagpipes past my middle-twenties had a I not become a piobaireachd player.”

With pipe bands, Ed Neigh was a true pioneer. His Guelph Pipe Band from Guelph, Ontario, would form in the 1970s and rise rapidly to Grade 1. With Guelph he was seen as the first to use a tuning metre for drones, and his inventive medley creations routinely opened the ears of the world to possibilities with harmony, rhythm and drumming accompaniment.

For more than 50 years Ed Neigh was a driving force in teaching, working with hundreds of students at all levels. For the last 10 years especially, he worked with the Paris Port Dover Pipe Band, watching that group rise from the lower grades to, this year, a Grade 2 band with one of his most successful students, Dylan Whittemore, as pipe-major.

He adjudicated right up until his final days, judging the weekend before he died at the North American Championships at Maxville, Ontario. He had suffered from health problems in the last decade, include a diagnosis of lung cancer and two hip replacements. Even through his illnesses, Neigh was constantly in and around the piping and drumming scene that he loved.

Ed Neigh was a major and well-loved figure in the piping world, and one of the true great contributors to the art.

We will include a full tribute to Ed Neigh in the coming days.

On behalf of the piping and drumming world, we extend our condolences to Ed Neigh’s survivors and his many friends at this sad time.

The funeral will be on Saturday, August 15, at Knox Presbyterian Church, 50 Erb Street West, Waterloo, Ontario, at 11 am. There will be a visitation at the Erb & Good Funeral Home, 171 King Street South, Waterloo, on Friday, August 14, from 2 to 4 pm and 7 to 9 pm.

An Ed Neigh Scholarship Fund has been set up at the North American Academy of Piping & Drumming. For details, go to


  1. Very sad to see this news. I well remember Ed from the 1973 season on-wards. He was one of several Canadian pioneers from that time. it was very obvious watching Ed compete (or listen) that he understood music in a big way. A great guy who lived and breathed music, and it was always a pleasure to catch up with him. We are all the poorer for his passing.

  2. We may all be the poorer for his passing, Murray, but we are definitely all the richer for what he achieved while among us. Rest in Peace, Ed.

  3. Enormously sad to read this news. Ed was a thoughtful and highly talented player and just as importantly someone who gave a great deal of encouragement others. He applied his musical talent not only to his own playing but also the the innovations he encouraged as leader of Guelph Pipe Band. Always a joy to listen to and one of life’s stand up guys. I’m glad I knew him.

  4. Ed Neigh was one of the most knowledgeable pipers of his generation in Ontario. I well remember his leadership of the Guelph Pipe Band in the late 1960s, when I was competing with the 48th Highlanders of Canada; and after the death of John Wilson Ed was the first person to whom I turned for further instruction, until Jim McGillivray established the Ontario School of Piping and Drumming. He helped to identify a set of 1928 Robertsons I had recently acquired; he contributed to the Proceedings of the Piobaireachd Society Conference; and he formed an impressive collection of materials on piobaireachd. I greatly regret that our paths crossed only occasionally in later years. He was taken from us far too early.

    David Waterhouse

  5. I am saddened to hear this news.
    Memories : Ed chairing a session of piobaireachd (perhaps 25 years ago) at St. Michael’s College, U of T that was the beginning of my interest in piobaireachd; learning ‘The Men Went To Drink’ from him many years ago at a Cambridge Clinic ; enjoying a dram and a bit of conversation with him at a gathering somewhere; being judged by him on 2 occasions and having the great benefit of his comments.
    I do understand his passion for piobaireachd : I too would have lost interest in the bagpipe years ago without the Big Music and I am indebted to him for stimulating my interest in it.
    Even from my very peripheral vantage point, I want to say that he impressed me as a very good and kind man who enjoyed sharing his pipng passion with whomever was truly interested.
    To Ed Neigh’s family and those many friends to whom he was dear, I extend my most sincere condolences.
    Jim Bell

  6. very sad to hear this news, Ed Neigh judged on Saturday at Maxville and I got to play MacDougalls Gathering for him a score sheet I will hold on to dearly. Prior to him picking this tune he told me he really enjoyed my tune at this years Gold medal contest, that was all I really needed to hear that day. He was such a great guy. I remember watching him play at some on the contests in the 90’s and alway thought of him as a huge inspiration. My condolences to his family. And thanks for listening Mr Neigh you will be greatly missed. Steven Tripp

  7. Ed was my first judge. I learned much that day and continued to build on his advice through the years. One of the truly good people in piping. I’ll miss him.



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